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County of Essex
County of Essex. Attribution: By Nilfanion, CC BY-SA or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

Essex has a wealth of history that archaeological excavation and metal detected finds have been able to inform us about.

(300,000-200,000 BC) Some of the earliest evidence of Human activity in Britain comes from Clacton-On-Sea and is in the form of flint tools, known as Clactonian tools.

Evidence of human presence in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Essex is heavily reliant on flint scatters. But in the Neolithic period we start to find large enclosures, such as that at Springfield Lyons, and small settlements such as at Wickford and Chelmer village .

(2350-800BC)Essex was very busy in the Bronze Age.  there is evidence of changing burial traditions at Ardleigh, with Urnfield and barrow complexes, and enclosures such as at Lofts Farm. Also there are many incredible Bronze Age hoards found, providing insight into the development of metallurgy in Britain.

(20BC-AD10) The first recorded town in Britain was at Colchester.  Pliny mentioned it in 79AD but coinage with CA MV appear much earlier on the coins of Tasciovanus and Cunobelinus. Traces of Camulodunum and it’s Iron Age surroundings can still be seen today at Gosbecks, Lexden and Sheepen.

(AD43-410)In the Roman period Essex was revolutionised, with major towns springing up at Colchester and Chelmsford, temple complexes at Harlow and an intricate road network to connect them all. Furthermore, villa sites and other smaller settlements were dotted across the countryside, with PAS finds revealing new sites each year.

(AD450-1066)In the Early Medieval period, Essex suffered regular and violent shifts in power. At Mucking, there is evidence of very early Saxon occupation in the 5th century. The kingdom of the East Saxons then spread to cover the region between the river Stour and the Thames, making  London its capital. In AD 825 the Kingdom was given to Egbert of Wessex, though not long after the Vikings incorporated much of the kingdom into the Danelaw.

(AD1066-1509) After the Norman conquest, several castles were built in Essex at Colchester, Heddingham and Rayleigh. The abbots of Waltham were also granted large swathes of land in the county, leading to the construction of numerous hunting lodges at places like Upminster. There were many monastic sites established, such as at Prittlewell (Southend-on-Sea), St Botolph’s (Colchester) and St Osyth’s, the remains of which can still be seen today. Furthermore, PAS datas has allowed us to identify an ever increasing number of Medieval market sites across the county, developing out understanding of trade and commerce in this period.

The Essex county page will provide you with all the necessary information you need to start your journey into Essex’s past. There will be regular posts about interesting finds and current research across the county, as well as adverts for volunteering opportunities and upcoming events.

This county’s rich history is constantly being reinterpreted thanks to the wealth of information the PAS database provides. There are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved with our work in Essex, whether that is helping to record the finds that come in or to conduct research of your own. To get involved, try one of the museums, clubs or societies or come to a local event. Or contact us to learn more about volunteering for the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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