Page tree

Get started by adding some pages to this space. Create page.

Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

Name: Natasha Harlow

PhD: Archaeology

Thesis Title:

Belonging and Belongings: Portable Artefacts and Identity in the Civitas of the Iceni

The Late Iron Age in northern East Anglia ends with the Boudican revolt in 60/61 CE, after which, the people known as the Iceni were subsumed by the Roman empire. This thesis tests the archaeological evidence for the Iceni as a defined group, demonstrated by the distinctive character material culture in the region. It investigates the theory that they were slow to adopt Roman imports and luxury goods, either as a form of deliberate resistance or due to cultural retardation following the Boudican revolt. It also questions the interpretive narrative of the Iceni as ‘Other’, in both Classical and modern sources.

My research expands upon previous studies, which have often been restricted to a single county, time period, or class of artefact. It includes a broad study of the three counties most closely associated with the Iceni: Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The chronological range (circa 100 BCE-200 CE) incorporates the Claudian invasion, Boudican rebellion and several generations either side. A large dataset of over 14,000 object records has been examined, drawn from county Historic Environment Records (HERs) and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). This project reassesses many of the long-held stereotypes about the Iceni in the light of the dramatic increases in metal-detector finds over the past 20 years.

My thesis demonstrates that:
• A single unified social entity (‘the Iceni’) is not archaeologically visible across the study area, although there is intra-regional patterning.
• Iron Age modes of expressing status and identity persisted under Roman rule, through the manufacture, use and display of objects.
• Evidence is lacking for regional impoverishment and depopulation in the aftermath of the Boudican revolt.
• Metal-detected surface finds have significant research potential when viewed across a wide area and in conjunction with stratified sites.


I have recently completed my doctoral thesis at the University of Nottingham, funded by the AHRC and the Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership. I previously attained a BA (Hons) in Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History and an MA in Cultural Heritage at the University of East Anglia. 

My current postdoctoral fellowship is a community engagement project called "Closing the Loop", which showcases my research into small finds and the photography of Ross Trevail (Norwich University of the Arts). The project shares exciting new archaeological research with local people who have contributed to public records of their finds, and aims to develop more inclusive and reciprocal relationships between metal-detectorists and academics. 

After completing my PhD I worked as a Research Fellow on the AHRC/EPSRC funded Caistor Immersive Experience project, developing an Augmented Reality app for the Roman town. I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and work as a Teaching Affiliate at the University of Nottingham. I am also a Reviews co-editor for the Britannia archaeology journal. 

My professional career, including a strong museums background and work with Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) data, has given me an understanding of the theoretical and practical issues surrounding the collection and interpretation of small finds. Working with local archaeological groups has provided me with an excellent knowledge of regional material culture. I have also volunteered with the PASt Explorers and Nottingham Young Archaeologists' Club, as well as running schools' outreach in Norfolk and Nottinghamshire.

I have taken an active role in fieldwalking, excavation and finds processing at the civitas capital of Venta Icenorum (Caistor St Edmund) with the Caistor Roman Project (CRP) over the past twelve years. Since 2010, I have been investigating the 1929-35 excavations of Donald Atkinson at Caistor, in partnership with Norfolk Museums Service (NMS) and CRP. Oral history interviews are another project which I have been carrying out over the past several years with key figures in the archaeology of Norfolk. I have extended this to explore the personal stories, opinions and behaviour of metal-detectorists, who play an important role in recovering many of the objects in my study.

Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Dr Will Bowden (University of Nottingham)

Professor Colin Haselgrove (University of Leicester)

Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

year: 2014-15

  • Project oral historian, Caistor Roman Project - "Roman Town to Modern Village" Heritage Lottery Funded 1 year freelance (April 2014- April 2015)
  • Workshop leader on Romans in Britain for Norfolk 2000 project (February 2015)
  • Graduate Archaeology Oxford Conference paper "Across The Great Divide: crossing professional and disciplinary boundaries in the Land of Boudica" (March 2015)
  • Lecture to Hethersett local history society on "Small finds from small towns in Roman Norfolk" (April 2015)
  • Paper at UoN Humanities PG conference "Belonging and Belongings in the Land of Boudica" (May 2015)
  • Widening Participation event for UoN Archaeology Museum, Primary years 3&4 - Romans (June 2015)
  • "Wander Anywhere" app and interpretation project events for Caistor Roman Project volunteers (June/July 2015)
  • Excavation day at Nottingham Castle with Trent and Peak archaeology and public volunteers (14 July 2015)
  • Small finds and illustration training day for CRP volunteers (with Jason Gibbons) (20 November 2015)

year: 2016

  • Lecture to Norfolk Archaeological and Historical Research Group "Belonging and Belongings in the Land of the Iceni" (16 January 2016)
  • Talks for the launch of the Fenwick treasure at Colchester Castle Museum on Roman Personal Adornment (24 March 2016)
  • "One in a Million! How does an object end up on the PAS database?" Research relay presentation for M3C Research Festival (12 May 2016)
  • Member of organising committee for Iron Age Research Student Symposium (IARSS), jointly held by Nottingham, Leicester and Birmingham (19-22 May 2016) #IARSS2016 
  • "Magic and Loss: Votive deposition in LIA and early Roman Icenia" paper and organising committee member for IARSS 2016 conference (19-22 May 2016)
  • Poster presentation for Europa 2016 Prehistoric Society conference, Edinburgh (3-5 June 2016)

year: 2017

  • Paper for "Ten Years of Research at Venta Icenorum" conference, UEA Norwich: "Oh! You Pretty Things: personal adornment and identity at Venta Icenorum" (14/01/2017)
  • Paper for "Social Boundaries in the Roman World" session at TRAC 2017, Durham: ‘Resistance is Useless! Culture, Status and Power in the Civitas Icenorum’ (29/03/2017)
  • Paper for "Iron Age and Roman Heritage: exploring ancient identities in modern Britain: Civilising the Barbarians" session at TRAC 2017, Durham (31/03/2017)
  • Lunchtime Gallery Talk, British Museum room 50 (Iron Age Britain and Europe) on ‘Horses, Status and Display in Iron Age Britain: always look a gift-horse in the mouth’ (18/05/2017)
  • Presentation of Poster session at M3C Research Festival at UoL ‘Curating British Iron Age Objects’ on work placement at British Museum (25/05/2017)
  • Presentation of updated version of "Belonging and Belongings" paper for the Alpington and Yelverton Local History Society, Norfolk (12/09/2017).

year: 2018

  • Paper for Norfolk Archaeological and Historical Research Group: "Portable Antiquities in the Land of Boudica: Using Metal-detector finds for research (24/03/2018)
  • Paper for UoN Classics and Archaeology PG Conference: "In Search of the Iceni" (22/05/2018)
  • Paper for Iron Age Research Student Symposium, University of Kent, Canterbury: "In Search of the Iceni" (01/06/2018)

year: 2019

  • Roman Brooches training for PASt Explorers volunteers (UoN Lakeside Museum 13/02/2019)
  • "Closing the Loop" pop-up exhibition at Norwich Castle Archaeology Day (23/02/2019)
  • "Closing the Loop" presentation to Anglia Metal Detecting Club (Norwich 13/03/2019)
  • "Closing the Loop" presentation to East Norfolk Metal Detecting Club (Lingwood 03/04/2019)


  • Paper for TRAC conference "'The Fag-End of Roman Britain': Re-inventing Venta Icenorum" (Canterbury 12/04/2019)
  • "Community Engagement in Norwich and Beyond" talk to Dragon Hall volunteer group (Norwich 15/04/2019)
  • "Closing the Loop" presentation to Norwich Metal Detecting Club (Norwich 15/04/2019)
  • "Closing the Loop" presentation to Chesterfield MDC (07/05/2019)
  • "The Real 'Detectorists'" research seminar (School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester 22/05/2019)
  • Presentation "Post-PhD Journeys" panel and "Closing the Loop" pop-up exhibition (M4C Research Festival, Birmingham 23/05/2019)
  • Talk for Carleton Rode History Group, Norfolk (24/05/2019)


November/December 2015 - Research placement with Wendy Scott, Finds Liaison Officer, Leicestershire County Council/Portable Antiquities Scheme.

May/June 2017 - Employability placement at the British Museum with Dr Julia Farley, Curator, Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory.

Other Research Interests:

Outreach and Education: Senior Volunteer with PASt Explorers and Session leader for YAC Nottingham, Volunteer Coordinator for UoN Archaeology museum's Margidunum schools' outreach programme.

Social Media Presence:

  • No labels