Dartmoor and Exmoor constitute two of the most significant prehistoric landscapes in the country. The Bronze Age Grave goods from the discovery of an intact ci
st burial at Whitehorse Hill in 2011 have enabled us to imagine how life might have been for the inhabitants of these places 4000-3000 years ago.
MED Theatre’s play project ‘Moor Voices’ speculates on the possibility of a matriarchal society at that time, using the founding myth of Britain – the legend of Brutus the Trojan – who is said to come from the Mediterranean to land at the mouth of the River Dart.
MED Theatre’s play Cassiterides was an examination of empire, and looked at the remote but important area that was tin-producing Dartmoor at the very end of Roman occupation.
It is well known that the Romans had a substantial presence at Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) from about AD50 – 400. But Romans on Dartmoor? Surely not? In 1953 it could be asserted by a leading scholar that there is ‘no evidence that the conquerors found it necessary to proceed beyond the Exe’. In Dartmoor – A New Study, published in 1970, it was stated ‘There is…no evidence at present for settled habitation on Dartmoor between about 400 BC and the period of the first Anglo-Saxon settlements about AD 700’, and the moor therefore remained ‘an uninhabited region for several hundred years’.
Today this unlikely scenario has been radically transformed, as we now know of settlements on the fringes of the moor occupied in the last few centuries BC and first few centuries AD, as well as inferential evidence for tinworking. Around the edge of the moor and elsewhere in the county, the traces of a Roman military and civil presence are expanding all the time.