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Iron Age Britain

iron-age-settlement

Iron Age Settlement

At the beginning of what had been referred to as the “British Iron Age” around 800 – 750BC iron reached Britain from Europe.  It was harder and stronger than bronze, and it revolutionised much of agricultural working practices.

Iron tipped ploughs, could dig up the land more efficiently and quicker.  Iron axes, would de-forest wooded areas quicker.

By 500 BC, the common language spoken by the inhabitants was “Brythonic” and by the Roman era, their language was similar to that of the Gauls.

Skilled craftsmen showed their wares, producing patterned gold jewellery, weapons made of bronze and iron.

Pytheas of Massilia, believed the inhabitants were speaking in a Celtic dialogue, believed to come from Western Europe or that of the Welsh.

Iron Age Britons lived in groups ruled by a chieftain.  As the population grew, wars broke out between different tribal groups, which led to the construction of “Hill Forts.”  By 350 BC these forts had fallen out of favour.

Prior to the Roman invasion, many Germanic-Celtic speaking refugees from the lands of Gaul, who had been displaced by the expansion of the Roman Empire around 50 BC settled in Britain.  They settled on the lands of Southern Britain.

In the year 175 BC highly developed pottery making skills appeared in Kent, Hertfordshire and Essex.

The tribes of the South East became romanised, and were attributed with the creation of early settlements.

The Roman Empire expanded into parts of Northern-Britain, as Rose took interest in Britain.  Was it the large number of refugees from Europe or the large mineral reserves held by Britain?

Maiden Castle located in Dorset, is a fine example of an Iron Age Hill Fort, measuring 1800 feet in length, and dates back to (900-600 BC).

Archaeological evidence indicates the site was used by gatherers, traders and for storage.

Danebury Hill Fort in Hampshire, showed it to been used as a settlement, including religious out buildings.

By 100 BC, hill forts in southern parts of Britain were abandoned, whilst those in the western and northern parts of the country along with Ireland continued to be used until the Roman conquest in AD 43.

Most Iron Age settlements were small, the main family and descendants, often enclosed by banks and ditches, but large enough to create a defensive position.

Their buildings were built of a roundhouse design, built out of timber and stone, covered in thatch or turf.

Another type of dwelling, often found on marsh edges and lakes, involved the creation of a man-made island, built of stone and timber, thought to be a form of defence.

Another type of settlement found at that time consisted of a tall tower like structure, surrounded by smaller round houses, more commonly found in the eastern parts of the country.

The Iron Age gave us some of the finest pre-historic metalwork of Britain.  Bronze and goldsmiths produced high quality items, richly decorated with fancy designs and enamelled inlays.  Anything from delicate works of rings, brooches to shields, helmets and swords.

Coinage first appeared in Britain during 20 BC in south-eastern parts of the country.

Around 150-200 BC Roman influence extended to the western parts of the Mediterranean and southern France.  Trading started between the British and Romans, across the English Channel.

Trade with the Romans intensified after 50 BC, following Julius Ceasar and the Roman conquest of Gaul (France).

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2 thoughts on “Iron Age Britain

  1. The Iron Age is a fascinating period of history. I’ve visited a few Iron Age sites over the years, including a few in Cornwall. such as Carn Euny village – which is on my list of sites to post about soon. I also visited Maiden Castle when we were in Dorset a couple of years ago. An enjoyable read.

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