What was life in the Iron Age really like?

The Iron Age lasted in Britain for about 800 years (from c.750 BC to AD 43), during which coinage was introduced, goods traded over vast distances and wheel thrown pottery was being made. The knowledge of iron-making was brought to Britain by Europeans, who had already started to build the first furnaces.

Iron Age Britain was a land of small farmsteads run by communities of families. Many farms were surrounded by a circular bank and ditch enclosure; harvested crops were stored in granaries that were raised from the ground on posts, or in bell-shaped pits 2-3m dug into the landscape. Cattle, ox, sheep and pigs were kept and horses used for pulling 2 or 4 wheeled vehicles (carts, chariots).

Britain's Iron Age people worn a form of close-fitting trousers (braccae), with a long tunic of either linen or wool, held at the waist with a belt. A cloak would have been fastened at the shoulder with a brooch. The textiles were dyed bright colours and were woven with striped or checked patterns.

The Celts arrived in Britain around 500 BC and at first lived in small village farming groups. Over time these groups joined together into larger tribes that were ruled by a king or queen, such as Queen Boudicca the wife of the ruler of the Iceni tribe who lived in eastern England.

Most people find this complex span of human prehistory difficult to distinguish from the Roman occupation, let alone teach and inspire knowledge in others. Ancientcraft can help explain the fascinating period, with the use of replica items (such as the Iron Age tools, jewellery, coins and pottery) and expert knowledge based on archaeological evidence.

iron age dress-up

What could be presented:

  • Why was iron better than bronze?
  • What was life like for the people of Iron Age Britain?
  • Why did they construct hillforts?
  • How do we know about all about the Iron Age?
  • How did the Romans get along with the Iron Age people in Britain?
  • Where to find Iron Age evidence in Britain?

What topics could be included:

Transition from Bronze Age > Iron Age

  • Iron Age Societies:
    • Celts
    • Tribal kingdoms
  • Iron Age Economics:
    • Trading & travel
    • Coinage
    • Salt production
  • Iron Age Cultures & Technologies:
    • Daily life, food & clothing/textiles
    • Farmsteads & roundhouses
    • How iron was made during prehistory
    • Iron tools
  • Iron Age Religion:
    • Offerings & sacrifices
    • Burial practice
    • Bog Bodies
  • Iron Age Military:
    • Iron weapons (helmet & sword)
    • Hill forts
    • Coming of the Romans
  • Key Iron Age People:
    • Boudicca the Warrior Queen

Transition from Iron Age > Romans

quern stone fun

What hands-on activities could be included**:

  • Iron Age activity sheet
  • Try on the Iron Age helmet and mail
  • Barley grain grinding with a quern-stone
  • Iron Age coin rubbing
  • Fire making (outdoor only)

** MUST BE REQUESTED DURING BOOKING (more activities being added during 2015)

What could be on display:

iron age tools


Iron Age Tools

Replica tools and weapons made from iron and wood.


iron age helmet

Iron Age Helmet

Replica Iron Age "Montefortino" military helmet used from around 300 BC through the 1st century AD



iron age jewellery

Iron Age Jewellery

Replica Iron Age jewellery worn by men and woman, including a torc and various brooches to fasten cloaks




iron age coins


Iron Age Coins

Replica Iron Age coins; these were first minted by the Celts during the late 4th century BC and were influenced by trade  


iron age quern stone


Iron Age Quern Stone

Replica Iron Age quern used to grind flour (a favourite with children)



iron age pots


Iron Age Pottery

Replica Iron Age pottery fired in open fire pits and used for cooking and general storage


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