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Iron Age

Iron Working
Life in the Iron Age
Iron Age European Sites
For reference see:


The Early Iron Age in central Europe,

dating from c.800 b.c. to c.500 b.c., is
known as the Hallstatt period.
Celtic migrations, beginning in the 5th
cent. b.c., spread the use of iron into W
Europe and to the British Isles.
The Late Iron Age in Europe, which is
dated from this period, is called La

Iron Age

Iron Age, marks the period of

development of Technology, when the
working of iron came into general use,
replacing bronze as the basic material for
implements and weapons.
It is the last stage of the archaelogical
sequence known as the three-age system
(Stone Age, Bronze Age, & Iron Age).

Development of Iron

Furnaces were developed that could reach the

high melting temperature of that metal. Iron
technology had spread throughout the
classical world by about 500 BC.
Early steels were discovered by adding small
amounts of carbon to iron as it was hammered
over a charcoal fire.
Mining became well developed and included
the use of pumps to keep mines from flooding.

Bronze vs. Iron

Bronze could be melted and poured into

moulds, whereas iron could not because the
process made it too brittle to use as weapons or
Iron had to be heated slowly and hammered
into shape, then sunk into cold water to prevent
it weakening.
This process reached originated in Asia Minor
around 1400BC and was brought to Scotland
around 700BC by the Celts.

Uses of Iron

Metalware was used for pots and

dishes, sometimes with unforeseen
disastrous results such as lead
Technology also advanced weaponry
with the development of catapults,
better swords, and body armor.
Also ornamental items, such as
jewelry, hair pins, etc.






Bridle fittings

Ornaments, Jewelry

Safety pins

Life in the Iron Age

Different settlements

Single farming units

Within the hillfort proper, families would have lived

in roundhouses.
A roundhouse is a teepee-like structure covered by
a daub (a mixture of soil, straw, animal manure and
Inside the roundhouse, a fire would burn constantly.
The fire would be the source of light and heat for
the structure, as well as the means to cook the
The making of iron objects would have formed a
central part of the settlement's existence.

The majority of entrances to roundhouses

face to the east.

Iron Age Round House

Above is a reconstruction from archaeological excavations in

Northumbria. Inland round houses in low-lying areas used
wood for the low walls, but in this picture, as with the site at
Waddon, local stone has been used.

Activity areas in roundhouse

Life in the Iron Age (cond)

Archaeologists discovered the head of a worker bee

dating back to the Iron Ages and postulate that
apiculture may have been practiced.
Charcoal has been made for over 4,000 years in
Some forts were protected by a "chevaux-de-frise":
a group of upright stones in front of the hillfort
meant to make access by man or horse arduous.
Local rivers were used to transport goods in boats
built to hold up to 5.5 tons of material
Meat and fish were preserved by using salt
extracted from seawater by a lengthy process.
The first Iron Age settlement to be excavated was
at Standlake in Oxfordshire.
Archaeologists estimate the population of Britain
during the Iron Age to be approximately one million.

Iron Age A - Hallstat culture

This is the first Celtic migration, supplanting

(rather than absorbing?) the previous
natives and bringing the technology of iron.
They also used bronze, making them multimetal technologists and being able to suit a
wider range of materials to the task.
There was a military aristocracy in place
and similar archaeological evidence exists
on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Hallstatt, Austria

Located in a seemingly inhospitable

area, high in the Salzkammergut in
Austria, Hallstatt was a thriving saltmining and trading center in antiquity.
The wealth in the Hallstatt- and La
Tne-period tombs attests to the
success of the enterprise.
The finds from this site became
eponymous for the period.


View of Lake and Mines in background

Hallstatt Finds

Among the enormous number of finds from

the salt mines and the cemetery at Hallstatt
are wood and textile objects preserved in
salt, pottery, bronze vessels, jewelry, wagons
and weapons.
The sword scabbard is atypical in that it is
incised with a figural scene. The
interpretation of the figures is not entirely

Hochdorf, Germany

The Hallstatt tribes were rural societies, which

were organized into isolated farmsteads and
hamlets subjected to central places, controlled by
fortified settlements.
Many authors consider that these settlements
would be regional centres (controlling an area of 50
km around them), which would be, at the same
time, forts, where people from the countryside
would find protection in case of war, and also the
place where the chief, the aristocracy and
craftsmen would live.
Thus, the fortified settlements would be
understood as proto-urban centres, which would
concentrate: the craft production, food storage and
redistribution of resources, trade exchanges and
the political power in these societies.

Hochdorf, Germany

Construction of grave

Grave Chamber

Enclosing the grave chamber

Finishing Barrow

The barrow, ready for burial

The barrow, after closing chamber

Horchdorf Finds
Gold bowl
Drinking Horn
Gold shoe ornaments

Gold fibulae


Belt cover
Neck ring

The Wagon

The Hochdorf wagon takes up

nearly half the space in the burial
It was made of wood and almost
completely covered with iron
bands and fittings, some
functional, most decorative or, at
most, reinforcing.
The wagon clearly did not
transport the deceased into the
tomb because the body is approx.
sixteen cm longer than the wagon
Since the chamber is cut ca. two
m into the ground and lined with
wood, the wagon had to be
transported over the sides and
placed inside the wood-clad
chamber after the textiles that
covered the floor had been put in
That this was done in pieces is
demonstrated by the fact that
neither the horse fittings, the
pole, nor the wheels were

The Couch

The "chieftain" was laid out on the couch, with his head toward the
south, on thick layers of plant material and animal furs.
The entire couch, as restored.
Length: 2.75 m.

The Cauldron

Cast Bronze lion

Height: 80 cm (without lions).

Diameter: Ca. 104 cm. Capacity:
500 liters.

The Chieftan: What do we

know about him?

Reconstruction of tomb before closing

What do we know about


40 years old when he died.

No cause of death determined.
Over 6 feet tall, above average for the
Body embalmed before burial.

Grass growing in chamber-at least four

weeks between death and complete
No hair on body (preservation treatments?)

Iron Age B - La Tne

Celt influx to Britain, a more warlike

There was a major silting of lowland
river bottoms; was this a result of an
increase in mining/streaming (as was to
happen in the Middle Ages and Tudor
times) or as a result of deforestation
and/or the spread of blanket bog with
the ending of the closed forest?

La Tene, Switzerland

La Tene refers to the spot outside of Lake Neuchatel that,

in 1858, receded to a very low level.
The result was the exposure of the ribs of some
construction. When the area was excavated, the second
great period of the development of the Celts was
The La Tene eras were divided into three sections, one,
two , and three. This is a classification and designation
developed by archaeologists that refer to the periods in
general, and the remarkable aspects of it.
Its dating period begins in the middle of the fifth century
BC, and continues until the Roman conquest of Gaul,
when its development stopped. Roughly, the periods of
La Tene runs as follows: La Tene One, from 600 to 500
BC; ,La Tene Two from 450 to 100 BC; and La Tene Three
from 100 BC until the Roman destruction of the culture.

La Tne Art

This style originates from the northern part of the Danube and
centered in Germany. This was a time of great experimentation
and diverse art forms, such as ornaments. The Celts were very
artistic and not only worked with different mediums, they also
varied their genre. The Celts had great craftsmanship in making
sculptures, woodwork figurines such as stylized animals, and
La Tne art was influenced by many different cultures. The main
influences came from Greek and Etruscan art from seventh and
fourth centuries BC. Celtic art was also influenced by the Steppe
art from, derived from the Nomadic Scythians. It was through the
Scythians the Celts became acquainted with animal art forms and
began to make wooden figurines.
Soon, the Celts emerged into figurative art around the third and
first centuries BC, with the representation of art work on coins,
another demonstration of their amazing abilities with metal. The
Celts also made armor and decorative and artistic ornaments for
their horses too, starting in the third century BC. But, this art form
began to decline and eventually died out starting in the second
century BC due to Julius Caesar and his warfare.

La Tene

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