Welcome to Maiden Castle built around 600bc near Dorchester in the UK. Looks impressive on the picture. Even more impressive on the ground. Hill forts developed in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, roughly the start of the first millennium BC (1000bc). The reason for their emergence in Britain, and their purpose, has been a subject of debate. It has been argued that they could have been defensive sites constructed in response to invasion from continental Europe, built by invaders, or a military reaction to social tensions caused by an increasing population and resulting pressure on agriculture. The dominant view since the 1960s has been that the increasing use of iron led to social changes in Britain. Deposits of iron ore were located in different places to the tin and copper ore necessary to make bronze. As a result, trading patterns shifted, and the old elites lost their economic and social status. Power passed into the hands of a new group of people. The end of the use of Bronze as a currency and the recent climate change shifted the focus from metals to ownership of land and animals as the source of wealth. If you owned land and animals and you could afford to feast your people you were a wealthy person. If you owned Maiden Castle you certainly owned a lot of land, a lot of people, and therefore a lot of wealth. Your fort wasn't just a military installation though it was where you lived, where you feasted and where you died.

Lets imagine your a Celtic Britain of the middle order, middle class if you like, what would your life be like. Well you probably owned a small farm as you can see from the picture there are plenty of plots to choose from. You would have probably kept animals, grown wheat or barley. You would have made your own bread, your own ale, your own clothes (usually woollen made on a weaving loom) or animal skins. You would have butchered your own animals raised and educated your own children, ploughed and harvested your fields gone fishing and collected herbs, nuts and berries. Your house would have been a traditional round house made from wattle and daub (mud and dung thrown onto a woven stick structure that looks like a woven basket and dried). Inside you would have had a central fire place on a clay floor covered with either straw or animal skins. The whole building would be about 20ft in diameter. Outside you would have your pens for the animals, a clay oven and a long way from your door the latrine. So your starting to get modernised now you'd have even had your own bed although you would have to share it in winter with the cattle and sheep. 

If you lived in what is now Great Britain you would have belonged to one of these tribal areas. People like me from Manchester would have been Brigantes. Londoners would have been Cantiaci on the south side of the river Thames and Catuvellauni on the other side. These names are of course the Latin names for the tribes given by the Romans but they give some idea of the amount and distribution of the tribes. If you lived in Maiden Castle you would have been a Durotrigeses and you would have farmed some of the most fertile land in the country, hence the need for the most protection in the country too. Scotland had a different system of defence they had Brochs a large dry stone structure that looks rather like a Rook (castle in chess) and they were placed like lighthouses on high ground they consisted of a large outer wall and an inner wall with a passageway just wide enough for a man in between the two from where you could find a small window and defend your property. Not much is really known about the Scottish Caledonians as they left no written records and they were never conquered by the Romans, subsequently their iron age lasted almost 500 years longer than the English iron age.

Your Religion as an Iron age Celt would have probably been the worship of many gods and human sacrifice was practised until the Romans banned the practice by 150AD so chances are you knew someone or had someone within your family who was offered up to appease the gods. This was a huge honour for the family and sacrifices were not chosen lightly they didn't just offer any old soul to the gods, after all they were trying to make them happy not infuriate them. You would have had a chief druid or shaman who's job it was to interpret the will of the gods and also to provide medication for the tribe.

Some Images of Iron age (Celtic) Britain

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Trade with Europe was rife during the Iron age and the Celts enjoyed such luxuries as wine from Italy and olives from Spain. Iron weapons were imported at first before local knowledge was brought into the country. Fancy decorative items were being produced as well as wealthy items made from gold. The Celts also used the 1st coinage found in the country although we are unsure what sort of value these coins had and what you could buy with them, its thought that they must have been trading with Roman Europe and borrowed the idea from them. The Iron age lasted a relatively short period of time in Britain. Iron objects never held as much value to the tribes as bronze did. But they made highly useful tools with iron. Food production increased dramatically with the introduction of the iron tipped plough and every day objects we now take for granted were starting to be made. Knifes and forks, all types of wood working tools that have changed little to the modern day and lots of cooking implements pots and pans. But life was to take a dramatic turn for the tribes of Great Britain when they first saw the boats of Julius Caesar sailing slowly across the channel in 55bc....Veni Vivi Vici....... well almost...more of that in Part 4


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    Simon Knowles

    Sadistic, Satirical, Sarcastic, Socialist, with enough time on his hands to waste yours.

    Old Stuff

    April 2011
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