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Iron Age

The Great Torc from Snettisham

The Iron Age is the period of European history that dates from around 800 BC to the Roman Conquest when iron was first used instead of bronze to make tools and weapons. In the parts of Europe the Romans never conquered, the term Iron Age is used to cover the time period up to the medieval period.

Iron Age people are sometimes referred to as Celts, but other groups are also known from Europe at this time such as Germans and Iberians.

The people of Iron Age Europe were farmers. Wheat, barley and beans were harvested in small fields and people reared animals such as cattle, sheep and pigs. Other important resources include wood for fuel and building houses, and salt for preserving meat. The majority of people lived on farms or in small villages. Occasionally Iron Age people lived in larger settlements, such as hillforts and Oppida.

Some Iron Age people made highly decorated metal objects, which we call Early Celtic or La Tène art. These objects were often very skilfully made and the techniques used to make them were technologically advanced. 

The British Museum collection contains thousands of Iron Age objects.  A selection is on display in Room 50. The Snettisham Great Torc, Basse-Yutz Flagons and Battersea Shield are stunning examples of Early Celtic art. Room 50 also includes objects associated with Iron Age feasting, burial and objects which inform us about everyday life in the Iron Age.

Image caption: The Great Torc from Snettisham
Iron Age, about 75 BC. Found at Ken Hill, Snettisham, Norfolk, England

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