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Religion in Iron Age Britain

Understanding the religious beliefs and rituals of Iron Age people is difficult and challenging. Because the Iron Age is a prehistoric period (the people did not leave a written record), the only direct evidence is from archaeological discoveries. The Romans, who visited and then conquered Britain at the end of the Iron Age, did describe some aspects of the religion, but their descriptions sometimes suggest they did not always understand what they saw or what was told to them.

Religion and ritual appears to have been an important part of Iron Age peoples' lives. From the archaeological evidence it is clear that sacrifices - offerings to the gods, spirits and ancestors - were an important part of Iron Age religion. The Romans wrote about the Druids, specialist priests who probably carried out many of these sacrifices.

Iron Age religions in Britain did not need temples or shrines - very different to the religion of Roman Britain. Iron Age people did not need a special building in which to worship their gods. Rather, the gods and spirits were possibly seen as being everywhere. Certainly, Iron Age offerings and sacrifices were made in the home, around the farm and in the countryside.

The Gods or Spirits of Iron Age religions may not have had human form. There are almost no idols or statues of Gods from Iron Age Britain. This is in striking contrast to religion in Roman times when many statues of gods and goddesses are shown in human form.

Funerals probably took place in Iron Age Britain, but burying or cremating the dead was unusual; burials and cemeteries have not been found in most parts of Britain. The Iron Age dead have disappeared, probably because they were never buried in the first place.

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