Iron farming tools

Iron Age, about 200 BC-AD 43
From Stantonbury Hill hillfort, Somerset, England

These are common tools used by farmers in Iron Age Britain. The curved objects are iron blades of sickles or pruning hooks. The other object is the iron tip from an 'ard', a type of plough used by Iron Age farmers. Only the iron parts of these tools have survived; the wooden handles of the sickles or pruning hooks have rotted away. The ard would have been made from wood; the tip that cut into ground was the only part to be covered by iron.

Sickles or pruning hooks were not just used to harvest crops. They were also used for cutting and shaping branches and hurdles. Looking after trees and hedges was an important job for Iron Age farmers. Trees needed to be carefully managed to ensure a large supply of hurdles and other useful-sized timber to make buildings, tools and vehicles and also for firewood and charcoal. At the same time farmers needed to lay and maintain the many hedges that surrounded fields and settlements.

Iron Age ploughs lacked the mould boards or large blades used on more recent European ploughs to turn the soil over. Instead, the ard had a pointed wooden tip clad with iron, which made a simple furrow or narrow trench to sow the seed in. The ard's iron tip helped to cut through heavy clay soil more easily than was previously possible.

All these objects, along with an iron axe, were buried together at Stantonbury Hill hillfort in Somerset. They were found by someone using a metal detector.

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More information


R. Jackson, Camerton: a catalogue of late (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

S. James and V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Ag (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)


Length: 28.700 cm (ploughshare)
Length: 28.700 cm (ploughshare)
Length: 28.700 cm (ploughshare)

Museum number

P&EE 1982 1-3 308, 309, 310



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