Luxury imports

Iron Age, 20 BC-AD 50
From Hertfordshire, England

French and Italian luxuries for Iron Age dinner parties

At the end of the Iron Age, eating and drinking habits were changing for the people who lived in London. This is demonstrated by these everyday objects. Inviting friends, neighbours and relatives to eat and drink became especially important at this time. New ways of cooking and serving food were tried, along with new foods and drink.

Entertaining guests become one way to show off importance and wealth. Those people who could afford them used very fine pottery plates, cups and flagons made in parts of France. The most powerful people used pottery plates and cups made in Roman Italy (the red plate shown here was made in Arezzo), or drank from Roman glass or silver cups.

People who dined off these fine dinner services, also spent time washing and dressing to impress. New styles of brooches become fashionable at this time. Some people also began to clean their nails carefully, pluck unwanted hair with tweezers or wear make up. A few people could also afford perfume. The small flask at the front right is a special perfume jar from Egypt, Persia or Arabia.

New ways of eating and drinking were just as important for the dead. All of the objects shown here were placed in graves as part of the new custom for cremation burials. Most of the objects were excavated at the King Harry Lane Cemetery, St Albans and were presented to The British Museum by William Old Ltd.

Find in the collection online

More information


I. Freestone and D. Gaimster, Pottery in the making: world-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

A. Woodward & J.D. Hill, Prehistoric Britain: the ceram (Oxbow Books, 2000)

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


Height: 36.000 cm (flagon)

Museum number

P&EE 1911 12-8 27-8;P&EE 1958 7-4 724;P&EE 1967 2-2 44, 48, 54, 63;P&EE 1976 5-1 599, 602-3, 713, 785, 868, 1048-9;P&EE 1980 10-3 401;P&EE 1996 7-1 1-2


Gift of William Old Ltd


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore