Religion and ritual in Iron Age Britain
The only direct evidence for religion in Iron Age Britain is through archaeology. The Romans wrote little about British religion, and evidence from the religions of other Celtic-speaking peoples who lived in different countries or in later times might be misleading.
Iron Age British religion did not need images of their gods in human or animal form. Funeral ritual probably involved allowing the body to naturally decay, rather than either burial or cremation. However, at different times a few parts of Britain did break with this tradition, and burial and cremation were practised.
Britons did not worship in temples or special religious buildings. Rather, the evidence shows they worshipped on the farm or out in the landscape. Many of the objects in this tour are thought to have been offerings to gods, spirits or ancestors. Rivers, lakes and bogs were the sites of offerings of weapons; animals and everyday objects such as pots, querns and tools were offered at houses and farmyards, while offerings of torcs or chariot harnesses were made at land away from farms.
Humans could also be offered. The man found at Lindow Moss was probably a human sacrifice made in a bog. Other human remains from farms and rivers might come from sacrifices or special rituals involving parts of dead people.
Many of these rites were probably carried out by Druids, the special priests in Britain and France at the end of the Iron Age.
1. Hoard L at Snettisham under excavation
2. Rubbish from a feast or sacrifice? Cattle bones in a pit at Burton Agnes, East Yorks.