Daily life in Iron Age Britain
During the Iron Age, Britain was a land of farms and small villages, with people living in round houses with thatched roofs. The objects that archaeologists find when excavating these farms are mundane and often in abundance. Fine metal objects like the Great Torc from Snettisham (see under 'War and art'), which are often used to illustrate the Iron Age, are rare and unusual. The most common Iron Age remains are the rubbish from daily life, such as pot sherds, animal bones and broken tools. These small, forgotten things are valuable evidence of the daily life of Iron Age people.
Most people were full- or part-time farmers, their lives governed by the farming year and the religious festivals that marked it. Most farmers grew wheat and barley, and kept cattle, sheep and pigs. Some farming families spent part of their time making salt, quern stones or iron. These essentials were traded over long distances across Britain. Other essentials were grown or made locally. Most settlements have evidence of making clothes, woodworking and even blacksmithing. Luxuries, such as shale bracelets, pots, bronze objects, animal furs and feathers were also traded over long distances.
This world was not unchanging, and nor was it exactly the same from one part of Britain to another. New varieties of crop and types of animal were introduced at different times over the 850 years of the Iron Age. For example, the domestic cat and the chicken arrived in Britain in the last centuries of the Iron Age.
1. Artist's impression of a large round house
2. Surviving evidence for large round house; King's Dyke, Whittlesey
3. Stone foundations for a round house in the Pennines
4. Animal bones and broken pots in the drainage gully of a round house; Little Thetford, Ely