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Late Prehistoric Britain

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Presentation on theme: "Late Prehistoric Britain"— Presentation transcript:

1 Late Prehistoric Britain
Pre Roman Britain AKA:The Late Iron Age Late Prehistoric Britain Pre Invasion Britain Celtic Britain

2 ‘An Age of Mystery’ Gaps in knowledge filled by romantic fantasies.

3 How we know anything. Archaeology: uncovering site plans, artefacts, habitation sites. Artefacts: objects that give an idea of how the people lived, what they could make, etc. Landscape studies: what the environment was like and how people could have lived in it.

4 Celtic Expansion 5th century BC.
Spread from central western Europe to the Balkans, Northern Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Britain. 387 BC Rome sacked by ‘Celts’.



7 Celtic Culture Common cultural elements:
Tribal focused. Tribal hierarchy. Agricultural base. Limited urbanisation. Warrior culture. Language ‘Spiral’ artistic style. Religion.

8 Celtic Britain Cultural development over several 1000 years.
Island culture: limited immigration and political expansion. No direct link with the Mediterranean cultures.

9 Urbanisation Regional variations in the forms used.
Oppida: tribal focal points for administration, security, government. Limited development of infrastructure.

10 A Hill Fort Maiden Castle, Nr Dorchester, Dorset. Begun c600 BC.
Existing plan 150 BC. Entrance defences remodelled in c70BC. 44 acre internal perimeter.



13 Landscape maps Landscape consists of several elements:
- ancestral burial sites. - religious centres. - Tribal ritual centres. - tribal centre. - communication routes.

14 Uffington landscape. 1 Chalk Figure: White Horse. 2 Hill Fort.
3 Artificial mound. 4 Ridgeway Path. 5 Burial mound.

15 The Round House Circular shape.
Made of timber with wattle & daub walls. Thatched roofs. Central hearth. Size reflects status. Occasional use of stone for walling.


17 Rural culture Most people live on land.
Individual farms or farming communities. Fertile soils. ‘Traditional’: smallholdings, no imported crops / methods.

18 Warrior society Tribal army.
Focus on individual bravery: head hunting, rites of passage. No tactical organisation. Chariots still used in England. Inter-tribal warfare constant.

19 Celtic religion Druids serve as spiritual leaders.
Tradition of gods associated with nature: rivers, forests, animals. Anthropomorphic tradition. Shrines or sacred places.


21 Sacrifice or execution? The Lindow Bog body
Body discovered in peat bog in 1963. High status: trimmed beard & nails. Last meal of porridge. Strangled – cord remained at his throat. Throat cut.

22 The culture of Status: Material evidence
Finds from high-status burials show the trappings of power and belief. Jewellery. Weapons and armour. Food and drink. Tableware. Imported luxury items.

23 Trade with Rome develops: Hengistbury Head.
Promontory on south coast nr Christchurch Harbour, Dorset. Land approach cut off by defensive ditches. Roman amphorae of the 1st and 2nd centuries BC.

24 Power relationships with Rome: The Lexden Tumulus, Colchester.
High status burial. Roman amphorae and pottery. Amongst the items were a medallion of the emperor Augustus and a bronze portrait bust of the emperor Gaius.

25 The Waterloo Helmet and the Battersea Shield
Both bronze. Decorated in Celtic style: spirals and abstract designs. Both dredged from the river Thames. Offering to the river gods? Limited defensive value: therefore status symbol?

26 Celtic art

27 Pre-Roman Britain Tribes. Warrior society. Agricultural.
Few urban centres. Common language. Common religion. Common culture.

28 Isolationism ends: The landings of Julius Caesar
58 BC Caesar begins conquest of Gaul. 55 BC leads 2 legions to Britain. Southern tribes submit. 54 BC leads 5 legions to Britain. Oppidum stormed. Peace treaty signed.

29 What the Romans thought…
‘The stream of Oceanus, filled with large numbers of sea monsters, dashes against the shores of the distant Britons.’ (Horace) ‘The Britons, who are savage towards foreigners…’ (Horace) ‘Their customs are in some respects like those of the Gauls, in other respects simpler and more barbaric. They are also unskilled in horticulture or farming in general.’ (Strabo)

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