3WHO WERE THE CELTSThe Iron Age Celts lived in Britain before and after Jesus. We're going back a very, very long time - two thousand years ago, in fact.Our years are numbered by starting at the year Jesus Christ was born - and the Iron Age Celts lived here 750 years before that. The Iron Age ended in AD43 (43 years after Jesus was born) when the Romans invaded Britain.The name 'Iron Age' comes from the discovery of a new metal called iron. We can find out a lot about the Celts through looking at objects made of iron and other materials which have survived over time, such as the Tal-y-Llyn plaque.The brass plaque was found in 1963 on Cadair Idris in north Wales. The pair of plaques are decorated with human faces. The faces have staring eyes, and straight hair. Archaeologists believe that the head was greatly respected by the Celts.The Celts lived across most of Europe during the Iron Age. Today the Celts live in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Cornwall and in Brittany, France. Their culture lives on in language, music, song and literature.
4ROUND HOUSESIron Age Celts lived in houses - but they were very different to the houses we live in today! Large families lived in a roundhouse. The walls were made of daub (straw, mud and tail) and the roof of straw.Iron firedogThe Celts would light a fire in the middle of the roundhouse for cooking and heating. A farm worker found this iron firedog in 1852 near Llanrwst, north Wales. It was found lying on its side, with a large stone at each end, and deeply buried in peat.Archaeologists believe it was a gift to one of the Celtic gods or goddesses.In the roundhouse, firedogs would have been placed as decorations either side of the central fire. Perhaps they showed the status of the family. The blacksmith who made this firedog was very skilled at shaping and working iron. At either end of the firedog is an animal's head and neck - it would have taken a lot of time, effort and skill to make.RoundhousesThis is a reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse, built on a hillfort site in Castell Henllys, Pembrokeshire.Iron Age people would have chosen where they lived for different reasons. The chieftain and his family, soldiers and craftsmen, lived in a hillfort because they were easy to defend.There are over 1000 Iron Age hillforts in Wales. Steep slopes, a high wall and deep ditch helped keep the Celts safe in their homes.Farmers lived on the land they farmed. Sometimes farms would be built in spots with a good source of water, or fertile ground of good pasture for the animals. The Celts grew corn and kept cows, pigs, horses, goats and sheep.The hillforts didn't keep the Romans out though and the Celtic tribes were conquered when the Romans invaded in AD43.
6CLOTHES AND APPERANCEThe Iron Age Celts' clothes might have looked like the tartan you see in Scotland and Ireland today, with checks and stripes. The Celts used berries and plants to dye the wool different colours.Not only did the Celts like brightly coloured clothes - the Romans tell us that some of them painted patterns all over their bodies with blue woad made of a special plant.The Celts' clothes showed their status and importance within the tribe. Men would wear a tunic with a belt, a cloak and trousers. Women wore dresses fastened with brooches.And if you were an important member of the tribe, you would wear a neck torc of gold, silver or iron, decorated with patterns.SoldiersRoman historians say that Celtic soldiers had white spiky hair. They used lime like we use hair mousse today, and sometimes they tied their hair up in a ponytail. Around their necks they wore gold torcs like big necklaces.The most famous soldiers wore fancy bronze helmets on their head to show how important they were. Often there were model birds, animals or horns on the helmets which made them even more special. They carried huge shields decorated with signs or patterns.
8WARRIORSThe Romans say that the Celts lost their tempers and quarrelled often - but we don't know that. After all, they couldn't have been fighting all the time - they'd be too tired to do any farming! The farmers had to be ready to fight whenever the head of the tribe called on them.The Celts often fought naked - and it's believed that women would fight as well. Their main weapons were the sword and spear and they sometimes fought in horse-drawn war chariots.The power of the RomansEven though the Celts were proud, brave and skilled fighters, they were rather undisciplined. They really had little chance against the Romans' order and power. And, of course, in the end they were defeated by the Romans.A wooden sword was discovered in a pond at the Breiddin hillfort site, near Welshpool in mid Wales - the wet conditions had preservde it over the years. The sword could have been a toy, a weaving tool, or a gift to the gods.Celtic womenTacitus said that Celtic women were as large and frightening as the men. If this is true, no wonder they took part in the fighting too! Bouddicca is a famous female fighter. Chief of the Inceni tribe, she is described as having thick red hair down to her knees - a bit like Fearless Ffion in our Games & Stories, perhaps.She wore a colourful tunic, a gold torc around her neck and a cape of thick tweed pinned with a brooch. When she went to fight, she held a spear in her hand. She didn't like the Romans and revolted against them
10RELIGIONArchaeologists believe that the Iron Age Celts had many gods and goddesses and that the Celts worshipped their gods through sacrifice, giving them valuable objects to keep them happy.But material treasures weren't the only sacrifices - the Iron Age Celts sacrificed (killed) animals, and even humans, to their gods.The Celts also sacrificed weapons to the gods by throwing them into lakes, rivers and bogs - places they considered special. At Llyn Cerrig Bach, archaeologists have found over 150 objects of bronze and iron, including spears, shields and swords.The Celts paid great respect to the human head. Roman historians say they cut off the heads of their ancestors, and even their enemies, and worshipped the skulls.The Celtic religion was closely tied to the natural world and they worshipped gods in sacred places like lakes, rivers, cliffs and bushes. The moon, the sun and the stars were especially important - the Celts thought that there were supernatural forces in every aspect of the natural world.DruidsThe druids were very important in Iron Age society but we know very little about them. They were the Celts' priests, responsible for all sorts of religious ceremonies. They were educated and powerful members of the tribe and were well respected by the other Celts. The main centre of the druids in Britain was Anglesey.We know a little about the druids from descriptions by Roman historians. The Romans tried to limit the powers of the druids because they were so important in Iron Age society.