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The Iron Age

800 BC- 43AC


The Iron Age is the last of the Three Ages of British later prehistory. It begins with the arrival of the new metal, iron, around 800 BC and ends with Roman troops landing on the shores of Kent, in AD 43. The Romans gave the British writing and with writing came recorded history – which is why prehistory is said to cease with their arrival. People in Iron Age Britain are sometimes described as Celts and they spoke Celtic languages, which survive today in Breton, Welsh, Gallic (Scotland) and Gaelic (Ireland). The working of iron requires greater control of very high temperatures which led to improvements in pottery firing and less regionalised pottery styles.  The Iron Age saw the  appearance of ditched enclosed farmstead-type settlements as at Itter Crescent, open settlements characterised by roundhouses and pits as at Fengate, and the building of the hillforts like the earthworks at Newborough. Societies were hierarchically organised in this period, having moved from the extended clan to the chiefdoms and the earliest named rulers. These are the tribes the Romans encountered when they came to Britain in the first century. The best known of these rulers was Queen Boudicca of the Iceni tribe/kingdom. She led a popular rebellion against Roman rule, in AD 60-1. Environmentally, the Iron Age sees increased flooding and higher groundwater levels in the fens.


Boudicca’s Revolt.

60 AD


Queen Boudicca  was married to Prasutagus ruler of the Iceni of East Anglia. When the Romans conquered southern England in AD 43, they allowed Prasutagus to continue to rule. However, when Prasutagus died the Romans decided to ignore his will, which left his kingdom shared between his daughters and the Romans, and to rule the Iceni directly. They confiscated his property and are also said to have stripped and flogged Boudicca and raped her daughters. These actions exacerbated widespread resentment at Roman rule. In 60 AD, while the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus was on campaign in North Wales, the Iceni led by Boudicca, rebelled and were joined by other tribes. In response the Ninth Legion based at Longthorpe Fortress and led by Quintus Petillius Cerialis marched to meet her army, but they were defeated and she went on to destroy Camulodunum (Colchester) the capital of Roman Britain. Boudicca's warriors then destroyed London and Verulamium (St Albans) killing thousands. Suetonius marched back from Wales and finally defeated her. She is thought to have poisoned herself to avoid capture. The site of the battle, and of Boudicca's death, are unknown.