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period Word or Phrase:Iron Age  
Definition:About 800 BC to 43 AD

The Iron Age comes after the Bronze Age and before the Roman period. It is a time when people developed the skills and knowledge to work and use iron, hence the name ‘Iron Age’ which is given to this period. Iron is a much tougher and more durable metal than bronze but it also requires more skill to make objects from it. People continued to use bronze during this period.[more]

In Warwickshire, as in other areas of Britain, the Iron Age seemed to be a time when people were involved in dividing up the land with territorial boundaries.
Some archaeologists think that the land boundaries of this period were made by groups of people who were organised into tribes. These boundaries can take the form of pit alignments or linear banks and/or ditches, sometimes accompanied by palisades.

Amongst the sites in Warwickshire are a complex of pit alignments and linear ditches on Dunsmore Heath and a large complex of ditches known as Hobditch in the parishes of Tanworth in Arden and Ullenhall.

The Iron Age is also characterised by hillforts, although the construction of some of these monuments had begun in the Bronze Age. Warwickshire examples include Meon Hill, Wappenbury and Nadbury which all survive as earthworks. Enclosed settlements are also a feature of this period and usually incorporate round houses.

It is during the Iron Age that people started using currency bars, long bars of iron, often shaped like a sword. The bars may have been used to trade with, being given in exchange for goods and other objects. Some archaeologists think that they were also used in rituals. Currency bars found at three Warwickshire sites had all been placed in boundary ditches surrounding either Enclosed settlements or hillforts. The hoard of currency bars discovered at Meon Hill, in the parish of Quinton, in 1824, is the largest hoard in Britain, containing 394 iron ingots.

The first coins to be found in Britain date to the Iron Age. Just over 30 Iron Age coins have been found in Warwickshire. They are sometimes called ‘staters’. Gold coins began to be used in the south-east of Britain from at least 250 BC and they gradually spread northwards. The coins had a very high value and were probably not used in the same way that we use money today for day-to-day purchases. Iron Age coins were probably exchanged between high-ranking people as gifts.

Archaeologists often find broken pieces of pottery, called 'sherds', when they excavate Iron Age sites. Throughout much of the Iron Age period pots were handmade from local clay and fired in bonfire kilns. Pots were used for cooking, for serving food and eating out of. Cooking pots were not usually decorated or polished. Serving bowls, on the other hand, were sometimes highly decorated and polished by burnishing (rubbing to achieve a glossy surface) before being fired.
People made different types of pots or decorated them in distinctive ways in different parts of Britain.

Towards the end of the Iron Age people started changing the way in which they made their pots. The new and modified shapes of the pots suggest that people were cooking new foods being imported from northern Europe. These new types of pot were also different because they were wheel-made. In earlier times pots had been handmade.

All information © 2013 Warwickshire County Council.