By the first millennium BC, Britain had already established close contact with the continent. Communication systems had already developed as raw materials such as metals were brought from place to place. Evidence of this is seen where the technology and style incorporated in different objects show similarities in repeated decorative designs of their development throughout Britain and Continental Europe. The first millennium BC saw changes in the ways in which societies were developing.
Ireland was also affected by the many changes sweeping across Europe at this time, and had important social and economic links between Britain and the continent. The invasion of Britain by the Celts had an impact in the daily lives of ordinary people, their religious beliefs and artistic expression. The use of iron led to improved tools. Society was more organised and specialised skills were becoming more evident. People were able to have a greater impact on their environment. Farming settlements were more commonplace, as the climate stabilised the land became much more arable making it easier to exploit.
It was a time of great technological progress for Britain. Britain and Ireland were influenced by the technological, social and economic changes that were taking place around Europe at this time. Goods were not the only important things to exchange, the exchange of ideas, with the continent were equally important. Many goods were traded within Ireland itself. A good example of this is seen in axeheads.
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Axes, which had been cast from the same stone mould, have been discovered throughout the island as well as in Britain and the continent. Any materials that could not be found locally would be imported, such as tin to make bronze this most likely came from Cornwall. Irelands wetlands formed major obstacles to travel and transport Farming also had a great impact on the environment. Trees were felled and grazing animals did not allow regrowth, which in turn caused wetter soils and poorer drainage, this encouraged the growth of peat. These bogs have helped to preserve many artefacts, particularly wood and leather, which would not have survived in drier climatic conditions. By the Later Bronze Age Britain was experiencing similarities of shared knowledge and stylistic rituals with the continent.
” Though sharing many of the technical and stylistic innovations, is distinguished by the Urnfield tradition of cremating burials; many of the objects buried with these cremations are precisely the types that turn up in watery deposits of north-western Europe” (Timothy Champion p. 110) The invasion of Britain, by The Celts gradually infiltrated over the course of the centuries between about 800 and 100 BC. The Celts were a group of peoples loosely tied by a similar language, religion, and cultural expression they came from across the channel, places such as East and West Germany, Eastern France and Switzerland. Around 500 BC the South and Eastern parts of England were invaded, these tribes were from France and the Low Countries they brought with them the Hallstatt culture. This culture would be absorbed into the Iron art in Britain.
” Southern British weaponry followed continental fashions, with daggers replacing the sword, while bow brooches began to be used for fastening clothes instead of ring-headed pins” (Colin Haselgrove p. 130) The third century BC saw another invasion of Celts who brought with them the La Ten culture. They brought back the long swords and a new style of art as well as chariots. Invaders from Northern Spain and Brittany followed during the second century BC bringing Spanish influences to Britain. “Contact between Brittany and south-west England is shown by pottery with stamped and roulette ornamentation.” (Barry Cunliffe p.
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131) The Celts were not centrally governed and would fight each other as anyone else. They were warriors and took a lot of pride in their appearance in battle, the elaborately embellished weapons and paraphernalia they used, such as, Golden shields and breastplates shared pride of place with ornamented helmets and trumpets. Now that iron was being produced and used in Britain, it changed trade and encouraged local independence. Trade was essential during the Bronze Age, for not every area had the necessary ores to make bronze.
Iron, on the other hand, was relatively cheap and available almost everywhere. ” After perhaps two centuries of relative isolation, the communities of southern England again became closely involved with their neighbours across the English Channel from about 120 BC onwards” (Timothy Dar vill p. 162) Britain saw a huge growth in the number of hill forts throughout England at this time. These were often ditch and bank combinations surrounding defensible hilltops. Some are so small that they would only be able to inhabit an individual family.
Although over time, many larger forts were built showing their high status. It is however not known if the hill forts were built by the native Britons to defend themselves from the Celts, or by the Celts as they moved their way into hostile territory. These forts usually contained no source of water, so their use as long-term settlements is uncertain, though they may have been used for withstanding a short-term siege’s. Many of the hill forts were built on top of earlier causeway ed camps.
At Cadbury Castle there is a huge amount of pottery, including new forms of pottery showing a continental influence. Ornaments and jewellery, as well as the remains of looms and spinning equipment have been excavated this tells of a thriving wealthy community. Among the many finds at Cadbury are amber and glass beads and black shale armlets, bronze brooches, razors and coins. The first Iron Age defences at Cadbury were erected sometime in the 5 th century BC to protect a large community.
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The people lived in closely gathered timber houses and stored their food in pits cut into the hill’s bedrock. Cadbury is the only hillfort with a separate quarter for metalworking, several bronze-working tools were found at this site. A small bank and single rampart protected the town at Cadbury until about 200 BC. It was at this time that the four stone and timber ramparts surrounding the hillfort were first constructed. ” Good examples of developed hillfort also include Croft Aubrey (Herefordshire), Danbury (Hampshire) and Maiden Castle (Dorset) ” (Colin Haselgrove p. 120) The Celts were farmers and they also brought the iron plough to Britain.
Earlier ploughs had basically been a stick with a pointed end harnessed behind two oxen. They were suitable only for ploughing the light upland soils. The heavier iron ploughs established an agricultural revolution and made it possible for the first time to cultivate the rich valley and lowland soils. ” In the Late Iron Age, bread wheat began to be grown regularly in regions including the south Midlands, north-east England and south-west Scotland, a development almost certainly linked to the colonisation of heavy clay lands.” (Collin Haselgrove p.
116) The Celts used a team of eight oxen to pull the plough this resulted in the fields being long and narrow, as it would be too difficult to turn eight oxen. The Celts lived in huts of arched timber with walls of wicker and roofs of thatch. The huts were generally gathered in loose hamlets. The basic unit of Celtic life was the clan, Clans were bound together very loosely with other clans into tribes, each of which had its own social structure and customs in several places each tribe had its own coinage system, and possibly its own local gods and rituals.
” Religious beliefs were influential in the laying out of sites: both roundhouse and enclosure entrances are often orientated directly towards either the equinox or the midwinter solstice” (Colin Haselgrove p 122) During this period shrines and sanctuaries are found over much of the South of Britain. The evidence we have of the changing nature of contact between Britain and the Continent during this time shows the technological, social and economical progress that was made. The Celts as we know them today is through their elaborate art and the words of the Romans who fought them. The only problem with the reports of the Romans is that they are probably political propaganda, as the Romans would want to be seen as a great civilizing powerful force, and the Celtic people as nothing more than barbarians. By the end of this era Britain was using a potters wheel and lathe, ploughing was ox drawn iron plough, ironwork was hand forged, the designs and craftsmanship on jewellery gold, bronze etc are of an unsurpassed quality.
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