(c. 600 BC to AD 43)
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 Barbury Castle, Wiltshire
Barbury Castle, an Iron-Age hill fort in Wiltshire

Just as the Gaels or Giodels of the Bronze Age had forced their Neolithic predecessors into Wales and the Higlands of Scotland, so they themselves were forced to seek refuge there and in Ireland by the iron-bearing Celts, the Cymri or Brythons who invaded these islands in about 600 BC.

The Phoenician Cassiterides have been identified with the Scilly Isles which are barren of the metal and it is thus thought that their 'Tin Islands' are the British Isles.

Cassiterides, Cassiter Street in Bodmin and the tin ore Cassiterite are all derived from the Greek word for tin which itself is of Phoenician origin.

The Long Ships rocks off Land's End are are named after the long and narrow Phoenician trading vessels of this era.

The Brythons lived in small small forest communities without large towns. Their society was organised into tribes. They were skilled workers in iron, gold and (in Cornwall) tin and engaged in trade with continental Europe and the Mediterannean - about 330 BC, Pytheas of Marseilles recorded that the Brythons traded large quantities of corn with the Phoenicians.

The religion of the Brythons was Druidism, the Druids serving as priests, teachers and judges. They believed in an afterlife, burying food, utensils and weapons in their graves for the use of the deceased - they also practised human sacrifice.

Contrary to popular belief, the ancient monument on Salisbury Plain known as Stonehenge might have been used by the Druids but its erection pre-dated the Iron Age and Druidism in Britain.

It was the Iron Age Brythons who opposed Julius Ceasar's expedition to Britain when he made his landing in Kent in 55 BC.

The Cymri, like previous invaders, were driven westwards by the English and their name is still remembered in the Cumberland and, more directly in the Welsh word for Wales itself - Cymry.

Towards the end of the Iron Age there was an ever-increasing migration of Celtic tribes from continental Europe into Britain to escape the spread of the Roman army northwards throughout their homelands. The period known as the "Iron Age" in Britain, that of the Celtic tribes, came to an end with invasion by the 2nd Augustan legion under Vespasian in AD43.

Excavations of the Iron Age hill forts have revealed the post holes of circular huts with porches. They cultivated corn using primitive ploughs.

Although Iron Age pottery was harder and the pieces larger than that of the Bronze or New Stone Age, it was still very crude. The potter's wheel was not used but the pieces fashioned by hand. The pottery was decorated with straight lines or geometric patterns impressed into the clay either with a stick or with finger tips (in a similar way to the ornamental patterns pressed into the pastry of a pie crust). Rims also began to appear on Iron Age pots.


A water supply is something which is markedly lacking at the sites of many hill forts sucha as
Maiden Castle near Dorchester in Dorset. This would seem to indicate that Iron-Age warfare in Britain was a matter of a frontal assault in which the fort would be taken or not as without a reliable water supply the forts could not withstand a seige of any duration. It is possible that either there were not the resources to keep an army on a seige for any length of time or that the armies were too small to enforce an effective seige of the hill forts with their huge perimeters - the occupants could steal away to obtain water.

The Veneti were maritime traders and their skill in the use of the sling made it amost potent weapon in sea-borne engagements.

The perfection of the art of using slings in warfare by the Veneti tribe of Brittany during the late Iron Age rendered the defences of the hill forts useless; a skilled warrior could cast a pebble some 60 metres (200 feet) although it would only be effective as a weapon at about half that distance - this was nevertheless quite sufficient a distance to fell an enemy across the single ramparts of a hill fort. A large number of slingers could throw a hail of stones on the enemy. the solution was to widen the defences of the forts.

The defences of the hill forts were not widened indiscriminately - the defenders used the advantage of their elevated position from where ther missiles could reach their attackers, aided by gravity, while they latter were hindered by the same force attacking uphill. At Pilsdown Pen (Dorset), the slope of the hill is teep and the defences narrow. At Badbury (Dorset), the slope is gentle and the defences correspondingly wide. At Maiden Castle both the slope and the width of the defences are intermediate.


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