British Iron Age

Iron Age
Bronze Age

Ancient Near East (1200–550 BC)

Bronze Age collapse (1200–1150 BC)
Anatolia, Caucasus, Levant


Aegean (1190–700 BC)
Italy (1100–700 BC)
Balkans (1100 BC – AD 150)
Eastern Europe (900–650 BC)
Central Europe (800–50 BC)
Great Britain (800 BC – AD 100)
Northern Europe (500 BC – AD 800)

South Asia (1200–200 BC)

East Asia (500 BC – AD 300)

Iron metallurgy in Africa

Iron Age metallurgy
Ancient iron production

Ancient history
Mediterranean, Greater Persia, South Asia, China
Greek, Roman, Chinese, Medieval

The British Iron Age is a conventional name used in the archaeology of Great Britain, referring to the prehistoric and protohistoric phases of the Iron Age culture of the main island and the smaller islands, typically excluding prehistoric Ireland, which had an independent Iron Age culture of its own.[1] The parallel phase of Irish archaeology is termed the Irish Iron Age.[2]The Iron Age is not an archaeological horizon of common artefacts, but is rather a locally diverse cultural phase.

The British Iron Age lasted in theory from the first significant use of iron for tools and weapons in Britain to the Romanisation of the southern half of the island. The Romanised culture is termed Roman Britain and is considered to supplant the British Iron Age. The Irish Iron Age was ended by the rise of Christianity.

The tribes living in Britain during this time are often popularly considered to be part of a broadly Celtic culture, but in recent years this has been disputed.[citation needed] At a minimum, "Celtic" is a linguistic term without an implication of a lasting cultural unity connecting Gaul with the British Isles throughout the Iron Age. The Brythonic languages spoken in Britain at this time, as well as others including the Goidelic and Gaulish languages of neighbouring Ireland and Gaul respectively, certainly belong to the group known as Celtic languages. However it cannot be assumed that particular cultural features found in one Celtic-speaking culture can be extrapolated to the others.[3]


At present over 100 large-scale excavations of Iron Age sites have taken place,[4] dating from the 8th century BC to the 1st century AD, and overlapping into the Bronze Age in the 8th century BC.[5] Hundreds of radiocarbon dates have been acquired and have been calibrated on four different curves, the most precise being based on tree ring sequences.

The following scheme summarises a comparative chart presented in a 2005 book by Barry Cunliffe,[6] but it should be noted that British artefacts were much later in adopting Continental styles such as the La Tène style of Celtic art:

Earliest Iron Age 800–600 BC Parallel to Hallstatt C on the continent
Early Iron Age 600–400 BC Hallstat D and half of La Tène I
Middle Iron Age 400–100 BC The rest of La Tène I, all of II and half of III
Late Iron Age 100–50 BC The rest of La Tène III
Latest Iron Age 50 BC – AD 100

The end of the Iron Age extends into the very early Roman Empire under the theory that Romanisation required some time to take effect. In parts of Britain that were not Romanised, such as Scotland, the period is extended a little longer, say to the 5th century. The geographer closest to AD 100 is perhaps Ptolemy. Pliny and Strabo are a bit older (and therefore a bit more contemporary), but Ptolemy gives the most detail (and the least theory).