The people of Iron Age Britain

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by Trustees of the British Museum
published on 03 August 2011

The people of Iron Age Britain were physically very similar to many modern Europeans and there is no reason to suppose that all Iron Age Britons had the same hair colour, eye colour or skin complexion. Iron Age Britons spoke one or more Celtic language, which probably spread to Britain through trade and contacts between people rather than by the invasion of large numbers of Celtic peoples into Britain. Currently, there is no evidence for such an invasion at any time in the Iron Age.

The Romans called the people of Iron Age Britain 'Britons' and the island of Britain 'Britannia', that is, 'land of the Britons'. The Britons had many ways of life in common with other peoples living in western Europe, who the Romans called Celts or Gauls. There was trade between peoples in Britain and western Europe, and also probably marriages. Nevertheless, the peoples who spoke Celtic languages in different parts of Europe at this time were diverse.

From studies of the skeletons of Iron Age Britons we know that the average woman was 1.5 metres (5 foot 2 inches) in height, the smallest known was 1.4 metres (4 foot 9 inches) tall, and the tallest 1.7 metres (5 foot 7 inches). The average man was 1.69 metres (5 foot 6 inches) in height, the smallest known was 1.6 metres (5 foot 2 inches) tall and the tallest was 1.8 metres (5 foot 11 inches). There are few human skeletons from Iron Age Britain, but there is evidence for differences in height and health between people living in different parts of the country. People in East Yorkshire living about 400-100 BC were taller than people from Hampshire.

© Trustees of the British Museum. Republished under the British Museum Standard Terms of Use for non-profit educational purposes. Original article by Trustees of the British Museum. Written by , published on under the following license: Copyright. You cannot use, copy, distribute, or modify this item without explicit permission from the author.

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