The Iron Age

The next big discovery was how to smelt and forge iron. This was much more difficult than working bronze, but tools made from iron are much stronger and sharper. The Iron Age was around 2,500 years ago but tools are still mostly made from iron today. Bronze and other copper alloys were still used for jewellery, horse harnesses and equipment for carts and chariots, as they did not rust and they looked lovely. Many Iron Age objects were also covered in brightly coloured enamel.

Enamelled Iron Age objects

The Iron Age lasted right up to the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD (nearly 2,000 years ago), but from as early as about 50 BC (around 2,060 years ago) some people in Britain were being influenced by Roman culture. The wealthiest people brought wine, food and luxury goods (like amphora – torpedo shape jugs that held wine or oil) into Britain from Gaul and Italy (Gaul was where France, Luxemburg, Belgium, some of Switzerland, some of the Netherlands and some of Germany are today).

The most powerful and wealthy people were the Iron Age kings who ruled over parts of the South East of Britain. By about 10 AD they had begun to make coins with their heads and names on. These coins copied Roman coins from abroad and are very similar in style to the coins that we use today. But even after the Romans had conquered Britain, many aspects of Iron Age life did not change. For the ordinary farmers and craftsmen of Britain, life would have carried on as before.

Iron Age objects

© The British Museum 2012 | Credits