Weapons and warriors

Reconstruction of the Tal-y-Llyn Iron Age shield. © National Museum of Wales

Although most Iron Age people were farmers they would undoubtedly have engaged in warfare from time-to-time. The practice of war may just have been small-scale raiding parties, perhaps to settle short-lived disputes between households. That some hillforts entranceways appear to have been subject to burning suggests that this type of warfare sometimes spilled over into larger scale conflict.

Classical depictions of Celtic warriors often show them naked except for helmets, oval shaped shields and long slashing swords made of iron. Shields, swords and helmets were often elaborately decorated with intricate patterns, and were probably symbols of prestige and power. Other types of weapons have been found by archaeologists too, such as spears and daggers. The sling was also widely used, probably as a defensive weapon at hillforts. Huge stockpiles of slingstones found near the gates of some hillforts such as Danebury and Maiden Castle in Wessex were kept in readiness to drive away attackers.

Back to Iron Age and Roman Wales