The coming of the Celts

In 5,600 BC the Black Sea in southern Russia flooded and caused major migrations of Europeans in all directions.

One of these migrations was of a group called the Celts, who settled Western Europe, including Britain and Ireland.

By 600 BC a group of Celts called the Britanni had invaded and settled in the British Isles, giving their name to the country.

Although, as outlined HERE, the Celts did make a small addition to the British population, it was not as overwhelming as previously thought.

Nevertheless, the Celtic way of life did become firmly established within the British Isles.

(Above) Reconstruction of the head of Lindow man, the Iron Age body found in a Cheshire peat bog in 1984. Dating from around 100 AD, this reconstruction gives us an excellent example of an early British Celt. On display in the British Museum, London.

The Celts made such an important contribution to our island story that they are mistakenly referred to as the original British.

After arriving in Britain, the Britanni Celts established a huge number of hilltop forts throughout the country.

It is unknown whether these hilltop forts were created by the Celts for defence, or by the native British who tried, unsuccessfully, to defend themselves against the encroaching Celts.

Celtic art was magnificent, revolving around swirls and intricate designs.

It was the Celts who were responsible for bringing Iron working to Britain.

(Above) The Celtic British were ferocious warriors, but they eventually succumbed to the legions of Rome and the Anglo-Saxons. 

The Celts organised themselves into Clans, which was basically a small tribe.

The Celts lived in huts made of timber and grouped together into hamlets.

Often Clans had their own coinage.

When they weren’t fighting each other, the Celts took to farming, inventing the iron plough, which forced them to create long narrow fields which are still abundant in Britain today.

Life for Celtic women was better than in most societies of that time and they could own property, choose their own husbands and were equal to men under the law.

(Above) Reconstruction of a typical Celtic settlement.

A curious feature of the Celts was their priests, known as Druids.

They acted as holy men, political advisors, teachers, ambassadors, law enforcers and healers.

Some sources describe the Druids as the glue holding together Celtic culture.

The Celts loved war and were very aggressive.

They would paint themselves blue from head to foot and charge at their enemies screaming at the top of their voices.

One famous Celtic innovation was the war chariot.

However, the Celts greatest weakness was their disunity, which rendered them unable to resist the next mighty newcomers to the British Isles, the Romans.

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