The University of Southampton

ARCH3011 Iron Age Societies

Module Overview

Iron Age Europe witnessed the divergence of a ‘classical' Mediterranean world, whose culture included such features as states, towns, coinage and literacy, from a ‘barbarian' world to the north, where these features developed only much later, if at all. This module will examine the evidence for this period in Britain and Ireland: the adoption of new technologies, especially iron; changes in agricultural production; the social significance of food and drink; the construction of hillforts such as Maiden Castle and the sort of society who lived in them; the growth of more specialised systems of production and exchange. One important theme is the connection between Britain and the continent and the expanding power of the Roman Empire. There were important social transformations in the Late Iron Age, especially in southern England: key questions include the relative importance of indigenous factors and connections with Rome, and the extent of social and political evolution before the Roman conquest: how urban were sites such as Colchester and Silchester, which became important towns after the Roman conquest.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aim of this module is to provide an introduction to the archaeology of Britain and Ireland from the Later Bronze Age to the Roman Conquest (c. 800BC to AD 43-85). And to explore how archaeologists reconstruct the social organisation of prehistoric societies.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Have a general knowledge of the archaeological evidence for the Iron Age in Britain and Ireland and a detailed knowledge of some regions and key sites
  • Be able to use this evidence to assess how archaeologists have attempted to reconstruct life in the Iron Age and explain social change
  • Be aware of how and why archaeological explanations vary through time, and how the problems archaeologists are interested in vary through time


The module will consider the different approaches that have been used to understand Iron Age societies, considering the interplay of theory and evidence that have created our modern understanding of this period. It will emphasise the importance of regional variation within Britain and Ireland, and examine the types of society that might have existed. Finally, the module will consider how we can understand why Iron Age societies might have changed. The module will involve a strong emphasis on learning to use, analyse and present archaeological evidence.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly classes

Completion of assessment task20
Wider reading or practice30
Follow-up work20
Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Champion, T. C. and Collis, J. R. (eds.) (1996). The Iron Age in Britain and Ireland: recent trends. 

Haselgrove, C. and Moore, T. (eds.) (2007). The later Iron Age in Britain and beyond. 

Hill, J. D (1995). The pre-Roman Iron Age in Britain and Ireland (ca. 800 BC to 100 AD): an overview. Journal of World Prehistory. ,9 , pp. 47-98.

Haselgrove, C. and Pope, R. (eds.) (2007). The earlier Iron Age in Britain and the near continent. 

Pollard, J. (ed.) (2008). Prehistoric Britain (especially Chapters 9-15). 

Gwilt, A. and Haselgrove, C. (eds.) (1997). Reconstructing Iron Age societies. 

Haselgrove, C., Armit, I., Champion, T. C., Creighton, J., Gwilt, A., Hill, J. D., Hunter, F. and Woodward, A (2001). Understanding the British Iron Age: an agenda for action. 

Moore, T. and Armada, X.-L. (eds) (2011). Atlantic Europe in the first millennium BC: crossing the divide. 

Cunliffe, B. W (2005). Iron Age communities in Britain: an account of England, Scotland and Wales from the seventh century BC to the Roman conquest. 



Written assignment


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Examination  (105 minutes) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (105 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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