What Was The Iron Age?; The Vindolanda Tablets; Thebes, Greece.

What Was The Iron Age?

The Iron Age is the period after the Bronze Age, when iron was being used in place of bronze, and its use spread across the world, resulting in it starting in different places at different times.

  • Africa – c.1,500 BC – AD 200
  • Ancient Near East – c.1,200 – 500 BC
  • India – c.1,200 – 200 BC
  • Europe – c.1,200 Bc – AD 43
  • China – c.600  – 200 BC
  • Japan – 100 BC – AD 300
  • Korea – 400 BC – AD 400

Not only was iron used as the main metal but there were also changes in society, which included changes in agriculture, more complicated and a higher use of art, changes in religion and the construction of large fortified enclosed areas such as hillforts.

Characters of the alphabet were introduced, and the written language started to develop at different areas around the world, including Sanskrit and Chinese literature as well as the oldest parts of the Hebrew Bible.

Iron was used for weapons and armour and the trade of the blacksmith developed. People started to wear more personal items of beads, fine metal work, and pottery was becoming more decorated and different styles emerged.

In Europe the two main cultures that stand out at this time were the Hallstatt culture from Austria, and the La Tène culture from Switzerland. Their influence spread as far as Britain and Ireland.

Large groups of people also developed during this period, namely the Celts, the Iberians and the Germans.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



  • British Museum
  • http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/cultures/europe/iron_age.aspx
  • Cunliffe. B. 2001. The Oxford Illustrated History of Prehistoric Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Cunliffe. B. 2006. Iron Age Communities in BritainAn Account of England, Scotland and Wales from the Seventh Century BC until the Roman Conquest. Oxford: Routlegde.
  • Milisaukas. S. 2011. European Prehistory: A Survey. New York: Springer.
  • Iron Age Round House – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Celtic-roundhouse-1994.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Celtic-roundhouse-1994.jpg.
  • Korea Silla Iron Armour – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Korea-Silla-Iron.armor-01.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Korea-Silla-Iron.armor-01.jpg.
  • The Witham Shield – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Geograph-3380058-by-Richard-Croft.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Geograph-3380058-by-Richard-Croft.jpg.
  • Pendnt Hallstatt Brooch – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Museum_Hallstatt_38.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Museum_Hallstatt_38.JPG.
  • Iron Age Torque – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Torque_de_Foxados_-_Detalle.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Torque_de_Foxados_-_Detalle.JPG.
  • From the Salt Mines at Dürrnberg. Incised and Painted Pottery Vessel – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hallein,_Keltenmuseum,_28.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Hallein,_Keltenmuseum,_28.JPG


Archaeology Wow!!- The Vindolanda Tablets

The Vindolanda Tablets are the oldest handwritten documents found in Britain dating from the 1st – 2nd centuries AD.

The tablets were first discovered in 1973 by Robin Burley whilst excavating at Vindolanda Roman fort at Hadrian’s Wall in northern Britain. Excavations from the 1970’s – 1980’s revealed around 500 of the tablets.

 Vindolanda Writing Tablets ©Wiki Commons
Vindolanda Writing Tablets
©Wiki Commons

The tablets are made from alder, birch and oak, are 0.25 – 3 mm thick and measure around 20 cm x 8 cm. The tablets were scored down the middle which enabled them to be folded in half. A carbon based ink was used for the writing.

The messages were written in a Roman cursive script with a different alphabet to Latin. And some were none too nice about the local British people! Among the 752 that were transcribed, translated and published in 2010, there were military records of Vindolanda Fort and Hadrian’s Wall, personal messages, general life at and around the fort, and even a birthday invitation!

Vindolanda Tablet ©Wiki Commons
Vindolanda Tablet
©Wiki Commons

The tablets can be seen at the British Museum – an exciting find and one worth seeing!!




Archaeological Site Guide – Thebes, Greece

Thebes is a city located in central Greece, and is was the largest city of the region in ancient times. In Greek Mythology the city is the place for the origins of Cadmus, Dedipus and Dionysis.

Location of ThebesThe settlement was built in a saddle between some mountains and depended upon agriculture for its survival. It was fed by 4 springs which supplied its water.

The area around Thebes had never been archaeologically surveyed, however, the city has, and shown to have once been a Mycenaean settlement. It was the city state that following the Battle of Leutra in 371 BC put an end to the power and might of Sparta.

Thebes, Greece ©Wiki Commons
Thebes, Greece
©Wiki Commons

The brave warriors of Thebes were known as the Sacred Band of Thebes however they were eventually destroyed when beaten at the Battle of Chaeronea by Alexander the Great. The city was then destroyed by Alexander and his forces in 335 BC.

Plan of Thebes ©Wiki Commons
Plan of Thebes
©Wiki Commons

During the Roman period Thebes was inhabited again, but not on such a large scale as before. The remains of some Roman houses have been uncovered that had red plaster on their walls. The city became involved in politics and warfare, but never quite reached the previous importance it once held in the region.

Bell Idol ©Wiki Commons
Bell Idol
©Wiki Commons

Important archaeological finds from the site include the remains of Neolithic houses, clay tablets with a Linear B script dating to the Bronze Age, hand-made local pottery and some wheel-thrown pottery, and some burials dating from c.2,000 – 1,600 BC located just outside of the ancient settlement.

Thebes is definitely worth a visit and a site full of history and mythology!!



Great Books to Read…….


Great Web Pages to Look At…….

Activity –  

One Comment on “What Was The Iron Age?; The Vindolanda Tablets; Thebes, Greece.

  1. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #6 | Doug's Archaeology

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: