Everyday Life in the Iron Age
What was Life like in the Iron Age?
Almost everybody in the Iron Age was involved in farm work and that goes for women and children, too. In order to prepare the land people used a special kind of plough, an ard, which was pulled by a couple of oxen. That was probably the men’s part of the work.
Very few people were actual artisans. The most important of the artisans was probably the blacksmith and next to him were the people who did the peat-digging. They were important because the peat was used for melting out bog iron.
The women were very skilled at making earthenware vessels. The earthenware vessels were used in connection with cooking and for trading.
It took a long time to grind
the grains to make flour.
The women also took care of the food and made sure there was enough laid up for the cold winters. They milked the cows, made bread and cheese and dried meat and fish.
A lot of time was spent on harvesting the fields – the grain had to be threshed first, after which the kernels were grinded to flour on a stone grinder. In a mortar – a big stone with a round hole – they grinded seeds and nuts to small bits, so they could be used for porridge and bread.
The leader of the community held a position which entitled him to not participate in the daily work of taking care of the land and the livestock. He had to train the men for war and make sure that the laws of the tribe were observed as well as be a kind of minister in the village.
The women had many children during their childbearing years but only few of the children survived. Out of a family of 10 brothers and sisters only two or three children lived to have children of their own. Most people died before they had turned 45.
The boys and girls had to watch the livestock and help around the house which included fetching firewood for the fireplaces.
The children of the Iron Age played like all children but we don’t know much about the games they played. In a grave which held the body of a young child, Silkeborg Museum discovered a rattle made of clay. Games which made use of dice and a board with glass pieces were also very popular.
We don’t know how much time the children spent on playing. It is very likely that as soon as they were old enough they were put to work – tending the livestock, picking berries, cleaning the stable, spreading manure on the fields and collecting firewood. The day wasn’t divided into work and fun – the two were mixed together.
Girl wearing a dress from the Iron Age.
Big picture © Lejre Experimental Centre
People got up when the sun rose and the cock crowed. They probably started the day by feeding the livestock. The manure that had accumulated over night had to be gathered and spread on the fields.
In the wintertime some of the livestock, sheep and pigs would be in the stable right next to where the people ate and slept.
In the summertime most of the residents’ lives were probably spent outdoors. In the evening the livestock would be shooed inside the fence surrounding the village after which it was closed. As the sun was setting people would gather around the fireplace and listen to stories before going to bed. People slept on low plank beds around the fireplace and the sound of the livestock munching would mix with the residents’ snoring.