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Journey back to the Dark Ages this Bank Holiday weekend at Old Sarum as the Vikings take resident.

Discover more about this fascinating period with displays of weaponry and archery. Also witness combat shows where warriors go

Vikings at Old Sarum Castle

Brute Force and wily tactics.

head-to-head in competitions that will test their strength and skill in a fierce fight to the finish!  Also find out more about domestic life during the period with displays of cooking and talks on diet and lifestyle.  For our junior warriors there’s also a chance to take part in a mini battle.

Date: Sat 25 – Mon 27 May 2013 (bank holiday)

How to Book

Tickets will be available to purchase at the event site on the day

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/the-vikings-os-25-may/

Prices

Ticket price includes entry to event & Old Sarum Castle

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The sounds of battle will be erupting at Old Sarum when members of The Medieval Siege Society lay siege to the Castle and recreate The Wars of the Roses this Bank Holiday weekend. Enjoy displays of medieval martial skills such as swordsmanship and archery, culminating in dramatic battle re-enactments. Don’t miss the mighty medieval trebuchet in action too!

Old Sarum EventsThroughout the day visitors will be invited to step back in time and tour the living history camps, seeing how an army would live on campaign and give an insight into life for fifteenth century soldiers and their families

Sun 5 & Mon 6 May 2013 (bank holiday

More information: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/siege-os-5-may/

Wessex Guided Tours
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Travel companies from across the country spent two days visiting Wiltshire’s hotspots this week in a bid by VisitWiltshire to increase tourism.

Travel company representatives during their visit to Bradford on Avon with, in the foreground, Fiona Errington from Visit Wiltshire and Julie Cooper from the town's Tourist Information Centre

Travel company representatives during their visit to Bradford on Avon with, in the foreground, Fiona Errington from Visit Wiltshire and Julie Cooper from the town’s Tourist Information Centre

The group, made up of 48 visitors from tour operators and coach companies, spent the first day visiting Castle Combe, Longleat, Bradford on Avon and Bowood House and Hotel.

The second day took in the sights of Stonehenge, Old Sarum, Sarum College, Salisbury Cathedral and Marlborough.

David Andrews, chief executive of VisitWiltshire, said: “This event is a fantastic opportunity to show off the vast tourism offering in the county to national operators, putting Wiltshire firmly on the map.”

Julie Roberts, of Johnsons Quality Coach Travel in Warwickshire, said: “We go on quite a few of these tours to get a snapshot of different areas.

“It is a chance to see the suitability of attractions for our customers and the tours usually feature a mixture of things we already offer as well as new locations.”

Hilary Christmas, of Norman Allen Group Travel in Herefordshire, operates tours all over the world and said: “If we can be more familiar with what there is to do, it will help us no end and allow us to advertise correctly.

This tour of Wiltshire has been very positive. I have never been to Bradford on Avon and it is astoundingly beautiful.”

Peter Wragg, chairman of VisitWiltshire, said: “Tourism in Wiltshire is worth £1billion per year and employs 21,000 people. This is about getting people to visit the county and increase Wiltshire’s exposure.”

Aricle by Katie Smith – http://www.wiltshiretimes.co.uk

Wessex Guided Tours
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http://www.HisTOURies.co.uk

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With the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge, equally remarkable Avebury and the mighty Iron Age hill fort of Old Sarum, there really is plenty for the whole family to enjoy on a day out in Wiltshire. Discover the secrets of this seemingly ‘sacred landscape’ or get away from it all and explore a romantic ruined castle.

Please note English Heritage have now switched to our winter opening hours, meaning that while many properties are open at weekends, there may be restricted access during the week. Please check opening times before travelling.

PLACES TO VISIT : WILTSHIRE (ENGLISH HERITAGE)

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Visit Stonehenge! Sun worship temple? Healing centre? Huge calendar? How did they carry the great stones so far and build this amazing structure using only basic tools?

Old Sarum

Old Sarum

Site of the original Salisbury, this mighty Iron Age hill fort was where the first cathedral once stood and the Romans, Normans and Saxons have all left their mark during 5000 years of history.

Old Wardour Castle

Old Wardour Castle

Set in landscaped grounds beside a lake in peaceful Wiltshire countryside, these 14th century ruins provide a relaxed, romantic day out for couples, families and budding historians alike.

Avebury

Avebury

With its huge circular bank and ditch and inner circle of great standing stones, covering an area of over 28 acres, Avebury forms one of the most impressive prehistoric sites in Britain

Hatfield Earthworks (Marden Henge)

Hatfield Earthworks (Marden Henge)

The earthworks of a Neolithic henge and monumental mound, by a loop in the River Avon. Recent archaeological find of building equivalent to a priest’s quarters.

Woodhenge

Woodhenge

Dating from about 2300 BC, markers now replace rings of timber posts, which once possibly supported a ring-shaped building. Discovered in 1925 when rings of dark spots were noticed in a crop of wheat.

 

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ARCHAEOLOGY WEEKEND

It’s the Festival of British Archaeology – this is your chance to meet a real archaeologist and to uncover artefacts from Old Sarum’s history. Enjoy a weekend for all the family with plenty of hands-on activities and crafts to keep everyone busy! Take part in a mini-dig and have a go at identifying objects lost over time.

About Old Sarum

Discover the story of the original Salisbury and take the family for a day out to Old Sarum, 2 miles north of where the city stands now. The mighty Iron Age hill fort was where the first cathedral once stood and the Romans, Normans and Saxons have all left their mark.

Today, 5,000 years of history are told through graphic interpretation panels on site. Families, heritage lovers and walkers can enjoy a great value day out at Old Sarum- you could even bring a picnic and enjoy the fantastic views across the Wiltshire countryside. The gift shop has a delicious range of ice-creams and exclusive English Heritage gifts and produce. Wooden bows and arrows are also on sale to help the kids imagine what life was like all those years ago!
DON’T MISS
The spectacular view from the ramparts at Old Sarum to the ‘new’ cathedral in the centre of Salisbury
Our interesting interpretation panels bringing 5,000 years of history to life
Old Sarum’s literary connections- you can buy some of the famous books written about the site in our shop

English Heritage: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/old-sarum/

HisTOURies UK – www.Histouries.co.uk
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 The weather may not be anything to write a postcard home about – but the West’s tourism industry enjoyed a twin boost yesterday.

Key visitor attractions featured prominently in the first global TV adverts for a decade and new research showed up to 17 million Brits will holiday at home this year.

VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, yesterday unveiled its international TV campaign to attract overseas visitors to the country.

The adverts will be screened around the world, and include Stonehenge, Glastonbury and the Cotswolds.

Stonehenge is already in the spotlight because of the summer solstice, and VisitBritain say the UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most important prehistoric monuments on the planet.

As well as the 5,000-year-old site, there are money Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in the surrounding landscape, and Avebury, the largest stone circle in Europe, is nearby.

Glastonbury is synonymous with the annual music festival taking place at the weekend, with international superstars such as U2, Coldplay and Beyonce, as well as theatre and circus performers and much more.but VisitBritain also point to the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, and the iconic Tor, along with myths and legends about the Isle of Avalon, King Arthur, Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Grail.

The agency adds: “For many visitors, the Cotswolds represent everything that is quintessentially ‘English’, with villages and churches of honey-coloured limestone set among gentle hillsides, cottage gardens, beech woods and drystone walls.”

Historic sites include Sudeley Castle and Chedworth Roman Villa, while VisitBritain urges tourists to sample local produce such as Gloucester Old Spot pork, Tewkesbury mustard and the famous Cotswold cheeses.

Other locations in the TV adverts include London landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral, the Lake District, Snowdon in Wales, Edinburgh Castle and the Highlands.

Celebrities such as actress Dame Judi Dench, fashion icon Twiggy and chef Jamie Oliver – who has restaurants in Bath and Bristol with another opening in Cheltenham this summer – star in them.

The campaign kicks off a major marketing push that seeks to build on the global impact of the Royal Wedding, with the Olympics next year also guaranteeing the international spotlight.

It will concentrate on the current most important tourism markets, such as the US and Western Europe, and the big growth areas for the future, including China and India.

VisitBritain chief executive Sandie Dawe said: “This is our first global TV campaign for 10 years and marks the start of an ambitious marketing programme. With the eyes of the world on us, we have an opportunity to showcase Britain and then to close the sale with great travel deals and offers from our partners.

“This campaign aims to inspire visitors to come and explore for themselves. Over four years, we aim to attract four million extra overseas visitors, who will spend £2 billion across Britain.”

Meanwhile a new survey has found nearly 40 per cent of Britons will stay at home this summer as families strive to balance household finances.

Many of them will instead enjoy ‘staycations’, with the West sure to cash in.

The poll was carried out for savings bank ING Direct, and chief executive Richard Doe said: “It’s not surprising that the summer holiday is often being sacrificed.”

Visiting Britain ? Visit the West Country!

Wessex Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – the Best Tours in Wiltshire

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The Trundle near Chichester, Sussex, is one of the first large monuments built in Britain

The Trundle near Chichester, Sussex, is one of the first large monuments built in Britain

Researchers have developed a new dating technique that has given the first detailed picture of the emergence of an agricultural way of life in Britain more than 5,000 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

A new analysis of artefacts recovered from the first monuments built in Britain shows that the Neolithic period had a slow start followed by a rapid growth in trade and technology.

Scientists say the new approach can be used to unravel the detailed sequence of events of many more important moments in human prehistory.

It relies in part on radio-carbon dating – counting the amount of a radioactive type of carbon atom in decaying matter. But the methodology also incorporates many other dating sources, together with some powerful statistical analysis, to produce far more discrete timings for happenings in the past.

The Neolithic period in Britain occurred between 4000 and 2000BC.

It was when people took up agriculture as a way of life and stopped being nomadic hunter-gatherers.

It also saw the emergence of trade across the British Isles and the development of new technologies. But until now, we have had only a rather coarse picture of the chronology of events during this eventful period in our history.

The new analysis by Dr Alex Bayliss, an English Heritage dating expert, has brought the occurrences of that time into sharper focus.

“We can start to tell a bigger story and write a history for the prehistory of Neolithic Britain,” she told BBC News.

“What we thought before was very imprecise. We simply knew that all sorts of different sites and all sorts of new kinds of practices started to happen sometime in the 500 or 600 years of the early Neolithic in Britain.

“We’ve actually now been able to give a timetable, or story of what happened when, to disentangle these things so that we can start to see why certain things may have followed others.”

According to Dr Bayliss’s analysis, Neolithic farming practices began in south-east England probably a few decades before 4,000BC. But then they spread very, very slowly, taking about two centuries to reach western parts of England. And then, she says, there was a sudden increase in activity.

“Monuments, cattle, sheep, the whole farming way of life, bursts across Britain and suddenly – having taken 200 years from getting from Kent to Gloucestershire – it then takes 50 years to get from Cheltenham to Aberdeen.”

The new dating also indicates that by 3700-3800BC, early Britons had developed pottery with regional styles of decorations. Long-distance trading networks were also being established in stone axes and certain other types of pottery

Windmill Hill, a large Neolithic causewayed enclosure in Avebury, was previously thought to have been built around 3700-3100 BC. The new dating shows it was built in 3700-3640 BC
Windmill Hill, a large Neolithic causewayed enclosure in Avebury, was previously thought to have been built around 3700-3100 BC. The new dating shows it was built in 3700-3640 BC

Of particular interest are the first monuments that were built in Britain, called causewayed enclosures. These were made up of concentric rings of ditches and banks – the largest of which can span 300m (1,000ft).

It had been thought that they spread slowly across the country over five centuries. But the new dating approach suggests they spread rapidly within 75 years.

This revelation has been described by archaeologists working on the project as Britain’s first “building boom”.

Professor Alistair Whittle of Cardiff University said: “With more accurate dating, the Neolithic period is no longer the sleepy, hazy swathe of time where it is the default position to lump everything together.

“This research fundamentally challenges the notion that little happened among our Stone Age farmers. We can now think about the Neolithic period in terms of more rapid changes, constant movement of people and fast diffusion of ideas.”

Collective violence

One interpretation of these events is that once the initial “pioneer” phase of the Neolithic period was over, independent groups of people came over from the continent and set up villages across Britain and social structures began to form.

These social structures led to the construction of the enclosures for people to gather and possibly for chieftains to emerge and amass power.

The new dating suggests that there was more collective violence once the enclosures were built. Several of them, particularly in western Britain, were attacked by large numbers of people with showers of arrows, and enclosures’ ramparts were burned down.

This indicates that the enclosures created a hierarchy that was being contested in some way.

The new dating technique involves comparing carbon dates with other markers in the archaeological record. On its own carbon dating is imprecise, but when it is cross-reference with documented events it allows researchers to more accurately date artefacts.

Researchers say this new methodology could in principle be used shed further light on any significant event in our prehistory, such as the emergence of farming in China and the collapse of the Mayan civilisation in the Americas.

 

A reconstruction of the Whitehawk causewayed enclosure in the South Downs, Sussex
A reconstruction of the Whitehawk causewayed enclosure in the South Downs, Sussex

Why not visit Windmill Hill and nearby Avebury and learn more about Neolithic Britain?

Stonehenge and Avebury stone Circle Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours of Ancient Wiltshire

 

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The first day of the month of May is known as May Day. It is the time of year when warmer weather begins and flowers and trees start to blossom. It is said to be a time of love and romance. It is when people celebrate the coming of summer with lots of different customs that are expressions of joy and hope after a long winter.

Traditional English May Day celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen and dancing around a Maypole.

The beginning of Summer

Although summer does not officially begin until June, May Day marks its beginning. May Day celebrations have been carried out in England for over 2000 years.

The Romans celebrated the festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers, which marked the beginning of summer. It was held annually from April 28th to May 3rd.

How was May Day Celebrated in the past?

It was custom for every one to go a-Maying early on May Day. Herrick, a 17th century English poet wrote:

There’s not a budding boy, or girl, this day,
But is got up, and gone to bring in May.

Decorating Houses

May Day began early in the morning. People would go out before sunrise in order to gather flowers and greenery to decorate their houses and villages with in the belief that the vegetation spirits would bring good fortune.

Washing in the early morning dew

Girls would make a special point of washing their faces in the dew of the early morning. They believed this made them very beautiful for the following year. copyright of protectbritain.com

May Queen

May Queen
The rest of the day was given over to various festivities. There was dancing on the village green, archery contest and exhibitions of strength. The highlight of the day was the crowning of the May Queen, the human replica of Flora. By tradition she took no part in the games or dancing, but sat like a queen in a flower-decked chair to watch her ‘subjects’.

May Day Garlands

Young girls would make May Garlands. They covered two hoops, one at right angles inside the other, with leaves and flowers, and sometimes they put a doll inside to represent the goddess of Spring.

In some parts of Britain, May 1st is called Garland Day.

The first of May is Garland Day
So please remember the garland.
We don’t come here but once a year,
So please remember the garland.

May Day Lifting

There was once a tradition in England of ‘lifting’ where a gang of young men would lift a pretty girl in a flower bedecked chair on May day. Then the girl would choose a boy on May 2nd.

May Day Tricks

In the North of England, the first of May was a kind of late ‘April Fooling’ when all sorts of pranks would take place and ‘May Gosling’ was the shout if you managed to trick someone. The response would be:

‘May Goslings past and gone. You’re the fool for making me one!’

Recommended Events in Wiltshire this May Day: 
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/robin-hood-ow-1-Jan/
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/time-travellers-go-medieval-os-30-Jan/
http://www.wherecanwego.com/whatsonengland/Wiltshire/events.aspx

Enjoy Wiltshire!
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Start: Avebury |Finish: Old Sarum
Distance: Approximately 42 miles

Wiltshire is a county of history and mystery set in a dramatic landscape. The combination of heritage and scenery provides a truly memorable day out. So come with us on a journey through the countryside and across the ages as we go back to the time of our prehistoric ancestors. Hundreds of thousands of years may have passed but all over the county there’s evidence of human activity from the end of the Ice Age through the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages right up to the invasion of the Romans in AD43.

Click here for audio / visual tour

This driving tour will take you through the heart of Wiltshire. En route you’ll discover more about how our enigmatic and mysterious ancestors lived, worked, fought and died.

This tour can be undertaken in a variety of ways; as a day-long journey, in short sections or you can use the information as a guide to individual visits.

You might also consider embarking on the tour using public transport but keeping up to date with bus service and timetable changes will require plenty of preparation.

Before you set off make sure that you’re properly equipped. Nothing beats a really good Ordnance Survey map, marked with contours and ancient monuments. A compass and a torch would also be useful. Some of these historical gems are in fields and away from roads or footpaths, so good walking boots are a must. Some sites have few or no facilities and it’s also worth noting that mobile phone coverage can’t be guaranteed in parts of rural Wiltshire. For news of road works or route closures, check BBC Local Radio and bbc.co.uk/travelnews

This guide has been produced with the generous assistance of Phil Harding, Wessex Archaeology, English Heritage, Wiltshire Council Archaeology Service, Bob Clarke, Martin Kellett, David Dawson and the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.

Stonehenge and Avebury Tour Guide
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Celtic Britain
(The Iron Age) c. 600 BC – 50 AD

Who were they? The Iron Age is the age of the “Celt” in Britain. Over the 500 or so years leading up to the first Roman invasion a Celtic culture established itself throughout the British Isles. Who were these Celts?

For a start, the concept of a “Celtic” people is a modern and somewhat

Celtic Britain was dominated by a number of tribes, each with their own well-defined territory. It is thanks to Roman chroniclers, such as Strabo, Julius Caesar, and Diodorus, that the names of individual tribes are known to us today, albeit in Romanized form.

Celtic Britain was dominated by a number of tribes, each with their own well-defined territory. It is thanks to Roman chroniclers, such as Strabo, Julius Caesar, and Diodorus, that the names of individual tribes are known to us today, albeit in Romanized form.

romantic reinterpretation of history. The “Celts” were warring tribes who certainly wouldn’t have seen themselves as one people at the time.

The “Celts” as we traditionaly regard them exist largely in the magnificence of their art and the words of the Romans who fought them. The trouble with the reports of the Romans is that they were a mix of reportage and political propaganda. It was politically expedient for the Celtic peoples to be coloured as barbarians and the Romans as a great civilizing force. And history written by the winners is always suspect.

Where did they come from? What we do know is that the people we call Celts gradually infiltrated Britain over the course of the centuries between about 500 and 100 B.C. There was probably never an organized Celtic invasion; for one thing the Celts were so fragmented and given to fighting among themselves that the idea of a concerted invasion would have been ludicrous.

The Celts were a group of peoples loosely tied by similar language, religion, and cultural expression. They were not centrally governed, and quite as happy to fight each other as any non-Celt. They were warriors, living for the glories of battle and plunder. They were also the people who brought iron working to the British Isles.

The advent of iron. The use of iron had amazing repercussions. First, it changed trade and fostered local independence. Trade was essential during the Bronze Age, for not every area was naturally endowed with the necessary ores to make bronze. Iron, on the other hand, was relatively cheap and available almost everywhere.

Hill forts. The time of the “Celtic conversion” of Britain saw a huge growth in the number of hill forts throughout the region. These were often small ditch and bank combinations encircling defensible hilltops. Some are small enough that they were of no practical use for more than an individual family, though over time many larger forts were built. The curious thing is that we don’t know if the hill forts were built by the native Britons to defend themselves from the encroaching Celts, or by the Celts as they moved their way into hostile territory.

Usually these forts contained no source of water, so their use as long term settlements is doubtful, though they may have been useful indeed for withstanding a short term siege. Many of the hill forts were built on top of earlier causewayed camps.

Celtic family life.
The basic unit of Celtic life was the clan, a sort of extended family. The term “family” is a bit misleading, for by all accounts the Celts practiced a peculiar form of child rearing; they didn’t rear them, they farmed them out. Children were actually raised by foster parents. The foster father was often the brother of the birth-mother. Got it?

Clans were bound together very loosely with other clans into tribes, each of which had its own social structure and customs, and possibly its own local gods.

Housing. The Celts lived in huts of arched timber with walls of wicker and roofs of thatch. The huts were generally gathered in loose hamlets. In several places each tribe had its own coinage system.

Farming. The Celts were farmers when they weren’t fighting. One of the interesting innovations that they brought to Britain was the iron plough. Earlier ploughs had been awkward affairs, basically a stick with a pointed end harnessed behind two oxen. They were suitable only for ploughing the light upland soils. The heavier iron ploughs constituted an agricultural revolution all by themselves, for they made it possible for the first time to cultivate the rich valley and lowland soils. They came with a price, though. It generally required a team of eight oxen to pull the plough, so to avoid the difficulty of turning that large a team, Celtic fields tended to be long and narrow, a pattern that can still be seen in some parts of the country today.

The lot of women. Celtic lands were owned communally, and wealth seems to have been based largely on the size of cattle herd owned. The lot of women was a good deal better than in most societies of that time. They were technically equal to men, owned property, and could choose their own husbands. They could also be war leaders, as Boudicca (Boadicea) later proved.

Language. There was a written Celtic language, but it developed well into Christian times, so for much of Celtic history they relied on oral transmission of culture, primarily through the efforts of bards and poets. These arts were tremendously important to the Celts, and much of what we know of their traditions comes to us today through the old tales and poems that were handed down for generations before eventually being written down.

Druids. Another area where oral traditions were important was in the training of Druids. There has been a lot of nonsense written about Druids, but they were a curious lot; a sort of super-class of priests, political advisors, teachers, healers, and arbitrators. They had their own universities, where traditional knowledge was passed on by rote. They had the right to speak ahead of the king in council, and may have held more authority than the king. They acted as ambassadors in time of war, they composed verse and upheld the law. They were a sort of glue holding together Celtic culture.

Religion. From what we know of the Celts from Roman commentators, who are, remember, witnesses with an axe to grind, they held many of their religious ceremonies in woodland groves and near sacred water, such as wells and springs. The Romans speak of human sacrifice as being a part of Celtic religion. One thing we do know, the Celts revered human heads.

Celtic warriors would cut off the heads of their enemies in battle and display them as trophies. They mounted heads in doorposts and hung them from their belts. This might seem barbaric to us, but to the Celt the seat of spiritual power was the head, so by taking the head of a vanquished foe they were appropriating that power for themselves. It was a kind of bloody religious observance.

The Iron Age is when we first find cemeteries of ordinary people’s burials (in hole-in-the-ground graves) as opposed to the elaborate barrows of the elite few that provide our main records of burials in earlier periods.

The Celts at War. The Celts loved war. If one wasn’t happening they’d be sure to start one. They were scrappers from the word go. They arrayed themselves as fiercely as possible, sometimes charging into battle fully naked, dyed blue from head to toe, and screaming like banshees to terrify their enemies.

They took tremendous pride in their appearance in battle, if we can judge by the elaborately embellished weapons and paraphernalia they used. Golden shields and breastplates shared pride of place with ornamented helmets and trumpets.

The Celts were great users of light chariots in warfare. From this chariot, drawn by two horses, they would throw spears at an enemy before dismounting to have a go with heavy slashing swords. They also had a habit of dragging families and baggage along to their battles, forming a great milling mass of encumbrances, which sometimes cost them a victory, as Queen Boudicca would later discover to her dismay.

As mentioned, they beheaded their opponents in battle and it was considered a sign of prowess and social standing to have a goodly number of heads to display.

The main problem with the Celts was that they couldn’t stop fighting among themselves long enough to put up a unified front. Each tribe was out for itself, and in the long run this cost them control of Britain.

(Note: The terms “England”, “Scotland”, and “Wales” are used purely to indicate geographic location relative to modern boundaries – at this time period, these individual countries did not exist).

Join us on a guided tour of Britain and learn more about the Celts
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