Celtic dwellings are characterised by the distinct round shape, conical roof, and earthy materials typical of most housing in Britain from the Bronze Age into the Iron Age.
This fact file outlines key information about these ancient houses including why they are round, as well as how and why they were made. Then, we have included some questions you could ask your KS2 children to help get them excited about Celtic living spaces.
Why Were Celtic Houses Round?
The Celts lived in roundhouses to accommodate a large number of people and their possessions. Often many members of the same family lived within one house. Animals often slept in these roundhouses at night so that farmers could keep them safe.
The round house's shape insulated the inside so that the warmth created by people and the fire couldn't easily escape.
What Were Celts Houses Like Inside?
These houses typically had one large room, where Celts spent a lot of their time. They cooked, did craftwork, and slept all in this space. Also, they stored iron weapons within these Celtic round houses that were used for hunting and protecting the surrounding area from enemies.
Wealthier Celts used to have multiple buildings to house their animals, but many less well-off Celts housed animals inside their round houses with them.
A fire was lit in the middle of the house for warmth and cooking food; often a large cauldron was placed above the central fire for cooking purposes. There were no windows in the houses so during the night it was very dark inside. Some Celts may have had more than one fire in their roundhouses to help them see if they needed to get up in the night.
Celts slept on straw and hay formed into mattresses and used fabric and animal furs to cover the more uncomfortable materials. These materials kept the occupants nice and warm.
How Would You Make A Celtic Roundhouse?
Usually, roundhouses were made from local, natural materials and this varied depending on the region.
In southern regions, the walls were made of wattle (thin strips of wood woven together) and daub (clay mixed with straw). They would begin with wooden frames then the wattle was placed over it and daub smeared all over, which added durability to the structure. In more northern regions, the walls were made of stone. Later in the Iron Age, more roundhouses were made from stone, even in the south.
To build the conical roof, a wooden frame was constructed. Then, Celts made use of straw followed by mud to insulate warmth and achieve the striking roof shape. It was usually very durable and easily repaired due to the use of local, natural materials.
There is debate about the roofs of these roundhouses. Some archaeologists argue that roundhouses did not have a hole at the top to allow smoke to escape, as this would cause an updraft, which in turn may set fire to the thatch. Instead, smoke was allowed to accumulate on top and slowly escape from the thatch. Others believe that they did have a small smoke hole positioned at the gable end, with the roof having a hybrid shape of a cone and an apex.
What Are Hillforts And Why Did The Celts Build Them?
Hillforts utilise the elevation of the land to help increase the defence of a settlement. Celts searched for large hills, built their roundhouses on top of these hills, and lived there. They enhanced their position by digging ramparts and walls into the slope. This meant that if they came under attack, they could easily defend their roundhouses from a good vantage point and the enemy's progress was slowed as they tried to navigate the walls and ramparts. One famous example of this is Maiden Castle in Dorset.
How To Build A Model Roundhouse At Home:
The essentials of how Celts built their houses can be re-imagined using this easy at-home craft method:
1. Using card and plasticine, create a cylinder.
2. Rub the plasticine over the largest face of the cylinder.
3. Stick the cylinder to a cardboard base, with a circular face down.
4. Use another piece of card to make a cone.
5. Stick the cone to the top of the cylinder.
6. Attach straw to the cone using glue.
Top Tip: You could either stick to a more authentic model or kids will have a great time playing with funky colours and textures to customise their own Celtic roundhouse.
Questions To Ask The Kids
1. Would you want to live in a roundhouse? If so, why? If not, why not?
2. Why may they not be good places to live?
3. What would you like to have in your house that Celts used to have in theirs?
4. Can you think of a way to make your house more like a Celtic one?
Kidadl has lots of great articles to inspire you. If you liked reading about Celtic roundhouses, why not take a look at Celtic shield facts, or for something different take a look at Celtic dog names.
Born in San Francisco, raised in Cheshire and currently studying in Birmingham. Katie loves spending time with her 10-year-old sister, exploring new places in the UK and training with her university athletics club. She is passionate about social justice and climate change. She wants to prevent inequalities that limit young people's success, so every young person can have fair access to opportunities on the path to the future they want.