Celtic dwellings are characterised by their distinct round shape, conical roof and earthy materials typical of most housing in Britain from the Bronze Age and 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, some questions you could ask your KS2 children to help get them excited about Celtic living spaces (and maybe even prompt a visit to Wales to see a reconstructed version!).
Why Were Celtic Houses Round?
The Celts lived in round houses 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 the roundhouses at night so farmers could keep them safe.
The round house's shape insulated the inside so 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 craft work and slept all in this space. Often they stored iron weapons within the Celtic round houses used for hunting and protecting the surrounding area from enemies.
The wealthier Celts used to have multiple buildings to house their animals, but many less well off Celts had 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. So Celts may have had more than one fire within the 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 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 of the 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. The roof had a hole at the top of the cone to allow smoke from the fire to escape. It was usually very durable and easily repaired due to the use of local, natural materials.
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 the top 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 is Maiden Castle in Dorset.
How To Build A Model Roundhouse At Home:
The essentials of how the Celts built their houses are the same and can be re-imagined using this easy at-home craft.
1. Using card and plasticine, create a cylinder.
2. Rub the plasticine over the largest face.
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 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
Would you want to live in a roundhouse? If so, why? If not, why not?
Why may they not be good places to live?
What would you like to have in your house that the Celtics used to have in theirs?
Can you think of a way to make your house more like a Celtic one?
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