Caesar commented that Britain was a land of small farms, and this has been proven by the archaeological evidence. Since Iron Age society was primarily agricultural, it is safe to presume that the daily routine would have revolved around the maintenance of the crops and livestock. Small farmsteads were tended by, and would have supported, isolated communities of family or extended family size, producing enough to live on and a little extra to exchange for commodities that the farmers were unable to provide for themselves.
Many of these small farmsteads, such as at Farley Mount in Hampshire, delimited with a circular bank and ditch enclosure, were surrounded by linear ditch systems that formed small rectangular fields, radiating out from the farm itself.
Environmental evidence - in the form of carbonised grains and pollen - has shown that new crops such as emmer wheat were introduced, in addition to the spelt wheat, barley, rye and oats already grown in these fields.
Harvested crops were stored in either granaries that were raised from the ground on posts, or in bell-shaped pits 2-3m (6-7ft) deep, dug into the chalk landscape. Some 4,500 of these storage pits have been found within the hillfort interior at Danebury in Hampshire, and if they were all used to store crops, this would have essentially made the site one large fortified granary.
Although faunal evidence shows that cattle and sheep would have been the most common farm animals, it is known that pigs were also kept. The animals would have aided the family, not only with heavy farm labour, in the case of the cattle, such as the ploughing of crop fields, but also as a valuable form of manure, wool or hide, and food products.
Horses and dogs are also observed in the archaeological evidence from both faunal remains and artefacts. Horses were used for pulling 2 or 4 wheeled vehicles (carts, chariots), while dogs would have assisted in the herding of the livestock and hunting. The classical writer Strabo actually comments that Britain was famed for its hunting dogs, which were exported throughout the Roman Empire.
A very well preserved settlement has been discovered at the site of Chysauster in Cornwall. It was made up of individual houses of stone with garden plots, clustered along a street. In central southern Britain in about the sixth century, hillforts - large bank and ditch enclosures in prominent positions in the landscape - began to be built. The archaeological evidence shows that the enclosures were densely occupied, with circular houses and roads. In Wessex, the typical building on a settlement would have been the large roundhouse. All of the domestic life would have occurred within this.
The main frame of the roundhouse would have been made of upright timbers, which were interwoven with coppiced wood - usually hazel, oak, ash or pollarded willow - to make wattle walls. This was then covered with a daub made from clay, soil, straw and animal manure that would weatherproof the house. The roof was constructed from large timbers and densely thatched.
The main focus of the interior of the house was the central open-hearth fire. This was the heart of the house - an indispensable feature - to provide cooked food, warmth and light. Because of its importance within the domestic sphere, the fire would have been maintained 24 hours a day. Beside the fire may have stood a pair of firedogs, such as those found at Baldock in Herefordshire or suspended above it a bronze cauldron held up by a tripod and attached with an adjustable chain.
The ordinary basic cooking pots would have been made by hand, from the local clay and came in varying rounded shapes, occasionally with simple incised decoration.
As for eating, bread would have been an important part of any meal, and was made from wheat and barley ground down into flour using a quern-stone. The dough would have then been baked in a simple clay-domed oven, of which evidence has been found in Iron Age houses.
The barley and rye could also have been made into a kind of porridge, evidence for which has been found in the stomach contents in preserved Iron Age bodies that have been deposited in peat bogs in northern Europe. In addition to this, the Roman writer Pliny explains that grain was also fermented to make beer, and the surface foam that formed was scraped off and used in the bread-making process.
Other than cereal grains, few plant materials survived. However we can assume that Iron Age people supplemented their diet with edible berries, leaves, flowers, nuts and roots. The animals reared as livestock, pigs, cattle and sheep, would have been eaten as there is evidence of butchery on the bones. Milk and dairy products would have been available in addition to fish, birds, and the occasional wild animal. The evidence of beeswax in the bronze-casting techniques shows that honey would also have been available as a sweetener.
The interior of the house was an ideal place for the drying and preservation of food. Smoke and heat from the constant fire would have smoked meat and fish, and would have dried herbs and other plants perfectly. Salt was another means of preserving meat for the cold winter months, but this was a commodity that could not be made at a typical settlement and was therefore traded.