How do we know what prehistoric Britain was like?

Learn what life was like in prehistoric Britain.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos.

  • two activities to build knowledge of prehistoric Britain


The earliest humans were hunter-gatherers. They survived by hunting animals and finding food to eat.

Then, very gradually, people learned new skills. First, they learned to herd animals and grew crops. Later they discovered the secrets of making bronze and iron.

Prehistoric people couldn't read or write, but they were astonishing builders.

Their tombs, forts and monuments have survived for thousands of years.

Watch this short animation to take a trip through 900,000 years of prehistoric history.

How do we know about prehistory?

Archaeologists work like detectives looking for evidence. They use this evidence to build up a picture of the past.

The remains of homes and temples show how people lived and worshiped.

Tools and weapons give clues about the way people worked and fought. Bumps and ridges in the landscape show the layout of ancient villages, fields and forts.

Some of the best evidence comes from human remains.

By examining human remains, experts can work out when a person lived.

Sometimes they can even suggest what they looked like!

The prehistoric period is divided into three ‘ages.’

They are known as the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

Click on the image below to find out more.

The end of prehistoric Britain

The prehistoric period came to an end when the Romans invaded Britain.

In 55 BC Julius Caesar tried to invade Britain, but he was driven back by British warriors. The next year he tried again and failed.

Almost 100 years later, in AD43, the Roman general Agricola launched a new invasion. This time the Romans conquered Britain.

A few Roman writers described the ancient Britons. Their writings provide a valuable source of evidence for life in Iron Age Britain.

Julius Caesar pictured the Britons as fierce warriors who rode their chariots into battle.

He wrote that 'All the Britons paint themselves with woad, which produces a dark blue colour, and for this reason, they are much more frightful in appearance in battle.'

Despite this many Britons took up Roman ways of living and as towns developed they became more urbanised, for those living in the countryside life probably did not change too much other than that they were under Roman rule and had to pay taxes to the invaders.

Caratacus was an Iron Age chief who fought against the Romans. He is also known by his Celtic name Caradog, and he became a hero for the Celts.


There are lots of fun ways to show your historical knowledge of prehistoric Britain, online and offline.

Here are a few you could try.

Activity 1

Prehistoric Britain poster

A great way for children to learn about the past is to demonstrate their knowledge of a historical period.

Use the information in the guide to make a poster about prehistoric Britain.

Activity 2

Become an archaeologist

Take a look at three very different archaeological sites: a fort, a mine and a tomb.

Click on the images to uncover evidence about prehistoric Britain.

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources from around the BBC and the web.

Bitesize Daily lessons
KS1 History
Play Bitesize games