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Britain’s Tribal Territories


Britain’s Tribal Territories
Before the Roman invasion in 55 BC, Britain was characterised by a large number of ancient tribes, each with its own culture
While the first modern humans populated the area we now call Britain at the end of the Ice Age (6,500 BC), very little is known about the intricacies of their culture and peoples until recorded history begins circa the Roman invasion of 55 BC. Without Roman chroniclers of the time such as Tacitus and Ptolemy, who met the ancient tribes of Britain either in trade or in war, our sketchy picture of these peoples would be even more incomplete. However, centuries of historical records, stories and archaeological finds have given us a snapshot of their lives.

Britain’s Tribal Territories  Before the Roman invasion in 55 BC, Britain was characterised by a large number of ancient tribes, each with its own culture
Before the Roman invasion there were over 27 separate tribes in Britain. These people had grown from the early hunter-gathers who had inhabited the area, and later the farmers who had developed agriculturally focused societies and who had built such sophisticated structures as Stonehenge. For the last 600 years BC though, influenced much by the arrival of the Celts from the continent, expansionist tribal kingdoms headed by dynastic and territorial rulers and chieftains arose, with cultures of violence and sophisticated manufacture, artistry and trade.
While the Romans are often credited with bringing a unified currency, as well as structured towns and a host of amenities and technology, these features – at least part – were already integrated into areas of British tribal society. Some tribes such as the Venicones buried their dead in stone casings. Others, like the Iceni, Catuvellauni and Atrebates, had created and distributed currency throughout their territories.
Over 200 years, however, from 55 BC until well into the 2nd Century AD, the ancient tribes of Britain were either conquered or indoctrinated into the Roman empire, a process that largely converted the population’s attitudes and cultures to those shared on the continent and saw a gradual climb in society towards standards of administration, architecture, sanitary systems and health care that resonate with today’s society.