Celtic Roundhouses

‘The distinctive straw-thatched Celtic roundhouse may seem primitive compared to Roman villas and Greek temples of the same era, but it was well-constructed, weatherproof and durable. It could be built or repaired with natural materials obtained locally.’

Contrary to many historical sources, the Celtic people were, in many ways, a very civilised and advanced group of tribal societies. Despite their barbarous reputation in warfare, in a domestic setting they were far from primitive, employing many farming, construction and trade practices that were cutting edge for the time.

Perhaps one of the most notable examples of their forward-thinking culture can be seen in their distinctive dwellings. Celts typically lived in roundhouses, which were – as the name suggests – circular. These houses were cone-shaped and able to accommodate a large number of occupants. The roundhouses were built out of wood and, later in the civilisation’s development, stone, with conical thatched roofs and wattle walls standard elements.

These structures were generally accessed through a single entrance, which extended out from the main structure via a porch-style chamber.

This design feature provided a degree of insulation between the main living space and the worst of any cold wind and rain, with usually only sheets/animal hides used to serve as a front door.

The central living area was a single room with various uses, including sleeping, cooking, craftwork and storage. If the tribe was particularly wealthy, then a series of other auxiliary buildings would be used to house their livestock, the Celts commonly would keep sheep, pigs and cattle, as well as sizable crop yields after the harvest; indeed, Celts were highly skilled farmers.

Today, many Celtic roundhouses can still be found throughout Europe and beyond, though for the most part they’re in a ruinous state. Many modern simulations, however, have been made using traditional Celtic construction materials and techniques, with many of these open for visits by the public.

As the primary tools for both hunting and protecting the dwelling and surrounding land, weapons and shields were kept readily on hand in the Celtic home.

Straw and hay mattresses were used to sleep on, covered with a mix of animal skins and fabric sheets. Fabric was created by the weaving of yarn and thread on a manual loom. Fabric was used to make clothes, tapestries, blankets and back sacks. A fire served as both a vital source of heat and also a means of cooking. In larger dwellings an iron fire dog, a supporting instrument for spit roasting, would have sat either side. The Celts were fond of boiling fare such as game, beef and fish, along with root vegetables. This was often done in a central large cooking cauldron.

Round houses were typically clustered together into a small village, which might or might not have some basic fortifications. Fortified homesteads have existed throughout history. A walled enclosure protects the dwellings as well as various outbuildings.


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