The best Iron Age books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Iron Age and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Britain and the Celtic Iron Age

Another, more popularly oriented (and much shorter) discussion of Celtic life by Simon James (with Valerie Rigby), has a different focus: Britain and the Celtic Iron Age. Like the longer, less specific to Britain version by this author, this one gave me a much greater “feel” for the life of my characters before and after the Roman conquest. It’s full of photos and illustrations of Celtic artifacts, many of them collected by the British Museum.

Britain and the Celtic Iron Age

By Simon James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Britain and the Celtic Iron Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Celts are seen as a family of European peoples who spoke related languages and shared many things in common, from art to aspects of religion and social organization. Was the British Iron Age simply part of this supposedly uniform, Celtic world, or was it something much more distinctive, complex, strange and fascinating than we have been led to believe? New research is promoting reappraisals of Britain's prehistory, in ways which challenge many ideas, such as that of a familiar Celtic past. This work discusses the many facets of the lives of Iron Age Britons, drawing on the wealth of…


Who am I?

Sheila Finch is best known as a Nebula-winning author of science fiction, but on a visit back to her first alma mater in Chichester, UK, she encountered a mystery that wouldn’t let her go. Who built the nearby magnificent Roman palace that was just now being excavated at Fishbourne, and why? Months of research later, she came up with a possible explanation that involved a sixteen-year-old Roman mother, a middle-aged Celtic king of a small tribe, and Emperor Nero’s secret plans:


I wrote...

A Villa Far From Rome

By Sheila Finch,

Book cover of A Villa Far From Rome

What is my book about?

A homesick, 16 year-old Roman girl and her illegitimate child, exiled by the Emperor Nero to Britannia. A middle-aged Celtic king of an insignificant tribe, trying to find middle ground between Celtic tradition and Roman rule and making enemies on both sides. The shadow of martyred Queen Boudicca like a curse on the land. An old Legionary willing to give his life for a friend, and a former Greek slave with a secret past who rescues him. And an overbearing Roman architect trying to build a copy of one of the most glorious palaces in Rome in a backwater of the Empire - What could go wrong?

Women's Lives in Biblical Times

By Jennie R. Ebeling,

Book cover of Women's Lives in Biblical Times

Women played an important role in daily life of biblical Israel, but not much has been written about them. This book uses a fictional character to describe the lifecycle events and daily life activities experienced by girls and women in ancient Israel using archaeological, iconographic, and ethnographic information. Each chapter is devoted to a major event in the life of the character, from birth to death, describing in a story-telling manner how women coped, focusing on the specific events, customs, crafts, technologies, and other activities in which an Israelite female would have participated on a daily basis.

Women's Lives in Biblical Times

By Jennie R. Ebeling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women's Lives in Biblical Times as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume describes the lifecycle events and daily life activities experienced by girls and women in ancient Israel examining recent biblical scholarship and other textual evidence from the ancient Near East and Egypt including archaeological, iconographic and ethnographic data. From this Ebeling creates a detailed, accessible description of the lives of women living in the central highland villages of Iron Age I (ca. 1200-1000 BCE) Israel. The book opens with an introduction that provides a brief historical survey of Iron Age (ca. 1200-586 BCE) Israel, a discussion of the problems involved in using the Hebrew Bible as a source, a…


Who am I?

As an archaeologist for over 50 years, I specialized in Household Archaeology, the branch of archaeology that investigates daily life. I was born and spent my childhood in British Mandatorial Palestine and then grew up to adulthood in Israel after it was founded. I spent many years as a kibbutz member in the Northern Negev living near the Bedouin. These experiences brought me close to pre-industrial societies. All my life I was surrounded by archaeological sites, taught biblical archaeology for over 40 years in college and wrote several books and articles on subjects related to daily life in biblical times.


I wrote...

Daily Life in Biblical Times

By Oded Borowski,

Book cover of Daily Life in Biblical Times

What is my book about?

While the history of Israel during the period of the Hebrew Bible from ca. 1200 to 586 B.C.E. has been at the forefront of biblical research, little attention has been given to questions of daily life. Scholars were interested in biblical personalities and events, the dates these took place, but other questions were not dealt with. Where did the average Israelites live? What did people do for a living? What did they eat and what affected their health? How did the family function? These and similar questions form the basis for my book.

The Walrus Mutterer

By Mandy Haggith,

Book cover of The Walrus Mutterer

In 325 BC, Pytheas of Massalia travelled to northern Britain and beyond, becoming the first writer to chronicle the midnight sun and describe the distant land of Thule (possibly Iceland). His account, On the Ocean, was lost to history and is now known only through references by other writers. But we do have The Walrus Mutterer, a brilliant fictionalization of those travels, to make up for it.

Rian is a young woman from the Scottish region of Assynt who is being trained as a healer when she is enslaved and forced to join Pytheas’s dangerous voyage of discovery. In poetic, lean prose, Haggith details Rian’s trials at sea, her endurance and strength, and the search for the eponymous walrus-hunter, which takes them into the far north.

The writing about the weather and landscape of this lost world is exquisite. The beliefs and practices of this distant way of…

The Walrus Mutterer

By Mandy Haggith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Walrus Mutterer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Northern Britain, Iron Age. Rian, a carefree young woman and promising apprentice healer, is enslaved by a spiteful trader and forced aboard a vessel to embark on a perilous sea voyage. They are in search of the fabled hunter known as the Walrus Mutterer, to recover something once stolen. The limits of Rian's endurance are tested not only by the cruelty of her captor, but their mysterious fellow passenger Pytheas The Greek - and the merciless sea that constantly endangers both their mission and their lives. A visceral evocation of ancient folklore and ritual, The Walrus Mutterer introduces an unforgettable…


Who am I?

I am a historical fiction writer living in a landlocked village in the Chilterns, UK. I became obsessed with long sea voyages while researching my debut novel, On Wilder Seas, which is inspired by the true story of Maria, the only woman aboard the Golden Hind during Francis Drake’s circumnavigation voyage in 1577-1580. I immersed myself in the literature of the sea, in early modern sailors’ accounts of their terrifying voyages, in their wills and diaries, in maps and sea-logs. A ship is the perfect setting for a novel: the confined space, the impossibility of escape, the ever-present danger – and the hostile, unforgiving sea is the ultimate antagonist.


I wrote...

On Wilder Seas: The Woman on the Golden Hind

By Nikki Marmery,

Book cover of On Wilder Seas: The Woman on the Golden Hind

What is my book about?

Inspired by a true story, this is the tale of one woman's uncharted voyage to freedom. April 1579. When two ships meet off the Pacific coast of New Spain, an enslaved woman seizes the chance to escape. But Maria has unwittingly joined Francis Drake's circumnavigation voyage as he sets sail on a secret detour into the far north. Sailing into the unknown on the Golden Hind, a lone woman among eighty men, Maria will be tested to the very limits of her endurance. It will take all her wits to survive - and courage to cut the ties that bind her to Drake to pursue her own journey. How far will Maria go to be truly free?

Skin

By Ilka Tampke,

Book cover of Skin

This beautifully written debut, set in Iron-Age Britain on the cusp of the Roman invasion explores connection to country through the magical lens of druidism. Not only that, it is a page-turner and a love story and left me wanting more…which was good, because Tampke followed up with a sequel—Songwoman. If you are of Celtic heritage, this is a must-read.

Skin

By Ilka Tampke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Skin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A visceral tale of ritual, magic and violence' - The Sunday Times

Imagine a world where everyone is born with a 'skin' name. Without skin you cannot learn, you are not permitted to marry, and you grow up an outsider amongst your own people.

This is no future dystopia. This is Celtic Britain.

It is AD 43. For the Caer Cad, 'skin' name determines lineage and identity. Ailia does not have skin; despite this, she is a remarkable young woman, intelligent, curious and brave. As a dark threat grows on the horizon - the aggressive expansion of the Roman Empire…


Who am I?

I hold a master's in writing modern stories based on ancient myth and have always been fascinated by the power of mythology and the idea of the archetypal subconscious, combine this with the wonders of the natural world and beautifully constructed sentences, and you have my dream read. All the books on this list, even though two are historical, have a modern sensibility, all celebrate the power of nature, and all are masterful in their execution. Enjoy!


I wrote...

Beneath the Mother Tree

By D.M. Cameron,

Book cover of Beneath the Mother Tree

What is my book about?

A gothic tale incorporating Irish mythology within a wild Australian landscape. This spine-chilling mystery is wrought with sensuousness, as these unforgettable characters take you on a dark and dreamlike journey into the boundaries of love and the concept of belonging.

Book cover of Archaeology and the Religions of Canaan and Israel

Archaeological evidence suggests very strongly that the ancient Israelites were heavily influenced by the previous inhabitants of Syria-Palestine in many aspects of their life including religion and help to identify the integral part that religion played in the social and political worlds of the Israelites and Canaanites. The author examines current anthropological and sociological theories and compares them to ancient materials excavated over the past eighty years, then offers a new way of looking at the archaeological data suggesting the strong relations between archaeological remains from the Middle Bronze Age (Canaanites) to the Iron Age (Israelites).

Archaeology and the Religions of Canaan and Israel

By Beth Alpert Nakhai,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Archaeology and the Religions of Canaan and Israel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book seeks to demonstrate that archaeological data can provide a strong and independent witness to the religious practices of the ancient inhabitants of Syria-Palestine and help to identify the integral part that religion played in the social and political worlds of the Israelites and Canaanites. By applying current anthropological and sociological theory to ancient materials excavated over the past eighty years, the author offers a new way of looking at the archaeological data. Beth Alpert Nakhai summarises and analyses the archaeological remains from all known Middle Bronze Age through Iron Age temples, sanctuaries, and open-air shrines to reveal the…


Who am I?

As an archaeologist for over 50 years, I specialized in Household Archaeology, the branch of archaeology that investigates daily life. I was born and spent my childhood in British Mandatorial Palestine and then grew up to adulthood in Israel after it was founded. I spent many years as a kibbutz member in the Northern Negev living near the Bedouin. These experiences brought me close to pre-industrial societies. All my life I was surrounded by archaeological sites, taught biblical archaeology for over 40 years in college and wrote several books and articles on subjects related to daily life in biblical times.


I wrote...

Daily Life in Biblical Times

By Oded Borowski,

Book cover of Daily Life in Biblical Times

What is my book about?

While the history of Israel during the period of the Hebrew Bible from ca. 1200 to 586 B.C.E. has been at the forefront of biblical research, little attention has been given to questions of daily life. Scholars were interested in biblical personalities and events, the dates these took place, but other questions were not dealt with. Where did the average Israelites live? What did people do for a living? What did they eat and what affected their health? How did the family function? These and similar questions form the basis for my book.

Stone Heart

By Peter J. Merrigan,

Book cover of Stone Heart

I loved this book. If I had to describe this novel in one word it would be intelligent. Set in Celtic Ireland in the Iron Age, the language is rich and expressive and Merrigan takes you into his world until you feel you belong there. You are drawn into a time where everything is governed by the gods. The story takes you through the training of the young warriors and druids. With the ongoing conflict over land, and with the people’s lives steeped in superstitious beliefs, we come to care that the outcome falls well with our tribe.

Fionn is born into a simple rural tribe. His life is sweet as he grows to double figures playing with his sisters in the fields. At the age of ten, he is called to serve, and the boys of fighting age are gathered from across the land, taken from their families, and…

Stone Heart

By Peter J. Merrigan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stone Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ireland, 279 BC. A nation at war. For two boys, it will be gruelling. For Ireland . . . it will be bloody.

When the first raiding skirmishes of a foreign army are crushed and Ireland mourns her dead, one king knows their newfound peace is destined to fail. As Overking of Ailigh, Keeper of the North, he calls for the boys of his Celtic tribes to train as formidable warriors under his command.

For Aed, it begins as a fantastical quest. For Ronan, it helps him escape a cruel chieftain. Together, they must train and grow in strength and…


Who am I?

I’ve been writing for a long time and reading even longer. I enjoy intelligent books that are well written—not overwritten or over punctuated—and as we all do both of those, I mean that it’s been well edited. And I understand the struggle which is why four of my five choices are from indie authors like myself.


I wrote...

Leverage

By Katherine Black,

Book cover of Leverage

What is my book about?

Leverage is a testament to how one innocuous ad in the local paper can turn your world upside down. Two people come into Beth’s life. One gives her a reason to die. The Other gives her no other option. She appears out of nowhere and wants to be Beth’s friend. It would be sweet if it wasn’t so damned creepy. Beth can’t shake her. She won’t take no for an answer and Beth’s gentle life becomes a vortex that she can’t control.

Black’s trademark knack of delving into the psyche and finding the pockets of humanity that nobody wants to admit to have never been more in evidence than in Leverage. In this book, she bypasses black and goes to whatever black becomes when it gets darker. This is a story about power - how much influence can one person have over somebody else? Be Beth’s friend and find out.

The Crow Goddess

By Patricia Finney,

Book cover of The Crow Goddess

I picked up this book years ago at my local library by chance, if you believe in chance—which I do not. At that time, I had no idea the narrative of a historical romance could stretch back to Iron Age times, or that I could lose myself in the characters who populated the legends I love. For years, I’d been listening to Celtic music. In Patricia Finney’s wonderful story, I heard that music in the everyday world she created. I discovered how it feels to drive a chariot. Quite possibly, I revisited a past life. I will be forever grateful this book came into my hand.

The Crow Goddess

By Patricia Finney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Crow Goddess as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

When I think of the distant past, I imagine it being populated by those who were a bit closer to the magical world than we. The men (or were they wizards?) who raised the standing stones. The druids of the ancient Celtic world. Figures like Arthur, Robin Hood, and the Viking shamans who harbored a kinship with the waters, with the trees, and with the land. The magic of the past is like a song played on a harp, the echoes of which still waft through our world. Some of us can hear those echoes yet, and some of us write about them.


I wrote...

Daughter of Sherwood

By Laura Strickland,

Book cover of Daughter of Sherwood

What is my book about?

Raised in the kitchens of Nottingham Castle, Wren has no idea she is the daughter of the legendary Robin Hood. Since Robin's death many years before, the resistance against Norman tyranny has been upheld by a magical triad, but now one of the guardians has died. With two young men, Sparrow and Martin, Wren must form a new triad to defend Sherwood's magic. To one of them, she will also give her heart.

From the moment Wren bursts into his life, Sparrow loves her. But he knows she may choose his lifelong rival, Martin, as her mate. When Martin is captured by the Normans and held at Nottingham Castle, can their determination to protect Sherwood endure?

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