Ryedale Folk Museum

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

June, 2021

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Travelled with

Family including children under 16

Reasons for trip

The Iron Age Roundhouse is tucked away at the far end of the site and is one of the few buildings that are modern reconstruction as no examples of iron age buildings survive apart from post holes and a few artefacts.

It is thought to be an accurate representation of how a typical iron age family might have lived in the North York Moors. They were farmers growing wheat and barley and keeping a few animals. Shorthorn cattle were used for ploughing as well as milk and meat. Their dung helped fertilise the fields.

It was very much a wooded landscape with a small area cleared for pasture and to grow crops.

They would have used local materials to build their round houses, which were very much permanent dwellings, housing the extended family. The buildings were designed to protect against the worst Yorkshire weather with steep overhanging thatched roofs which allowed rain to run off well away from the walls. The framework was made using sturdy trunks infilled with clay and dung. A porch provided additional shelter and protection from draughts.

At the centre of the roundhouse was an open fire which was used for cooking and also provided warmth. Most cooking was done in clay pots and a hand quern would have been used to grind grain. Smoke escaped through the roof. Smoke and heat helped preserve meat and fish, as well as drying herbs. Furniture would have been basic. Tree trunks for stools. Beds were set against the walls, with bracken or heather as a mattress. Animal skins were used as bed covers, along with coarse woven blankets. Every family would have a hand loom for making blankets and garments. These were warp weighted with round whorls holding the tension in the warp threads. The weights are one of the most commonly found artefacts along with pottery shards.

There are information boards giving more detail about family life in the Iron Age.


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