Celtic Weapons Store

The mystery of the buried Iron Age weapons

Curriculum Links:

KS2 History - Ancient Rome

This is a Yorkshire World Collections object, one of 100 chosen by young people aged 16-24, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.

Archaeologists often find objects which have been buried for hundreds of years. They then have to do historical detective work to try to find out what they were used for and why they have been buried in that place. To do this, they research the history of the time. 

This store of weapons (also called a 'cache') was discovered in South Cave, on farmland near Hull, in September 2002. It was found using metal detectors, it included:
- five late Iron Age swords/scabbards (scabbards are covers that swords are kept in) 
- Roman pottery
- 33 iron spearheads.

The objects were carefully excavated (dug up), cleaned and photographed, then returned to the East Riding Museums Service where they could be seen by visitors. 

What clues do the objects reveal?

  • The weapons were buried in a pit, which was dug within a ditch in a late Iron Age settlement.
  • The weapons date from around 70AD. 
  • The person who buried the weapons covered them up with pieces of pottery.

What clues can we gain from the history of the time?

  • The Romans invaded Britain around 43 AD and took control of the country. By the 50s AD they had reached Yorkshire.

  • A Celtic tribe called the Parisii lived in North Humberside and farmed the land before and after the Romans arrived. 

  • The Roman invasion was a violent, troubled time in British history. Many British tribes fought the Romans because they did not want to be ruled by them.

  • The Parisii tribe survived the Roman invasion. When the Romans took control of the country, the tribe were made Roman citizens, and continued to live around Brough-on-Humber, near the caves.

  • Roman law did not allow civilians (people who were not soldiers) to carry weapons.
The weapons may have belonged to the Parisii, but other tribes also lived nearby. Some people have guessed that they were hidden after a battle or buried during a ritual. However, we cannot know for certain why the swords were buried and never collected - it's an intriguing mystery!

More information about the discovery of the weapons can be seen as a download.

Discussion ideas:

  • Why do you think the swords were buried?

  • Could the Roman invasion have had something to do with the weapons being buried? 

  • What does the Roman pottery buried with the weapons tell us?

  • Why do you think we can never really know the true story behind buried objects?

  • Imagine you find a historical object with a metal detector - what would you do with what you found, and who would you tell?

Activity idea:

  • Design your own Celtic sword handle, using the image above and those in the downloadable PDF for inspiration.

  • Create a treasure map: Imagine you are a member of the Parisii tribe and you want to hide something from the Romans. Draw a map of your village with added clues to help someone else find the hidden object.

Map of South Cave near Hull where the weapons store was found by a metal detector»

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