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In search of the spear people : spearheads in context in Iron Age eastern Yorkshire and beyond

Inall, Yvonne Louise


Yvonne Louise Inall


Peter Halkon

Malcolm Lillie


Spearheads have long been an understudied class of object for the Iron Age, and for the British Iron Age in particular. No satisfactory typology has yet been published and this thesis addresses that lacuna through the creation of a new typology of spearheads for Iron Age Britain. The typology is a significant step-forward in the study of Iron Age weaponry, and forms a useful tool which facilitates not only the study of martial practices but also contextual studies of this important class of object. The typology has been designed with the end-user in mind and offers guidelines for practical application. The data collection conducted for this thesis forms the largest dataset of Iron Age spearheads for Britain which has been conducted to date. This data is made freely available as an online resource to facilitate future research. To this end, the typology has been designed as an open system which can accommodate the addition of new types, should they come to be identified.

Spearheads did not exist in a cultural vacuum and this work applies the typology in a number of contextual analyses. The Arras Culture of Iron Age East Yorkshire featured an unparalleled burial rite involving spears, known as the ‘speared corpse’ ritual. This practice serves as and entre-point for an examination of Iron Age spearheads in Britain, placing them in their broader martial, social and cosmological contexts. The contextual analyses explore the archaeological contexts from which spearheads have been recovered, examining the types of spear selected for inclusion in structured deposition and martial burials inter-regionally and through time. Consideration is given to the decision-making processes underlying the inclusion of spearheads in votive deposits as well as the specific placement of martial objects in Iron Age burials. The thesis also examines the role which spearheads and other martial objects played in the construction of martial identities in the British Iron Age. The research undertaken represents the most detailed study of Iron Age spearheads conducted for Britain to date, and demonstrates the importance of the spear within the cultures and cosmologies of the Iron Age peoples of Britain.


Inall, Y. L. (2015). In search of the spear people : spearheads in context in Iron Age eastern Yorkshire and beyond. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Sep 18, 2018
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords History
Public URL
Additional Information Department of History, The University of Hull
Award Date Aug 1, 2015


Thesis (10.2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2015 Inall, Yvonne Louise. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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