Tag Archives: Neolithic

Pre-Historic Britain

Homo-sapiens-fire

Our earliest thoughts when we think of primitive humans that have roamed this land of ours for thousands of years.  Is one of people, clothed in animal skins, with spear in hand, trekking across this land of ours, in search of food!

Ice Ages, have affected this land of ours, with deep sheets of ice, and have been here, long before the first human made his or her appearance.

The “Ice Age” that affected Britain, saw the Earth’s surface and atmosphere drop in temperature, and the polar ice sheets expand outwards from the north and south poles.  This caused much of Earth’s water to become trapped in ice sheets.

During this period Britain was joined with Ireland and Europe.  The connection with Ireland dissipated by 14,000 BC and with Europe around 5,600 BC.

When the Ice Age came to an end, the ice would slowly melt, and the oceans would return, and the sea levels would rise.  Coastlines would change, and so much of the coastal outlines would change, with the creation of new water areas, when before there was none.  Britain was connected to Europe by land mass, which has been replaced by the English Channel.

3.6.4-2_KC-BDPCG

The last Ice Age came to an end in 10,000 BC, and nomads moved to the lands of Britain around 9,600 BC, and by 4,000 BC the island showed signs of a Neolithic culture inhabiting the island.

Planet Earth had received a respite from the Ice Age, but for how long?

If we look back at our history, Planet Earth could be millions of years old, and have been plunged into deep-cold Ice Ages many times over.  The warm weather would fade away, only to be replaced by cold weather winter and summer, which would be an indication of the return of an Ice Age.

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Bronze Age Britain

Britain in Ice Age

The last “Ice Age” ended some 10,000 years ago.  Sea levels rose as the great ice sheets melted, and by 6,000 BC Britain had become separated from Europe.

The inhabitants of this new island; Britain were descendants from the lands of Europe.  They existed by gathering fruit, nuts, leaves and were known to hunt wild animals.

Early man would be in a time of learning as they made tools from bones and rocks.  Tree branches would form a handle, for their early styled weapons; knives, cleavers and mallets.

They would have been afraid in the beginning when lightning struck a tree, seeing it topple over or even catch fire.  They would learn that food left out in the sun, would smell and taste bad after a few days.  Fruit from the trees was sweet to the taste.

As man learnt to light fires, by banging stones together, rubbing wood in a stone hole or rubbing wood together.  They were entering a new world of discovery…

They brought with them heavy pottery vessels, which supplied archaeologist’s information about their lives, for the earth had protected these pots buried in the ground for centuries.

Humans evolved, they learnt other ways to exist, and by 3,500 BC they started to farm the land and feed their family, and so communities settled down, and their lives as wanderer’s slowed down.

One would have to deduce that the change of lifestyle from a wandering hunter – gatherer to that of a farmer, defines the beginning of the New Stone Age or Neolithic times.

They fashioned stone tools, using a process of knapping, which chipped away at the stone, then polished it using water and a shaped rubbing stone.

These Neolithic farmers, bred dogs from wolves, pigs from wild boar, and brought cattle, sheep and goats from Europe.

It is possible and highly likely, that some of these animals would have been used in clearing dense wooded areas.

It is believed that the early farmers of this land would have been Middle Stone Age or Mesolithic people.  They, who travelled across the country over the next 2,000 years, would introduce farming to other parts.

We know from studies, that these people, created clearing’s in wooded areas close to water.

The Neolithic farmers, formerly from the lands of Europe, brought with them wheat and barley seed grains, which had been bred from wild grasses.  Cereals were grown in plots, harvested, and grain stored for a later time.

So what we had in those early times in Britain were two different types of people: The Neolithic farmers gradually settled down, whilst the Mesolithic would move around the country based on the seasons of the year.  They tended to follow the lifestock, birds and fish; their prey.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge at Night

The henge styled monuments, like “Stonehenge” are known to incorporate lunar and solar alignments.

An interesting piece of early history, Neolithic sites, turned up in areas which were once a Mesolithic settlement.  This practice took place between (4,000 – 5,000 BC).  Then around 3,800 BC, they moved into non exploited areas.

In the Middle Neolithic, large communal tombs known as long barrows or mounds and ceremonial monuments started appearing.

People from communities gathered together, and socialised, exchanged ceremonial gifts, and acquired fresh lifestock.

These ceremonies, where rituals took place, were an important part of their lifestyle.  They were known to buy significant items like early axe heads, pottery or human skulls.

Some ceremonial monuments in the Middle Neolithic periods are aligned based on the position of the sun during summer or winter solstice.

The long passage of a passage grave, is positioned so the sun on the shortest days shines into the burial chamber.  They were known to provide good acoustics, possibly for theatrical performance of some kind.

From around 3,000 BC huge monuments similar to “Stonehenge” were created by digging a circular ditch surrounded by stones, and entrance is by way of entrances laid out in stones.  Most lie within pre-set ritual landscapes.

They are known to incorporate lunar and solar alignments, as a means of linking physical and social structures within society, with powers of the natural world.

Neolithic designed houses, were rectangular in shape, made from timber, with timber walls of wattle (woven hazel rods) covered with daub (clay, straw and cow dung) with a thatched roof.

Most remnant discoveries of these houses have been located in Scotland and Ireland.

Bronze Age Tools
Bronze Age Tools

The “Bronze Age” started around 2,500 BC when bronzes started appearing in Britain, along with copper and tin.  The only notable changes were seen in burials, when bronze or tin metal work on dagger and axes were discovered in burials with rings, bracelets adorning bodies.

Lifestyles changed little in the “Bronze Age” yet the difference were only noted in burials

Early Bronze Age houses were round in design with a conical roof and a single entrance.

The “Middle Bronze Age” (1,500 – 1,250 BC) saw an important change in burials, moving away from mounds towards cremations where one’s ashes were placed in pottery urns.

These new settlements, consisted of round houses grouped together possibly for defence, as large hoards of spearheads axes and daggers were buried within easy reach.

In the “Late Bronze Age” (1,250 – 800 BC) hoards found in southern Britain contained fancy bronze ornaments; bracelets, rings, pins and swords of a similar design to that of the cavalry cutlass.

The Bronze Age has left us many reminders of the past, but one which stands out proud for all to see, has to be the “Uffington White Horse” believed to have been created in 1,000 BC.

Uffington White Horse

This image is a Geoglyph, which has been cut into the landscape, revealing the white chalk beneath a layer of grass.  The image is that of a horse, based on the fact that the area is known as “Mons Albi Equi (Hill-White-Equine.”

Wikipedia Images

Britain’sEarly Years: Grimes Graves

Grimes Graves Flint Mine
Grimes Graves Flint Mine

Grime’s Graves is a flint mining complex located near Brandon, between the borders of Norfolk and Suffolk.  The mine was worked between 3,000 and 1,900 BC, and consists of 433 shafts dug into the chalk to access the flint, across ninety-six acres.

Flint was used in the making of stone axes, during the Neolithic period, and was later replaced by iron.  Fortunately, the use of flint had other uses, starting fires and centuries later as strikers for muskets.

One of the tools used in the excavation of flint, would be a “Deer Antler Pick” fashioned from a red deer.

These miners dug shafts some forty feet in depth, searching out the better quality flint in the subterranean galleries, which radiated outwards from the base of the shaft.

Much flint could be found close to the surface, but they opted to dig deep for the smooth black stone, better known as floor-stone.

These floor-stones were used in the construction of axes for warriors, but they were never used in battle, but buried with them.  These floor-stones were of ceremonial use.

Interesting finds have been discovered in many of these pits, leading us to suggest ritual ceremonies took place: Chalk platforms shaped to resemble that of an altar, arrangements of pottery and antler picks, close by.

Once the mines had been abandoned, possibly at the time when iron had been introduced to Britain.  The floors showed evidence of fires, being used in some form of purification ceremony.

An axe made from Cornish greenstone, had been discovered, carefully laid on a gallery floor beside two antler picks, both laying parallel and facing inwards, with the skull of a Phalarope (shorebird).

This is possibly laid out in such a way as a ritual purpose, was it about the mine or the bird, we will never know!

As the mines were backfilled, a time when flint mines had been exhausted, human and animal finds have been discovered.

Skara-Brae: Neolithic Scotland

Skara Brae - Orkneys

Located on the Bay of Skaill, in the Orkney’s, Northern Scotland, can be found “Skara Brae” a Neolithic settlement.

Humans changed their way of life during the Neolithic Times, from hunters and gatherers with no fixed abode, to the farming and raising of animals.  The changes took place over many hundreds of years.  They found they could control their food sources, by the planting of seeds and cultivation of crops.  They domesticated animals, which provided them with varied sources of meat; cattle, sheep and pigs.

Skara-Brae Dwelling1
Internal view of Skara-Brae Dwelling

The site date backs some 5,200 years based on archaeological excavations.  There are ten single room houses, each measuring  thirty-six square metres with no windows, and heated by fire.  The roofs are all but gone, and we have to assume the roof was constructed from turf or timbers with chimney for ventilation.  The village had constructed its own drainage system, with toilets located within each house.

The buildings were constructed from flagstones, layered into the earth, amongst midden, giving greater support.  Space between walls and earth was filled with midden (rubbish) creating natural insulation.

Skara-Brae Dwelling
Skara Brae Dwelling

Each dwelling contained cupboards, beds, seats and storage boxes constructed out of stone.  These people knew how to work stone, even down to their furnishings.

Located at the front of each bed, remain stumps of stone pillars, possibly supporting a canopy of fur, associated with Hebridean life-style.

Builders of Skara Brae, were probably self-sufficient as much as possible.  Bones discovered at the site, shows their stable diet would have consisted of cattle and sheep plus barley and wheat locally grown.  Great quantities of fish bones and shells shows they complimented their food with fish.

Red deer and boar would have been hunted, eggs from seabirds and even birds would have been on the menu.

Skara-Brae Artifacts
Bone Pins – Necklaces – Amulets

The inhabitants made grooved ware pottery, which was bowls, vases, pots and containers with flat bottoms and straight sides, decorated with grooves.  This earn’t its inhabitants to be known as the Grooved Ware People of Skara Brae.  They also crafted jewellery, tools and gaming dice.

“Skara Brae” lost for thousands of years, reared its head in the 19th century.

Western Scotland was battered by heavy storms in 1850, and much sand from the beaches was blown away, revealing parts of a few structures.  Landowner; William Watt, saw these exposed sections of walls, and excavated four houses.  George Petrie started his excavations, and presented his findings to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in April of 1867.

Work on the site came to a halt, and remained untouched until 1913, when the site was plundered for artefacts.  In 1924 storm damage, led to part of a housed being washed away.

Radio-Carbon tests undertaken in 1972-73 confirmed without any doubt, that Skara Brae was occupied between 3180BC – 2500BC, when weather conditions became cold and wet, and the site was abandoned.

Red ochre found at Skara Brae, proves that body painting was taking place.  Artefacts including knives, pins and beads were made from fish, bird and whalebones.

Skara Brae - Aerial View
Aerial View of Skara-Brae

The Neolithic settlement of “Skara Brae” received World Heritage status in December 1999.

These Neolithic people built long barrows as tombs for their ancestors.  They are remembered for the construction of ritual monuments, henges and stone circles; Stonehenge and Avebury Henge, there are many more examples scattered across our lands.

Skara-Brae Image: Zigzagonearth
Skara-Brae Aerial View & Dwellings: Wikipedia
Skara-Brae Bone Pins, Necklaces & Amulets: Odyssey Archaeology

Man’s Evolution…England’s Evolution

Early Human Warriors
Early Human Warriors

As humans we have been successful in the art of spreading ourselves across the world, from one continent to the next.  We should never forget that the human race started out as animals, and evolved into humans.

Human evolution is a process of change, for we as people originated from our apelike ancestors.  They who walked this land many millions of years ago, and evolved into the human race, we see today.

Humans are primates, who more than likely started out in life, walking on all fours, and some four million years ago found the ability to walk on two legs.

Early humans are believed to have migrated from Africa to Asia, and later into Europe, over the last two million years.

Jawbone - Kents Cavern

Discoveries of early human fossils and archaeological finds, such as ancient bones, tools and footprints, help us learn about our past.  Like the 44,200-41,500 year old jaw fragment, discovered in Kent’s Cavern in Devon, known to be the earliest human fossil discovered in Britain.

Evolution of Man
Primate to Early Human

Some 700,000 years ago, the primate… the early human, walked upon this land, we now know as England, and our island was joined to mainland Europe.

Northern Europe and much of England was plunged into a deep Ice Age around 25,000 BC.  Our ancestors were forced out, and headed south to warmer areas.

England became a habitable land between 250,000 and 30,000 years BC, and the Neanderthal man in England was the dominant species of the time.

England was not always an island as it is to-day.  Following periods of glacination, the bed of the North Sea, was known to dry up, and become rolling plains.

Humans are said to have headed south around 27,000 years ago as temperatures plummeted and returned around 15,000 years ago, during the thaw.  Then some 13,000 years ago forced south yet again, and return 1,000 years later.

Britain in Ice Age

Prior to the last Ice Age, Britain was connected to Europe by a land mass.  As the ice slowly melted, the ice age was ending, and the oceans would return, and sea levels would rise.  Coastlines would change, with the creation of new water areas; rivers, streams and lakes, when before there was none.

Two significant changes, Britain was no longer part of Europe, the land mass that connected us to Europe, had been replaced by the English Channel.  Britain was no longer joined to Ireland, for we were an island in our own right, separated by the Irish Sea.

The last Ice Age came to an end around 10,000 BC, and nomads a primitive human roamed this land of ours for thousands of years.  These people clothed in animal skins, with spear in hand, trekking across this land, in search of food.  By 4,000 BC this island of ours showed signs of a Neolithic culture inhabiting Britain.

Early man would be in a time of learning as they made tools from bones and rocks.  Tree branches would form a handle, for their early styled weapons; knives, cleavers and mallets.

They would have been afraid in the beginning when lightning struck a tree, seeing it topple over or even catch fire.  They would learn that food left out in the sun, would smell and taste bad after a few days.  Fruit from the trees was sweet to the taste.

As man learnt to light fires, by banging stones together, rubbing wood in a stone hole or rubbing wood together.  They were entering a new world of discovery…

They brought with them heavy pottery vessels, which supplied archaeologist’s information about their lives, for the earth had protected these pots buried in the ground for centuries.

Humans evolved, they learnt other ways to exist, and by 3,500 BC they started to farm the land and feed their family, and so communities settled down, and their lives as wanderer’s slowed down.

One would have to deduce that the change of lifestyle from a wandering hunter – gatherer to that of a farmer, defines the beginning of the New Stone Age or Neolithic times.

They fashioned stone tools, using a process of knapping, which chipped away at the stone, then polished it using water and a shaped rubbing stone.

These Neolithic farmers, bred dogs from wolves, pigs from wild boar, and brought cattle, sheep and goats from Europe.

It is believed that the early farmers of this land would have been Middle Stone Age or Mesolithic people.  They, who travelled across the country over the next 2,000 years, would introduce farming to other parts.

The Neolithic farmers, formerly from the lands of Europe, brought with them wheat and barley seed grains, which had been bred from wild grasses.  Cereals were grown in plots, harvested, and grain stored for a later time.

So what we had in those early times in Britain were two different types of people: The Neolithic farmers gradually settled down, whilst the Mesolithic would move around the country based on the seasons of the year.  They tended to follow the lifestock, birds and fish; their prey.

An interesting piece of early history, Neolithic sites, turned up in areas which were once a Mesolithic settlement.  This practice took place between (5,000 – 4,000 BC).  Then around 3,800 BC, they moved into non exploited areas.

In the Middle Neolithic, large communal tombs known as long barrows or mounds and ceremonial monuments started appearing.

People from communities gathered together, and socialised, exchanged ceremonial gifts, and acquired fresh lifestock.

These ceremonies, where rituals took place, were an important part of their lifestyle.  They were known to buy significant items like early axe heads, pottery or human skulls.

Some ceremonial monuments in the Middle Neolithic periods are aligned based on the position of the sun during summer or winter solstice.

The long passage of a passage grave, is positioned so the sun on the shortest days shines into the burial chamber.  They were known to provide good acoustics, possibly for theatrical performance of some kind.

From around 3,000 BC huge monuments similar to “Stonehenge” were created by digging a circular ditch surrounded by stones, and entrance is by way of entrances laid out in stones.  Most lie within pre-set ritual landscapes.

Stonehenge a
Stonehenge

Stonehenge consisted of a double circle of bluestones, with a pair of Heel Stones creating an entrance, and other stones in the centre creating a monument.

Avebury Henge consisted of three stone circles; one larger as the outer, with two smaller inner circles.

Druids believe Avebury Henge and Stonehenge are connected by an astronomical axis.

They are known to incorporate lunar and solar alignments, as a means of linking physical and social structures within society, with powers of the natural world.

Neolithic designed houses, were rectangular in shape, made from timber, with timber walls of wattle (woven hazel rods) covered with daub (clay, straw and cow dung) with a thatched roof.

The “Bronze Age” started around 2,500 BC when bronzes started appearing in Britain, along with copper and tin.  The only notable changes were seen in burials, when bronze or tin metal work on dagger and axes were discovered in burials with rings, bracelets adorning bodies.

Lifestyles changed little in the “Bronze Age” yet the difference were only noted in burials

Early Bronze Age houses were round in design with a conical roof and a single entrance.

The “Middle Bronze Age” (1,500 – 1,250 BC) saw an important change in burials, moving away from mounds towards cremations where one’s ashes were placed in pottery urns.

These new settlements, consisted of round houses grouped together possibly for defence, as large hoards of spearheads axes and daggers were buried within easy reach.

In the “Late Bronze Age” (1,250 – 800 BC) hoards found in southern Britain contained fancy bronze ornaments; bracelets, rings, pins and swords of a similar design to that of the cavalry cutlass.

Uffington White Horse
Uffington White Horse

The Bronze Age has left us many reminders of the past, but one which stands out proud for all to see, has to be the “Uffington White Horse” believed to have been created in 1,000 BC.

This image is a Geoglyph, which has been cut into the landscape, revealing the white chalk beneath a layer of grass.  The image is that of a horse, based on the fact that the area is known as “Mons Albi Equi (Hill-White-Equine).”

At the beginning of what had been referred to as the “British Iron Age” around 800 – 750BC iron reached Britain from Europe.  It was harder and stronger than bronze, and it revolutionised much of agricultural working practices.

Iron tipped ploughs, could dig up the land more efficiently and quicker.  Iron axes, would de-forest wooded areas quicker.

By 500 BC, the common language spoken by the inhabitants was “Brythonic” and by the Roman era, their language was similar to that of the Gauls.

Skilled craftsmen showed their wares, producing patterned gold jewellery, weapons made of bronze and iron.

Iron Age Britons lived in groups ruled by a chieftain.  As the population grew, wars broke out between different tribal groups, which led to the construction of “Hill Forts.”  By 350 BC these forts had fallen out of favour.

Prior to the Roman invasion, many Germanic-Celtic speaking refugees from the lands of Gaul, who had been displaced by the expansion of the Roman Empire, and settled in Britain.

In the year 175 BC highly developed pottery making skills appeared in Kent, Hertfordshire and Essex.

The tribes of the South East became Romanised, and were attributed with the creation of early settlements.

The Roman Empire expanded into parts of Northern-Britain, as Rome took interest in Britain.  Was it the large number of refugees from Europe or the large mineral reserves held by Britain?

Iron Age Settlement
Iron Age Settlement

Most Iron Age settlements were small, the main family and descendants, often enclosed by banks and ditches, but large enough to create a defensive position.  Their buildings were built of a roundhouse design, built out of timber and stone, covered in thatch or turf.  Another type of dwelling, often found on marsh edges and lakes, involved the creation of a man-made island, built of stone and timber, thought to be a form of defence.  Another type of settlement found at that time consisted of a tall tower like structure, surrounded by smaller round houses, more commonly found in the eastern parts of the country.

The Iron Age gave us some of the finest pre-historic metalwork of Britain.  Bronze and goldsmiths produced high quality items, richly decorated with fancy designs and enamelled inlays.  Anything from delicate works of rings, brooches to shields, helmets and swords.

Iron Age, saw much warfare among the Celtic tribes, in this land of ours, requiring the construction of many hill forts.  These Celts were true warriors in every sense of the word, for they fought from horses or wooden chariots, and threw spears and fought with swords, and carried wooden shields.  Some even wore chain mail for added protection.

The Celts were an accomplished race of people, they were much more than farmers, for they could pick up a weapon and fight for their people.  Many of their number were blacksmiths, bronze smiths, carpenters, whilst others worked with leather and made pottery.  They also created elaborate jewellery from gold and precious stones.

They took their art further, by adding artistic designs made from metal, leather and precious stones to their swords, daggers and shields.

Celtic society was organised, based on the part you played within your designated tribe.  At the head would be the King or Chieftain, and next in line, the nobles, followed by the craftsmen, then the farmers and warriors, last in line would be the Celtic slaves.

Trade with European countries, was an important part of everyday life to them.  Copper, tin and iron, along with skins, grain and wool were exported.  In turn they imported fine pottery and quality metal goods.  Celtic currency started out as iron bars, and by 50 BC they had switched to gold coins.

Celtic houses were round in design, with a central pole, with horizontal poles radiating outwards.  Walls made of wattle and daub, with a thatched roof.  They made dyes from plants; weld for yellow, woad for blue and madder for red.

The Druids were the priests of the Celtic people, and played an important part in their lives.  These druids were scholars and advisors to the Celtic Kings, who worshipped more than one God.

These Druids worshipped nature in the truest sense of the word, by bringing man in harmony with nature.  They are responsible for many occult beliefs and religious symbolisms used in the practice of Christianity, Judaism and Wicca.  The number three plays a major part in their practices; tripods and trinities.

During Celtic times, the old tradition of building barrows for the dead was phased out, and replaced with individual graves.  Yet, some parts of tradition still carried on; the practice of burying grave goods with the dead, what was required by him to gain access to the afterlife. (A similar practice to that carried out by the Pharaoh’s in Ancient Egypt).

The Celts were no match for the warriors of Rome, and were defeated by the might of Julius Caesar in 55 BC and again in 54 BC.

In 43 AD the Romans invaded Britain under Empereor Claudius with Aulus Plautius their supreme leader.  The Romans and Celts faced each other in battle, but resistance to these Roman invaders proved futile.  By 47 AD the Romans had control of Britain from the River Humber to the River Severn.

The Celtic Iceni tribe in East Anglia rebelled against these Roman warriors.  A deal was struck and their King’s retained their position at head of their tribes, and accepted Roman Rule.

Boudicca
Queen Boudicca

Only one leader refused to accept Roman Rule: Queen Boudicca.  For it was upon the death of the Iceni King, the Kingdom was left to his wife Boudicca and Emperor Nero, but Nero wanted it all.  Boudicca was appointed leader by the Celts and led an army of 100,000 warriors, and burned Colchester, St.Albans and London to the ground with no survivors.  Her army met the Romans in battle, and the Celts were defeated… with their leader dead, the Celts were forced into accepting Roman Rule.

Wikipedia Image