Prehistoric Britain

Prehistoric Britain

Prehistoric Britain

Prehistoric Britain

Synopsis

Britain has been inhabited by humans for over half a million years, during which time there were a great many changes in lifestyles and in the surrounding landscape. This book, now in its second edition, examines the development of human societies in Britain from earliest times to the Roman conquest of AD 43, as revealed by archaeological evidence. Special attention is given to six themes which are traced through prehistory: subsistence, technology, ritual, trade, society, and population.

Prehistoric Britainbegins by introducing the background to prehistoric studies in Britain, presenting it in terms of the development of interest in the subject and the changes wrought by new techniques such as radiocarbon dating, and new theories, such as the emphasis on social archaeology. The central sections trace the development of society from the hunter-gatherer groups of the last Ice Age, through the adoption of farming, the introduction of metalworking, and on to the rise of highly organized societies living on the fringes of the mighty Roman Empire in the 1st century AD. Throughout, emphasis is given to documenting and explaining changes within these prehistoric communities, and to exploring the regional variations found in Britain. In this way the wealth of evidence that can be seen in the countryside and in our museums is placed firmly in its proper context. It concludes with a review of the effects of prehistoric communities on life today.

With over 120 illustrations, this is a unique review of Britain's ancient past as revealed by modern archaeology. The revisions and updates to Prehistoric Britainensure that this will continue to be the most comprehensive and authoritative account of British prehistory for those students and interested readers studying the subject.

Excerpt

Since the publication in 1987 of the first edition of Prehistoric Britain many new discoveries have been made, a wealth of original research undertaken, and fresh interpretations of existing finds developed. As a result, our understanding of prehistoric times in Britain has changed considerably. One driver of this change is an increased concern for the environmental impact of urban expansion, civil engineering works, and other intensive activities in our landscapes, townscapes, and seascapes. Chance discoveries arising from property development or agricultural operations have long contributed to the accumulating database of prehistoric sites and finds, but in 1985 the European Union published regulations on the assessment and consequential mitigation of environmental impacts that were first implemented though UK legislation in 1988 (revised in 1997). It was an approach that was extended and strengthened in 1990 when the UK government published guidance on archaeology in planning (popularly known as PPG16 in England with parallel statements for Scotland and Wales). For the first time this integrated archaeological concerns with the enormous power of the long-established Town and Country Planning system. At its heart was a concern for preserving archaeological deposits; in practical terms, however, this meant introducing a system whereby prospective development sites were evaluated for their archaeological potential as part of the design process, and where preservation was not possible then impacts were mitigated through excavation and recording as a development cost. Between 1990 and the end of 2007 more than 19,000 field-evaluations took place in England alone, of which about 20 per cent yielded evidence of prehistoric activity. Over 90 per cent of all archaeological interventions were funded through commercial operations with the inevitable result that while most major pieces of work find their way to publication as reports in monographs or journals there is a lot of so-called ‘grey literature’ created along the way to support the processes of assessment, evaluation, determination, and mitigation. There is also an increasing concern that the parallel systems of legislation covering ancient monuments, spatial planning, and environmental impact assessment have become unwieldy, and that the time is now right to simplify the system.

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