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  1. Life in an Iron Age Village
  2. A History of Ancient Britain
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His account of the finds there, a stone tool preparation site nearly half a million years old, is nearly as vivid as Mike Pitts' own.

Life in an Iron Age Village

The site reflects the changing nature of archaeology - more attention is now devoted to assessing what the environment was like in that distant time. Weather, soil, forest or field, are among the many elements now assessed in building a picture of ancient humanity's life. Instead of racks of museum collections, tools, weapons and jewellry now form images of what our ancestors considered important.

If Pryor delves into speculation in his depictions, it's clearly an informed conjecture. Details, hidden in time, may remain hidden, but much more is now available to consider than earlier researchers had at their disposal.

A History of Ancient Britain

Pryor demonstrates how modern research has discerned Neolithic paddocks and trackways. Faint lines in crops or discontinuities in the soil exposed by aerial photography have led to amazing finds. His descriptions of discoveries, digs exposing ancient structures and artefacts reveal a wealth of new information while imparting Pryor's own love of the science. That affection carries over into his accounts of how his ancestors lived. To him, this information is intensely valuable. If nothing else, it shatters long-held, but false myths about what comprises the British peoples.

People today will understand themselves better if they understand their ancestors better. If that reduces aggression, bigotry and dogma, that's all to the good. In Pryor's hands, archaeology becomes more than an arcane science removed from society. Instead, the research becomes a force for positive thinking and, hopefully, action. With such an outlook, this author has produced an immensely readable book. His fondness for the work and the discoveries is apparent. He exhorts you to share it all with him. He draws the reader into the questions his research seeks to answer.

His enthusiasm is contagious - you want to be there at the various digs and museums with him. If you can't arrange that, he provides a multitude of drawings, maps and photograph sets to help convey what he's seen. There are the dead, their possessions, sometimes their dress. Different conditions, he explains, preserve different things.

Where they haven't been preserved, he reconstructs them. The wattle and thatch house at Fengate is built to verify how it was done. With all these elements assembled in one book, it becomes clear that Pryor has created a lasting volume. British focus aside, this book should be a feature on any shelf. It's about you. See all 4 reviews.

Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon. April 19, - Published on Amazon. Francis Pryor is one of my favorite authors. He is knowledgeable and understands that most of what we are taught about the "Dark Ages" is balderdash. I remember as a child reading Churchill's "History of the English Speaking People" and being gobsmacked. Ancient Britain came alive for me and the people and characters who inhabit it were mythic and wonderful.

I was heartbroken when I got to the part about how to Anglo Saxons invaded England and eliminated the Ancient Britains. It just didn't seem to fit but Churchill was writing from basically a 19th Century perspective. Francis Pryor and people like Stephen Oppenheimer made sense of what to me seemed nonsensical that entire race could be displaced The connections between Ancient Britains and modern day are too strong, both genetic and archeological, for that to have happened.

March 18, - Published on Amazon. They were both right, of course, but every once in a while an historian will do a good job of mining his resources for biases in fact one of my professors actually gave a seminar where we examined biases in primary and secondary sources and a good archaeologist will resist flights of fancy or at least admit it when he resorts to them.

Francis Pryor is one such archaeologist.


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In Britain BC he does an excellent job of presenting the physical evidence, most of it lithic, of human occupation in the British Isles since the Paleolithic and while he interprets it, he does so with discretion. Anyone who has seen Time Team will recognize his personality. He also admits when he has changed his mind about topics and discusses why, which helps the reader see how thinking in the field is done and how it evolves, something from which students would benefit.

The author states from the beginning that the work was designed for the amateur aficionado and it is. He avoids burdensome descriptions of lithic material, although he does discuss the topic of stone tools and their creation, including modern experiments with knapping processes, and how tools evolved over time. He also limits his excursion into the technical jargon of the field which might also lose a reader.

He spends some time discussing fenland finds and what these tell of the changes or lack thereof in society, which gives one a sense of what it was like to live in the distant past. This book helps correct that oversight. My only complaint is that, at least in the Kindle edition, I found no photographs or maps that might have helped clarify some of the descriptive narrative regarding dig sites and material finds. In this type of book, that's unfortunate. I will say, however, that a passage in the book regarding a mirror suggested that at least in the hardcopy edition, there probably were photos and maps.

One might prefer it. June 3, - Published on Amazon. I like Francis Pryor's prose style. He is quite readable and takes the time to explain and give the backstory as he goes. He was thoughtful enough to use both English and Metric measurements and to explain his Britishisms so that Americans can follow the story.

He brings the archaeology of the British isles alive, telling about the important finds, putting them into a modern perspective and telling the story of who found them, how they did so and what the findings meant. Not only does he discuss the artifacts, he tells how they were made and how they were used. And when he doesn't know how artifacts were used he doesn't waste the reader's time making up some deux ex machina to explain them. Nor does he fabricate any anthropogenic causation for the Holocene climate optimum, a blessing in these troubled times.

The book is well illustrated with line drawings and with two sections of color photos. It proceeds in more or less chronological order from the first paleolithic findings and on to the iron age. Sometimes there are repetitions and sometimes it backtracks but those add to rather than subtracting from the interest.

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In general this book reminds me of lectures by two of my favorite teachers, one who taught seventh grade world history and another who taught college medieval history. These two, and now Pryor, wrapped the dry bones of information in enough flesh to make them dance alive so that even the most narcoleptic students would pay attention.

October 10, - Published on Amazon. Took this book with me to the UK on a month-long self-guided tour of Neolithic sites, and it was the absolutely perfect companion. Look at the entire topic differently, now that I've read Pryor's extensive, thorough, and well-organized treatment.

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There's only one significant problem: the e-book doesn't have any of the illustrations, which makes it a very poor substitute for the print version. That should be spelled out in the product description. I have reread the book in print version since I've been home and it makes ever so much more sense. November 22, - Published on Amazon. I had originally purchased the Kindle version of this book thinking it would be easier to view. I had the Kindle returned with in a day of purchasing it as all of the drawings, graphics and pictures were not in the Kindle version.

I am much happier with the book. It made more sense in the reading as it is describing the artwork in the paragraphs. Pryor also has an easy way of explaining things and makes it interesting to read. Go to Amazon. Fast, FREE delivery, video streaming, music, and much more.

The distinctive decoration at the ends evokes an animal with stylised snout, eyes and ears. The type is found only in this region, and an Iron Age woman probably wore it to express her local identity. Similar styles in larger sizes were worn by men. Chunky jewellery like this developed in Scotland after southern Britain came under Roman rule.

Brooches such as this were used to pin clothes together, allowing their owners to show off with a flash of a colour. The decorative brass attachment was once an eye-catching shade of gold. Iron Age brooches come in many different shapes and styles, sometimes with regional variations. This type, found mainly in Dorset and Somerset, dates to the very end of the Iron Age when the Romans were beginning to arrive in Britain. Beads in Iron Age Britain were usually glass, but could also be made from other colourful materials such as amber, sandstone and jet.

They may have been worn strung on necklaces and are occasionally found in graves, showing that they were important personal objects. This set of surgical instruments, excavated from a grave in Stanway, Essex, gives a rare glimpse into Iron Age medicine. Among the 13 instruments in the medical kit were scalpels, forceps, needles and a surgical saw. The grave dates to the decades around the Roman conquest in AD 43 and the objects of the medical kit are similar to Roman types. The man or woman buried here may have been versed in Roman medical practices as well as local healing traditions.

Pottery was an integral part of Iron Age life. Ceramic vessels were used for cooking and storing food and it is rare to find them whole. This pot was found at Danebury Hillfort in Hampshire and is the type used for everyday food preparation. Dark marks on the outside show it was heated over an open fire.

If you look carefully, you can see subtle decoration around the rim. This type of large, ceramic cup dates to the very end of the Iron Age and reflects changing dining habits.


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It was probably used for drinking beer, mead or wine. Some cups were imported from the Continent, while others were made in Britain. The textiles used to make clothing and other useful objects were woven on looms. Spinning and weaving would have been time-consuming household tasks. Whorls like these were used to weight the end of sticks called spindles, which hand-spinners used to twist wool into yarn for weaving. These whorls are all made from sandstone, although spindle whorls can also be made from other types of stone, bone or clay.

Excavations of an Iron Age site at Meare in Somerset have produced evidence for weaving woollen cloth, along with an exceptional range of other craft and industrial activities. A large number of bone and antler weaving combs were found, some incised with elaborate designs. Weaving combs are found across Iron Age Britain and were probably used to make woollen straps and decorative clothing accessories.

Living in Iron Age Britain was not all hard work; people liked to have fun too! This reconstruction is based on a game found in a grave in Stanway, Essex, and consists of 26 blue and white glass counters and a chequered board. The absence of dice means that it was probably a game of strategy.

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Different types of quernstones were used to grind wheat or barley into flour to make bread, an important staple food. This is the top half of a rotary quern, which once sat on top of another stone. Grain was poured into the hole in the centre and the upper stone was then turned using a pair of wooden handles placed in the holes. The weight of the turning upper stone crushed the grain into flour. Blow by blow, this boat was worked from a single oak tree trunk. We can still see the axe marks on the sides. Few wooden boats survive from the Iron Age and the two found at Fiskerton were deliberately sunk, perhaps as offerings.

This type of boat most likely would have been used to travel along rivers, perhaps transporting objects such as those shown in this exhibition. One side of this solid gold coin was deliberately left blank, while the other shows a stylised running horse. This design is typical of Iron Age coins from France and Belgium, where this coin was probably made. Many are found in Britain, suggesting that British warriors may have fought as mercenaries in Gaul, taking coins like this one home as payment. The style was quickly adopted on later coins in Britain where it became a more abstract pattern of lines and dots.

Roman Britain

The rings were not locked, but each collar in the chain could only be released when the previous one had been undone. The apparent increase in demand for slaves may have been connected to the expansion of Roman power. Classical sources suggest that slaves were a key export from Britain around this time.


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  4. From around BC, people in south-eastern England began to practise new funerary rites, similar to those of north-western France. The goods in this cremation grave include pottery vessels, wine vessels amphorae imported from the Mediterranean, glass gaming pieces and the fitting from a shield. The exotic imports and high-quality tableware suggest that the individual buried here may have been part of an important ruling family.

    The mixture of local and imported grave goods reflects increasingly close ties to the Roman world. This coin was issued by Eusprasto, a ruler in East Anglia. The Iceni initially had good relations with Rome. His widow Boudica rebelled, leading an uprising against Roman rule in AD 60 or Although the revolt did not succeed, her forces did considerable damage before they were defeated.

    In fact, the reality is more complex. Native culture in the British Isles continued to flourish and incorporated Roman traditions. Dragonesque brooches, worn Roman-style as a pair, one on each shoulder, are a good example of this. The idea of an animal-headed brooch is Roman, but the sinuous, s-shaped curves of the dragon-like creatures developed from local art styles. These hybrid designs would continue to influence art made in the British Isles for many centuries to come. This exhibition was developed as part of the British Museum's National Programmes. It was created in conjunction with the British Museum exhibition Celts: art and identity at the British Museum until 31 January We developed this exhibition in partnership with the following museums and collections across the UK:.

    More information about the exhibition can be found on the British Museum website. Celtic life in Iron Age Britain. The Iron Age in Britain. The period of human history when the use of iron became widespread is called the Iron Age. There is a longer Iron Age in Scotland, which was not conquered by the Romans.

    A History of Britain - Stone Age Builders (8000 BC - 2200 BC)

    Many of these Celtic peoples spoke related languages and created similar abstract art styles, suggesting that intermarriage, trade and other links brought communities from the Atlantic to the Black Sea into regular contact. Although Britain and Ireland were never explicitly referred to as Celtic by the Greeks and Romans, they were part of this world of shared art and languages. Iron Age peoples did not write down their own histories. This means that archaeologists must use the objects that these peoples left behind to reconstruct their lives.