Broch, Crannog and Hillfort

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Broch

Crannóg

Hillfort

GLOSSARY

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Adze Axe-like wood-working tool, but with blade at right-angles to the handle, used with pick-like motion.
Awl A pointed tool of flint, bone or bronze, used for making holes in skins, etc.
Barrow An earthen burial mound, either circular or rectangular in plan.
Burin Engraving or piercing tool, used with rotary action.
Berm Flat platform separating a mound or bank from a quarry ditch.
Cairn A heap of stones, varying in size, usually covering a burial.
Carinated A shoulder or sharp change in direction in the profile of a pot.
Chape Decorative terminal of a sword scabbard.
Cist Small rectangular pit lined with stone slabs and covered with a capstone; often a grave.
Corbelling Roofing method in which successive layers of stone rise one above the other and overlap inwards until they meet.
Cursus Long, narrow parallel-sided enclosure of the neolithic period.
Dolerite Basaltic type rock used for making axes, also in the construction of Stonehenge.
Dysse Long megalithic burial mound found in Denmark.
Gabbroic clay Clay containing crystals of the igneous rock gabbro from the Lizard peninsula.
Graver Engraving tool made from pointed, longitudinal flake, used with a straight action.
Hafted axe Axe with a wooden handle.
Halberd Bronze Age dagger at right angles to a wooden handle with metal rivets.
Henge Later neolithic circular enclosure surrounded by a bank and internal ditch, broken by one or more entrances.
Hunebeden Long megalithic burial mound found in the Netherlands.
Inhumation An unburnt human burial.
Machair Gaelic word describing lush meadowland.
Mattock Heads Pick-like tool with chisel shaped blade.
Megalithic Constructed of large stones, e.g. Stonehenge.
Midden Rubbish dump, often composed of discarded shells, bones or charcoal.
Quern Two stones used for grinding corn, either by rubbing backwards and forwards, or revolving one upon another
Revetment A facing of timber, stone or turf intended to stop the sides of a bank or mound collapsing.
Scalene triangle Unequal sided microlith, probably used as an arrow tip.
Sherds Fragments of broken pottery.
Skeuomorph An imitation.
Spelt A species of wheat: triticum spelta.
Tanged Projection at base of dagger or arrowhead used to fasten it to a handle.
Temenos Spacious enclosure of ‘consecrated’ land, attached to a temple.
Trepanation A form of brain surgery practised in the Bronze Age.

Birsay

Tuesday, December 16, 2014



The Brough of Birsay, a tidal island, is one of the bestknown archaeological sites in Orkney, projecting out into the Atlantic at the northwest corner of Birsay Bay and separated by the 238-m-wide Brough Sound from the Point of Buckquoy. Its name derives from Old Norse borg (fortress or stronghold), which can refer to either a broch (a fortified dwelling), or, as is more likely in this case, the natural defensive qualities of an island difficult of access.

The earliest archaeological work on this site appears to have been by Sir Henry Dryden in 1870, who cleared out the chapel. The site came into the care of the secretary of state for Scotland in 1934, and considerable clearance and excavation took place to prepare the site for the general public. This work was curtailed with the outbreak of World War II, but the finds from the excavations have been published by C. L. Curle, along with the finds from the later campaigns of C. A. R. Radford and S. H. Cruden in the 1950s and 1960s. Interim accounts of aspects of the later work have been published. Earlier structural elements uncovered below the chapel have generally been associated with the pre-Norse church. However, these earlier structural elements no longer need to be associated with the so-called Celtic church but, by analogy with the Brough of Deerness and Brattahlid in Greenland, may be dated to the Norse period. 

Work was resumed on a small scale in 1973; in the area to the east of the chapel, Room 5 was excavated. Essentially, four major periods were distinguished. From analysis of the associated finds, together with some radiocarbon C-14 (ninth century or later) dating, the first may be assigned to the pre-Norse (Pictish) phase (pre-800) and the later three to the Norse. Only the last phase relates to the laid-out, standing building. Following this work, a renewed large-scale series of excavations was begun by J. R. Hunter and C. D. Morris in 1974 and continued until 1982. There is now clear evidence from the Brough of Birsay for many buildings (far more, across a wider area, than originally envisaged) dating to the Norse and Pictish periods. There is also clear evidence here for multiphase activity, with the replacement of buildings and often their complete reorientation in relation to the local topography. 

There has been much discussion of the significance of the entries in the Orkneyinga Saga concerning the "minster dedicated to Christ" at Birsay established by Earl Thorfinn the Mighty. Both Radford and Cruden take the view that the buildings mentioned in the Saga can be identified with structures excavated on the brough. Others (e. g., the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland; R. G. Lamb) see these structures as twelfth century (rather than eleventh) and monastic in character and favor a location for the "minster" in the village area. In 1982, excavations took place under the direction of Barber in advance of restoration of the parish church of St. Magnus. Structural elements uncovered below the present church have been accorded a probable twelfth-century date, and it is suggested that the present building was preceded by a pre- Reformation church of some sophistication. However, the dating accorded to the remains does not enable firm associations with the historical data, and so it cannot yet be claimed that the "minster" was originally located in the village. 

Norse Christianity clearly focused upon Birsay, but once the cathedral was built in Kirkwall, the focus of secular and ecclesiastical power shifted away. Little is known of events here between the twelfth and the sixteenth centuries. However, by the sixteenth century, much of Birsay had been transferred from the hands of the earl of Orkney to the bishops of Orkney, and in that century it is clear that the bishops used a palace hereabouts. In the sixteenth century, an otherwise unknown writer, "Jo Ben," described Birsay as having "an excellent palace"; according to local tradition, the presence of walls and other features in the area to the south of the parish church may relate to this palace. 

The significance of Birsay in the sixteenth century is reinforced by the building of an imposing Earl's Palace to the north of the Burn of Boardhouse. This was constructed with ranges of buildings around a courtyard with projecting rectangular towers at three corners, perhaps dated to 1574. It is probable that, in the construction of the Earl's Palace, stones from the older Bishop's Palace were reused. However, the regained significance of Birsay was short lived, and P. D. Anderson (1983) has suggested that deterioration of the Earl's Palace is recorded from as early as 1653. The gaunt ruins of the palace are perhaps visible reminders of what has been described as the "dark period" of Orkney's history under the Stewart earls. 

There are clear indications that buildings from the Viking and late Norse periods remain to be discovered in the area to the south of the village. The place-name Tuftaback, bank or slope of house sites, might well be equated with the area to the south of the Burn of Boardhouse. Here, buildings and middens of some complexity have been uncovered on top of a mound site composed of archaeological deposits presumably going back into prehistory. A second such mound site almost certainly exists below an adjacent modern building and extends down to the riverbank. 

Beyond the village to the south are the Links, at the southern end of which is Saevar Howe, another multiperiod mound site, which was examined in the nineteenth century by Farrer and more recently by J. W. Hedges. Pictish buildings here were apparently built on top of a prehistoric site and were themselves superseded by Viking Age dwellings. On top of these were the remains of a Christian Norse cemetery-although not recognized as such in the nineteenth century. 

Cemeteries from both the Roman Iron Age/Pictish and the Viking periods have also been recognized from the area between the village and the brough to the north. The earlier burials are marked by cist graves below mounds of sand and stone cairns, without accompanying grave goods. The later burials were either in cists or simply dug into the contemporary ground surface, but they were accompanied by grave goods recognizably Viking in form and date. 

Radiocarbon determinations have confirmed these chronological attributions. Even earlier, the area was clearly of significance in the earlier Iron Age (structural evidence) and the Bronze Age (midden deposits). Fragmentary traces of settlement remains of the Viking period have also been excavated in this area, with accompanying rich midden deposits, and a characteristic figure-eight-shaped dwelling from the late Pictish period. This series of excavations directed by Morris between the village and the brough has received full publication. Of particular interest and significance was the nearby site at Buckquoy excavated by A. Ritchie. Here, a Pictish farmstead was uncovered, of two major periods, succeeded by a Norse farmstead. It has also been suggested that the evidence points to some degree of coexistence by the two groups. 

Extensive archaeological research supports the conclusion, derived from written sources, that Birsay was a center of political and ecclesiastical power during the Viking and late Norse periods. In addition, there is also evidence to support Birsay's importance in the preceding Pictish period, together with its imperfectly understood role in prehistoric Orkney.

World’s Oldest Port


Evidence of Egypt's earliest port (above) and its oldest papyrus (top) were found close to the Red Sea.

Wadi el-Jarf, Egypt

Examples of the Importance of Experimental Archaeology

A well-published experiment, in such a way that many people could share in the knowledge and insights learnt from this activity, was the building of a Stone Age house in Denmark in 1958 by Hans-Ole Hansen. He describes the successes and setbacks in an accessible, lively manner. Such activities, based on trial and error, cannot follow a planned script, because many details are unknown from the drawing table. They are more about gaining experiences and counting how much material and how much time goes where (the way `we' build it). The fact is, 50 years later, we still meet surprises each time we build a `prehistoric' house somewhere; surprises that mean we need to improvise and solve problems on the spot. For example, one needs to have tried cutting trees with both a stone axe and a steel axe before you can compare them in usability. It takes some experience in using both kinds, as they need to be handled differently.


Overview over the Iron Age village at Lejre Experimental Centre, Denmark. Picture: Roeland Paardekooper.

Building an Iron Age house in the present day might say little about how it was to build such a house over 2000 years ago, but it is up to experimental archaeologists to find out what we actually can learn from it. By dismissing the human element and measuring the time it costs for someone to reach a goal does not mean that registering time is useless. Some processes have always led to the same results, both in the past and in the present. That is why it is good to measure how much time it takes, for example, for ceramics to be baked at a certain temperature, within the context of the variables, such as the kind of clay and the kind of kiln. 

In the 1950s, knowledge of how to smelt iron without using a modern blast furnace had almost vanished in Europe, although hundreds of archaeological sites were already identified as iron-smelting sites. Without exact knowledge, the evidence of the different stages would be impossible to compare and to discern. In the past 60 years, ethnoarchaeological reports from Africa and Asia have found their way to many people interested and, combined with the archaeological data sets, literally thousands of experiments with shaft furnaces and other prehistoric and early historic types were executed across the world. Especially in the United States, groups of archaeologists/craftspeople are very active in iron smelting. One of the advantages of iron smelting is that it was executed in many regions across the world which makes it easier for people to become familiar with it in their local environment. More clearly, these experiments and the vast amount of reports of them have made it possible for archaeologists to discern the different steps, methods, and their by-products. 

In 1967, a construction built in Lejre (Denmark) resembling an Iron Age house was deliberately set on fire and excavated later. Such experiments take time, courage, and a stable physical environment. 

The scene for the fire was planned in detail, with inventory and stock put in place where needed. Small porcelain cones were mounted across the house as part of the registration of temperature. Surprisingly for the experimenters, the house burnt down in as little as 30 min. A few days after the fire, small test pits were excavated. In this excavation, different layers of ash were discernible as well as different sources of clay and loam (walls, floor, etc.). 

These different features were much more difficult to recognize in the 1992 excavations. The people excavating in the second phase were unaware of the documentation of the fire in 1967, just like archaeologists nowadays excavate houses without knowledge of what exactly they will find until they do make finds. To everybody's surprise, they made only very little finds, even if the house was only burnt down 25 years before. After the 1992 excavations, the undisturbed parts are left for the future.

The pity of this famous experiment is that there has been no money available to date to process the complete documentation of the constructing phase, the phase of use of the house, the burning down, and subsequently the excavation. Even if this could be done, the work comparing the data with original archaeological information on burnt-down houses has to be started first of all. 

In the 1980s and 1990s, different wooden ships were built in Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, resembling a medieval cog-like vessel. This kind of ship was used in the late Middle Ages in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea as trading vessel. As is often the case, money was acquired through European unemployment funds. The building of such new ships of old design has an important added value, namely promoting interest in the past, and therefore strengthening the position of archaeology. 

The different cog-like vessels built in the 1980s and 1990s served different levels of authenticity and different goals. Most important, the ships were meant to be used as seafaring vessels in modern ages. 

A major advantage of having these new ships built is that the original archaeological data receives renewed attention, not just from archaeologists, but from a range of other specialists as well, who all `see' things in the original data, which archaeologists did not identify before. Archaeologists do learn to see beyond what they know, but these insights might be limited. 

In some cases, archaeological details were copied into a ship, and people first found out about their use after sailing with the ship. This is the case, for example, for a triangular piece of wood, which decenniums after the excavations had to be planned in the correct location, which could be recognized in medieval depictions as well. It turned out to be a so-called beam-end fender.

The location of the beam-end fender in front of a through-beam on the outer side of the hull. Drawing by Morten Gᴓthche, Maritime Newsletter from Roskilde, Denmark, no. 7, December 1996, p. 15.
The beam-end fenders can be seen clearly on this town seal from Elbing c. 1350. From Maritime Newsletter from Roskilde, Denmark, no. 7, December 1996, p. 15.

Experiments in using such a ship are often restricted to short-term monitoring experiments (``does it work well?''). Longer-term monitoring, using log books and comparing these over the years, would be a cost-effective way of learning more. The different ship projects are in touch with each other and exchange experiences. If the results and experiences with such ships were to be combined, an interesting image would emerge.

Case-Study - Seasonal Mobility in the Auvergne

Monday, December 15, 2014

The magnitude of raw material transfers between the Auvergne sites and sources 250-300km further north illustrates a case of continuity in mobility patterns across the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic divide, which is consistent with the cultural ecological paradigm. Considered in a techno-economic perspective, these transfers also reinforce previously stated diachronic differences.


A hilly relief and a globally rough climate characterize the Auvergne, in the central part of France. During colder periods, local glaciers covered the higher altitude zones that border the Loire and Allier valleys, along which there are clusters of sites, both Middle Palaeolithic and Upper Palaeolithic (Gravettian, Protomagdalenian, mostly Badegoulian and Magdalenian). All of the Upper and some of the Middle Palaeolithic sites contain northern flint from the Touraine and the Paris Basin, the former sites in large quantities. In this respect, it is significant that flint is scarce and generally of poor quality in the Auvergne. 

The Auvergne is considered to have been a region of severe seasonal contrasts throughout the Upper Palaeolithic, particularly inhospitable during the winter months. The absence of any winter hunting in the sites further suggests that human occupation was seasonal in the area. Working on this assumption, it is contemplated that in the Upper Palaeolithic the procurement of higher-quality northern flint was embedded in subsistence strategies and occurred in the context of planned seasonal moves. These followed natural routes connecting flint yielding regions and others known to be lacking suitable raw materials.

Northward long-distance winter moves from the Auvergne (France), following natural routes leading to areas yielding highquality flints. Both Middle and Upper Palaeolithic sites contain Touraine and Paris Basin flints, but the procurement of large quantities of such flints is only documented for the Upper Palaeolithic. Figure composed by G. Monthel (UMR 7055 du CNRS).

Long-distance seasonal mobility (ranging between 160 and at least 250km in the Upper Palaeolithic) is a pattern argued to obtain in ECE. Explaining the Auvergne long-distance seasonal moves in terms of adaptive responses to environmental constraints is supported by the enduring northern origin of raw materials across the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic divide. However, the quantities recorded for the Middle Palaeolithic are very small. A similar case of continuity in transport and mobility strategies is documented only in ECE, in Moravia, where northern trans-Carpathian flint systematically occurs in Middle and Upper Palaeolithic sites, conveyed along natural routes (the Moravian Gate). As in the Auvergne only poor quality flint is available in Moravia, and it is also only during the Upper Palaeolithic that trans-Carpathian transfers are associated with large quantities of raw materials, rather than with a few end-products. Indirect Procurement Drawing on ethnographic parallels concerning the exchange of highly valued items by down-the-line trade over extreme distances, special attention has been paid to the longest transfers (300 km) acknowledged in WE, WCE, and ECE. These always involve very small quantities (generally a single item) of end-products, often in remarkable materials, such as obsidian or white-spotted Świeciechów flint in ECE, which account for half these transfers and may have been invested with more than utilitarian properties. 

Eastern Central Europe
In ECE, such very long transfers are recorded throughout the Upper Palaeolithic, beginning with the Szeletian and the Aurignacian, which partly overlap in time. It is argued that three of the four 300 km Szeletian transfers may result from a down-the-line mode of exchange.

Indirect procurement by down-the-line trade through social exchange in the Szeletian and the Aurignacian of ECE (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic). Figure composed by G. Monthel (UMR 7055 du CNRS).

Items made of eastern materials from the Tokay and Bükk regions (obsidian and felsitic quartz porphyry, 360 and 340 km) are recorded west in Moravia, at Neslovice. Obsidian and felsitic quartz porphyry are abundant in all the Bükk area sites. Felsitic quartz porphyry is also documented at a halfway point in some Váh valley sites, construed as `relay' sites. In addition, the presence of the characteristic raw material of this valley, radiolarite, is recorded in both eastern (Bükk) and western (Moravia) sites. In a similar way, the Świeciechów flint item from northeastern Poland found in Moravia, at Mis¡kovice (360km), alongside with Kraków Jurassic flint, is argued to have been conveyed through the Kraków region sites, where Świeciechów flint items are recorded, as well as items in `chocolate' flint, of similar northern origin. In the Aurignacian, indirect procurement can be contemplated for two of the four 300 km transfers. One is associated with the presence of Świeciechów flint in Moravia, at Urc¡ice-Golštýn (380 km), where Kraków Jurassic flint is also recorded. There again, the Kraków sites, which yield some Świeciechów flint (three items at Kraków-Sowiniec), can be interpreted as `relay' sites. Another transfer is associated with the presence of 10 obsidian items at Nová Ddina I in Moravia (320 km), alongside with radiolarite, and these were possibly conveyed through the Váh valley sites. 

Western Central Europe
In WCE, only one 300km transfer is recorded, in connection with Hohlenstein- Stadel, an Aurignacian site of the Swabian Jura. It is associated with a few end products in Baltic flint from northern Rhineland (400 km). While in the Swabian Jura, all other long-distance transfers are throughout the Upper Palaeolithic oriented eastwards (240 km) and westwards (220 km) along the Danube River, suggesting direct procurement of materials during (seasonal?) group movement, this transfer is oriented north-south. Small quantities of Baltic flint have been found at the Aurignacian site of Wildscheuer in the Rhineland, some 140km distant from the closest source, and the assumption is that down-the-line trade to southwestern Germany conveyed the items recovered at Hohlenstein-Stadel. 

Western Europe
In WE, basically as a reflection of the state of current research, 300km transfers are so far only acknowledged for the French Aurignacian (n = 2 occurrences). These transfers relate to one item each of grain de mil flint conveyed from western Charente to the Ariège (at Tuto de Camalhot) and the Hérault (Régismont-le-Haut). 

Indirect procurement by down-the-line trade through social exchange in the Aurignacian of WE (southern France). Figure composed by G. Monthel (UMR 7055 du CNRS).

Grain de mil flint also occurs at several of the Vézère valley sites in the Périgord, and two types of northern Aquitaine flints (Bergeracois and Fumel) have been identified at the Tuto de Camalhot and Régismontle- Haut. Indirect procurement by down-the-line trade via Périgord `relay' sites is therefore suggested for the 300km grain de mil transfers. In this respect, it is of additional interest that shells of Atlantic coastal species occur both at Périgord sites and at the Tuto de Camalhot. 

It does not necessarily ensue from the above examples that direct procurement is the only underlying mechanism for transfers.

Hymns of stone I

Monday, November 17, 2014



When the first sarsen stone was raised in the circle of Stonehenge, the land we call England was already very ancient. Close to the village of Happisburgh, in Norfolk, seventy-eight flint artefacts have recently been found; they were scattered approximately 900,000 years ago. So the long story begins.

At least nine distinct and separate waves of peoples arrived from southern Europe, taking advantage of warm interglacial periods that endured for many thousands of years; they are races without a history, leaving only stones or bones as the evidence of their advance and retreat. Against the wall of a cave of the Gower Peninsula has been found the body of a man laid down 29,000 years ago. His bones were stained with a light patina of red, suggesting either that they were sprinkled with red ochre or that his burial garments were deeply dyed. He also wore shoes. Around him were various items of funereal tribute, including bracelets of ivory and perforated shells. His head had been removed, but his body had been placed in alignment with the skull of a mammoth.

He was young, perhaps no more than twenty-one, but in that far-off time all men and women were young. He was clearly some kind of clan leader or tribal chieftain. At the beginning of the human world, a social hierarchy already existed with marks of rank and status. The cave in which he was interred was visited by many generations, but we do not know what secrets it contained. The people whom he represented passed from the face of the earth.

Only the last of the arrivals to England survived. These people came some 15,000 years ago and settled in places as diverse as the areas now known as Nottinghamshire, Norfolk and Devon. In a Nottinghamshire cave the figures of animals and birds were carved 13,000 years ago into the soft limestone ceiling; the stag and the bear, the deer and the bison, are among them.

Generations passed away, with little or no evidence of change. They persisted. They endured. We do not know what language they spoke. Of how or what they worshipped, we have no idea. But they were not mute; their intellectual capacity was as great, or as small, as our own. They laughed, and wept, and prayed. Who were they? They were the forebears of the English, the direct ancestors of many of those still living in this nation. There is an authentic and powerful genetic pattern linking the living with the long dead. In 1995 two palaeontologists discovered that the material from a male body, found in the caves of Cheddar Gorge and interred 9,000 years ago, was a close match with that of residents still living in the immediate area. They all shared a common ancestor in the maternal line. So there is a continuity. These ancient people survive. The English were not originally ‘Anglo-Saxon’ or ‘Celtic’; they were a prehistoric island people.

The study of prehistory must also be the study of geography. When the settlers arrived in England, 15,000 years ago, the North Sea was a great plain of lakes and woodland. It now lies submerged, rich in the unseen evidence of the past. Yet we can in part rescue that which has been lost. Oak woods, marshes covered by reeds, and open grasslands covered the land. It was a warm and humid world. Red deer and voles inhabited the landscape; but they shared it with elephants and macaque monkeys. Among them wandered groups of humans, twenty-five or more in each group, pursuing their prey. They fired upon the animals with flint arrowheads, and used carved reindeer antlers as axes; they carried wooden spears. We do not know how they were organized but the discovery of ‘butchery sites’, where tools were manufactured and food prepared away from the main settlements, suggests a measure of social control.

We can still see the people walking towards us. On the sand at Formby Point, on the north-west coast of England, there are human footprints continuing for 32 feet (9.75 metres). The prints of many children are among them. The men were approximately 5 feet and 5 inches in height (1.55 metres), the women some 8 inches shorter (20 centimetres). They were looking for shrimps and razor shells. Footprints are found in other parts of England. Some appear on the foreshore of the Severn estuary; they fade away at the point where, 7,000 years before, the dry land became swamp. Now, on the flooding of the tide, they are gone.

These are the prints of what have been called Mesolithic people. The term, like its counterparts Palaeolithic and Neolithic, is loose but convenient. These people cleared the woods and forests by burning, in order to make way for settlements or to render the hunt for game more effective. Pine was also burned to make way for hazel, whose autumnal nuts were a popular source of food; they knew how to manage their resources. The early English have been called ‘hunter-gatherers’, with dogs employed for hunting, but their life was not that of undisciplined nomadic wandering; their activities took place within well-defined boundaries. They ranged through group territories that adjoined one another. They liked the areas where land and water meet.

Some 11,000 years ago a great lake covered what is now the Vale of Pickering in Yorkshire. On the bank of this lake was built a platform of birch wood. It might have been used to expedite fishing, but it is more likely to have been a site of ritual ceremonial; the people wore amber beads, and left behind the bones of pig and red deer, crane and duck. A round house has also been discovered, 11.5 feet in diameter (3.5 metres), that has been dated to approximately 9000 BC; it was constructed of eighteen upright wooden posts, with a thick layer of moss and reeds to furnish a sleeping area.

Its inhabitants used barbed antler points, flint knives and scrapers; they started fires by means of iron pyrite. The house itself seems to have possessed a hearth. They used canoes to travel over the lake; one paddle has been found, but no craft is now visible. It has disintegrated through time. But there are survivals. At this site, known as Star Carr, were discovered twenty-one fragments of deer skull, some of them still with antlers. Were they a form of disguise for hunting? More likely, they were part of a shamanistic covering to enter the spirit of the deer. It might have been an early form of morris dancing, except that the numinous has now become simply quaint.

The Mesolithic English lived in settlements such as that found at Thatcham in Berkshire; the modern town itself is in fact the latest version of human community on the same site. Some atavistic impulse keeps habitations in the same place. 10,000 years ago the people lived on the shore of a lake. Burnt bones, burnt hazelnuts and patches of charcoal used for fires, were found; here, in other words, was all the panoply of daily domestic life. Cleared spaces represented the floors of small huts. The first English house was made of flexible saplings, bent over and covered with hides. It measured approximately 20 feet by 16 feet (6 metres by 4.8 metres).

Hundreds of other such settlements existed, many of them in coastal regions that now lie upon the seabed. The coasts were once between 70 and 100 feet (between 21 and 30 metres) higher than their present level and, as the seas rose, so the settlements were lost in the deluge. We may never know very much more about the Mesolithic English because their remains are beneath the waves. One submerged village came to light when some divers peered into a burrow made by a wandering lobster off the Isle of Wight; the crustacean was flinging out pieces of worked flint. A settlement of craftsmen and manufacturers, as well as hunters and fishermen, was then revealed. A wooden pole, with a flint knife embedded in it, was rescued from the waters. A canoe was found, carved from a log. The remains of structures like houses could clearly be seen. They were workers in wood as well as in stone. This is part of the lost English world under water.

The water rose so much that, after the melting of the ice sheets of the glacial era, it encircled what had become the archipelago of England, Scotland and Wales. 8,000 years ago, the marshes and forests of the plain lying between England and continental Europe were obliterated by the southern North Sea. It may not have come as a tidal wave, although earthquakes can precipitate great masses of water. It is more likely to have happened gradually, over 2,000 years, as the land slowly became swamp and then lake. In earlier ages of the earth, two catastrophic floods had already created the Channel between England and France. With the influx of new waters the archipelago (we may call it an island for the sake of lucidity) was formed; 60 per cent of the land surface became what is now the land of England.

The land then becomes the object of topographical enquiry. Where, for example, is the exact centre of England? It is marked by a stone cross at the village of Meriden in Warwickshire; the consonance of Meriden with meridian or middle of the day is striking, and that may indeed have been reason enough for a cross to be raised there. In fact the true centre of the country is to be found on Lindley Hall Farm in Leicestershire. The property was recently owned by a couple with the surname of Farmer.

The effects of this novel insularity eventually became evident in the tools which were fashioned in England. They became smaller than those shaped on the continent, and certain types of microlith were in fact unique to this country. Yet the island was no less inviting to the travellers who came across the waters in boats manufactured of wood or of osier covered with stitched skins. They came from north-western Europe, proving that the Anglo-Saxon and Viking ‘invasions’ were the continuations of an ancient process.

They also came from the Atlantic coasts of Spain and south-western France, but that migration was not a recent phenomenon. The Atlantic travellers had been colonizing the south-western parts of England throughout the Mesolithic period, so that by the time of the formation of the island a flourishing and distinctive civilization existed in the western parts of the country. The travellers from Spain also settled in Ireland; hence the relationship between ‘Iberia’ and ‘Hibernia’. The Iron Age tribe of the Silures, established in South Wales, always believed that their ancestors had come from Spain in some distant past; Tacitus noted that these tribal people had dark complexions and curly hair. These are the people known later as ‘Celts’.

So differences between the English regions already existed 8,000 years ago. The flint tools of England, for example, have been divided into five separate and distinct categories. The artefacts of the south-west had a different appearance to those of the south-east, encouraging trade between the two areas. Individual cultures were being created that reinforced geographical and geological identities. There is bound to be a difference, in any case, between those cultures established upon chalk and limestone and those built upon granite.

 
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