Prehistoric Britain

by Timothy Darvill

Paper Book, 1987



Call number

GN805 .D25 1987


New Haven : Yale University Press, 1987.


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 Britain begins 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 Britain ensure that this will continue to be the most comprehensive and authoritative account of British prehistory for those students and interested readers studying the subject.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member alaudacorax
This is an encyclopedic account of Britain’s archaeology (mainland Britain – there’s very little mention of Ireland) from the earliest human arrivals to the Roman invasion. As such, I imagine this is an useful reference work for the professional or amateur archaeologist.

However, Darvill
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rarely speculates beyond the facts and description; there are no easy-to-follow stories and neat conclusions, so it was heavy going for the interested lay person like myself. Having said that, it turned out to be well-worth persevering, as I gradually found myself getting enthralling glimpses into remote and unimagined worlds.

Rather sobering is the difference between what is known now and what I was taught so long ago at school. Apart from the whole subject being much more complex than I’d thought, clearly some of these long-ago cultures were more complex and ‘advanced’ than I’d thought, too.

The reader is left with as many questions as answers – that, of course, is exactly what the archaeology gives us – it’s frustrating to be given so much while, at the same time, more and more realising how little we know of these remote ancestors. It’s a fascinating book, though. I shall certainly read it through again – it’s a lot to grasp at one reading. I shall certainly be consulting it on a regular basis, too.
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Physical description

223 p.; 26 cm


0300039514 / 9780300039511



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