by Ben Johnson
In Britain’s history the period 4000BC – 43AD is referred to as Prehistory, as there are no written records covering these times. The information available has been pieced together like a jigsaw from archaeological finds. Like a real jigsaw, pieces are sometimes incorrectly placed or are missing altogether, which results in a constantly changing tapestry of bygone times.
The first people to arrive in Britain were hunter-gatherers who arrived from mainland Europe around 8,000 BC. As the name suggests these first Britons lived off the wealth of the land including the native elk, wild cattle and pigs, whilst presumably attempting to avoid the bears and wolves which also roamed the heavily wooded interior.
It was not until about 4000 BC that a party of ‘young farmers’ arrived from southern Europe bringing with them perhaps the first phase in man-made environmental disasters. The ancient practise of deforestation was instigated as trees, woods and forests were cleared to create land to accommodate domesticated plants and animals. These ‘young farmers’ proved to be so effective at genetically modified breeding (crops and livestock) that the population of Britain rocketed to approximately one million by 1400 BC.
Following the ‘young farmers’ other visitors from Europe came – Belgae, Celts and Gauls arrived starting the trend for the multi-cultural Britain of today. In particular it is the arrival of the Celts in Britain that provokes thoughts of a period of time shrouded in mystery and myth. The artistic style of these Iron Age people, twisting and bending animal, plant and human forms, are common across Europe.
The Shaman or priests of the Celts known as Druids proved an irritant to the Romans when they arrived in 43 AD – today Druids still welcome the summer solstice each year at Stonehenge.
This brief review has condensed the past several thousand years to just a few sentences. Historians have tended to further segregate these times based upon the materials of manufacture of the people’s favourite hunting or fighting implements, namely:
|c. 4000 – 2000 BC||Neolithic (New Stone) Age|
|c. 2000 – 750 BC||Bronze Age|
|c. 750 BC – 43 AD||Iron Age|