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ABOUT THIS ANCIENT STONES WEB SITE

This site aims to show something of the monuments left to us in Britain by our Neolithic and Bronze-Age forebears. However, the content is not restricted to this and you will find a few other items, such as Chichen-Itza in Mexico, here, too. All places shown are those I have visited - it's not a huge number - and so the content reflects my personal interests; as I get time I will add others. I have tried to give an indication about accessibility for disabled folk as part of each monument's guide. I make no claims to this being an academic site or to particularly rigorous checking of details, so there may be some (hopefully only) minor errors here and there. I hope that you enjoy looking through here.

INTRODUCTION TO ANCIENT & PREHISTORY

Mull Circle, Isle of MannThe beginnings of mankind is a remarkable story, from hunter gatherer in the Palaeolithic era, through Mesolithic, Neolithic, bronze and iron ages leading to where we are now. Like present and historical times, prehistory is a story of learning, hard work, collaboration for the common good and war, pain, misery and happiness. It is a story of power, prestige, wealth and poverty, of taming the wild, of great technical advancement and destruction. (If only we knew the stories ...)

The first settled time is called the Neolithic where some of the earliest remains are Causewayed Enclosures. These are large structures serving a communal purpose characterised by a maze-like layout with deep ditches. Later came the henges and stone circles and stone rows with which we are generally more familiar. Stones are enduring and many smaller structures will have vanished forever without even leaving a trace. Although archaeological finds can tell us something about what the people used, it is of limited use on things like culture and belief-systems and we interpret the finds, often adding our own experience in. (A Victorian archaeologist would likely have a very different outlook to most modern ones). It is certain that prehistoric times were not some kind of golden-age for mankind and that life was tough and probably unforgiving.

Silbury Hill

The term prehistory is a bit vague, relating as it does to the lack of the written word. Literate societies, where evidence exists, become historic, that history, naturally, being written by the winners and their supporters! Roughly, for the UK, the table below shows the approximate ages. BC is taken as the beginning of the common calendar.

Owing to Britain's isolation following the rising sea levels after that last ice-age ended, things developed more slowly here than in mainland Europe and we remained hunter-gatherers while farming took hold in, and spread from, the Middle East - as long ago as 9,000 BC. It literally took thousands of years to pass before farming entered here; the techniques must have nicely mature and proven by this time.

I am in the process of converting dates on this site to calibrated radiocarbon values from uncalibrated types. When finished, calibrated radiocarbon dates will be in uppercase (e.g. 2,500 BC) rather than uncalibrated dates (e.g. 2,000 bc). This is not an exact science and it would not be wise to use my values as references as I do not update them regularly. There are several different calibration curves and the table below is just a rough guide; note that chronological dates are older than radiocarbon dates. At present there may be an eclectic mix here.

Name Section Time (bc/ad) Time (BC/AD)  
Palaeolithic  Lower 1,000,000 to 100,000 Add 1,000
Palaeolithic Middle 100,000 to 30,000 Add 1,000
Palaeolithic Upper 30,000 to 9,500 31,000 -10,500 Britain apparently abandoned to ice circa 25,000 BC, occupation returning about 15,000 BC. Last ice left Britain about 9,500BC
Mesolithic Early 9,500 to 6,000 10,500 - 7,000 At about 7,500 BC Britain became an island. After this development here continued much slower than in Europe of the near east
Mesolithic Late 6,000 to 3,500 7,000 - 4,300
Neolithic Early 3,500 to 2,900 4,300 - 3,650

The bronze-age Rillaton Cup

Neolithic Middle 2,900 to 2,500 3,650 - 3,100
Neolithic Late 2,500 to 2,100 3,100 - 2,600
Bronze Early 2,100 to 1,600 2,600 - 1,850
Bronze Middle 1,600 to 950 1,850 - 1,100
Bronze Late 950 to 600 1100 - 780
Iron Early 600 to 300 780 - 370/270 Dating for 500bc and less is very uncertain. Fortunately there are historical dates from links with the Mediterranean to indicate these newer dates.
Iron Middle 300 to 100 From 370 - 80 (or 270 - 100)
Iron Late 100 to 43AD Historical era
Roman 43 to 430AD
Mitchell's Fold in Shropshire

As can be seen, the Palaeolithic era lasted for a long, long time during which nothing much changed. During the Mesolithic era, following the ending of the last ice-age, things started to move a bit.

During the Upper Palaeolithic era the sea levels rose, separating Britain from Europe during what is called the Mesolithic era (in fact rather defining it). As such, Britain was for a long time relatively isolated from the changes occurring in those warmer places so farming came here somewhat late. 

The advent of farming in the Neolithic was a major revolution and things sped up rapidly thereon, giving rise to structured societies and the time and impetus to create permanent structures, the remains of which we can see today.

There is plenty of reading for ancient monuments and particularly for stone circles. Aubrey Burl has written many good texts - factual and the result of much personal investigation - such as "A Guide to to Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany" which I have used for some of the information in this site.

 

James Dyer's Ancient Britain (Routledge) and Timothy Darvill's Prehistoric Britain (Routledge too) provide good introductory reading of Great Britain's prehistoric past.

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Last Updated: 17 October 2008