INTRODUCTION TO THE BRITISH ISLES PREHISTORY ARCHIVE
The British Isles Prehistory Archive
presents a rich array of monuments
, art and tools found throughout the British Isles.
The island was first inhabited by people who crossed over the land bridge from the European mainland. Traces of modern humans - Homo sapiens
- date from about 30,000 years ago. Until about 10,000 years ago, Great Britain was joined to Ireland, and as recently as 8,000 years ago it was joined to the continent by a strip of low marsh to what is now Denmark and the Netherlands. Great Britain became an island at the end of the Pleistocene ice age when sea levels rose due to isostatic depression of the crust and the melting of glaciers.
The Upper Palaeolithic is divided into 3 periods; Early Upper Palaeolithic, before the main glacial period, Middle Upper Palaeolithic, the main glacial period, and Late Upper Palaeolithic, after the main glacial period.
Burial site of the Red Lady of Paviland
In the Late Upper Palaeolithic, around 30,000 BC, the Aurignacian industry marks the first signs of modern human activity. The burial site of the Red Lady of Paviland
on [present day] coastal South Wales is one of the best examples.
Colonisation of the British Isles was then impeded; from 12,700 to 11,500 years ago the climate became cooler and dryer, in what is known as the Younger Dryas period. Food animal populations seem to have declined, although woodland coverage expanded. Tool manufacture in the Final Upper Palaeolithic revolved around smaller flints, but bone and antler work became less common.
About 10,000 years ago - the Mesolithic - the Ice Age finally ended and the Holocene era began. Temperatures rose, probably to levels similar to those today, and forests expanded further. Between 6,500 and 6,000 BC, Britain was cut off from continental Europe for the last time. Mesolithic Britons became less nomadic, with greater seasonal occupation and permanent occupation, such as the Star Carr site where the building has been dated to approximately 8500 BC.
The Neolithic, around 4,000 to 2,000 BC, saw the development of barrows, cursus monuments, chamber tombs, henges and of course stone circles and individual burials. Stonehenge
, Avebury and Silbury Hill are some of the best examples. Grooved ware pottery, wooden bows and industrial flint mining, such as at Grimes Graves, developed, as well as long distance trade.
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→ The British Isles Prehistory Archive Index
→ Bradshaw Foundation