British history is traditionally regarded as having started with the Roman Conquest. But this is to ignore half a million years of prehistory that still exert a profound influence. Here Francis Pryor examines the great ceremonial landscapes of Ancient Britain and Ireland – Stonehenge, Seahenge, Avebury and the Bend of the Boyne – as well as the discarded artefacts of day-to-day life, to create an astonishing portrait of our ancestors.
This major re-revaluation of pre-Roman Britain, made possible in part by aerial photography and coastal erosion, reveals a much more sophisticated life in Ancient Britain and Ireland than has previously been supposed.
This edition does not include illustrations.
Francis Pryor's search for the origins of our island story has been the quest of a lifetime. In Home, the Time Team expert explores the first nine thousand years of life in Britain, from the retreat of the glaciers to the Romans' departure. Tracing the settlement of domestic communities, he shows how archaeology enables us to reconstruct the evolution of habits, traditions and customs. But this, too, is Francis Pryor's own story: of his passion for unearthing our past, from Yorkshire to the west country, Lincolnshire to Wales, digging in freezing winters, arid summers, mud and hurricanes, through frustrated journeys and euphoric discoveries. Evocative and intimate, Home shows how, in going about their daily existence, our prehistoric ancestors created the institution that remains at the heart of the way we live now: the family.
'Under his gaze, the land starts to fill with tribes and clans wandering this way and that, leaving traces that can still be seen today . . . Pryor feels the land rather than simply knowing it' - Guardian
Former president of the Council for British Archaeology, Dr Francis Pryor has spent over thirty years studying our prehistory. He has excavated sites as diverse as Bronze Age farms, field systems and entire Iron Age villages. He appears frequently on TV's Time Team and is the author of The Making of the British Landscape, Seahenge, as well as Britain BC and Britain AD, both of which he adapted and presented as Channel 4 series.
The legend of King Arthur and Camelot is one of the most enduring in Britain's history, spanning centuries and surviving invasions by Angles, Vikings and Normans. In his latest book Francis Pryor – one of Britain’s most celebrated archaeologists and author of the acclaimed ‘Britain B.C.’ and ‘Seahenge’ – traces the story of Arthur back to its ancient origins. Putting forth the compelling idea that most of the key elements of the Arthurian legends are deeply rooted in Bronze and Iron Ages (the sword Excalibur, the Lady of the Lake, the Sword in the Stone and so on), Pryor argues that the legends' survival mirrors a flourishing, indigenous culture that endured through the Roman occupation of Britain, and the subsequent invasions of the so-called Dark Ages.
As in ‘Britain B.C.’, Pryor roots his story in the very landscape, from Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, to South Cadbury Castle in Somerset and Tintagel in Cornwall. He traces the story back to the 5th-century King Arthur and beyond, all the time testing his ideas with archaeological evidence, and showing how the story was manipulated through the ages for various historical and literary purposes, by Geoffrey of Monmouth and Malory, among others.
Delving into history, literary sources – ancient, medieval and romantic – and archaeological research, Francis Pryor creates an original, lively and illuminating account of this most British of legends.
One of the most haunting and enigmatic archaeological discoveries of recent times was the uncovering in 1998 at low tide of the so-called Seahenge off the north coast of Norfolk. This circle of wooden planks set vertically in the sand, with a large inverted tree-trunk in the middle, likened to a ghostly ‘hand reaching up from the underworld’, has now been dated back to around 2020 BC. The timbers are currently (and controversially) in the author’s safekeeping at Flag Fen.
Francis Pryor and his wife (an expert in ancient wood-working and analysis) have been at the centre of Bronze Age fieldwork for nearly 30 years, piecing together the way of life of Bronze Age people, their settlement of the landscape, their religion and rituals. The famous wetland sites of the East Anglian Fens have preserved ten times the information of their dryland counterparts like Stonehenge and Avebury, in the form of pollen, leaves, wood, hair, skin and fibre found ‘pickled’ in mud and peat.
Seahenge demonstrates how much Western civilisation owes to the prehistoric societies that existed in Europe in the last four millennia BC.
As he did in ‘Britain B.C.’ and ‘Britain A.D.’, eminent archaeologist Francis Pryor challenges familiar historical views of the Middle Ages by examining fresh evidence from the ground.
The term 'Middle Ages' suggests a time between two other ages: a period when nothing much happened. In his radical reassessment, Francis Pryor shows that this is incorrect and that the Middle Ages were actually the time when the modern world was born. This was when Britain moved from Late Antiquity into a world we can recognize: roads and parishes became fixed; familiar institutions, such as the church and local government, came into being; industry became truly industrial; and international trade was now a routine process.
Archaeology shows that the Middle Ages were far from static. Based on everyday evidence, Pryor demonstrates that the British agricultural and industrial revolutions had their roots in this era – as did the explosion of British maritime power in the late 1700s. It stresses the strength of development at the expense of 'revolution' and the profound effect the Black Death had on loosening the grip of the feudal system.
The Middle Ages can now be seen in a fresh light as an era of great inventiveness as the author examines such topics as 'upward mobility'; the power of the Church; the role of the Guilds as precursors of trade unions; and the importance of transport infrastructure such as roads, bridges and shipbuilders.
The relevance of archaeology to the study of the ancient world is indisputable. But, when exploring our recent past, does it have any role to play? In ‘The Birth of Modern Britain’ Francis Pryor highlights archaeology’s continued importance to the world around us.
The pioneers of the Industrial Revolution were too busy innovating to record what was happening around them but fortunately the buildings and machines they left behind bring the period to life. During the Second World War, the imminent threat of invasion meant that constructing strong defences was much more important than keeping precise records. As a result, when towns were flattened, archaeology provided the only real means of discovering what had been destroyed.
Surveying the whole post-medieval period, from 1550 until the present day, Francis Pryor takes us on an exhilarating journey, bringing to a gripping conclusion his illuminating study of Britain’s hidden past.
'Francis Pryor brings the magic of the Fens to life in a deeply personal and utterly enthralling way' TONY ROBINSON.
'Pryor feels the land rather than simply knowing it' GUARDIAN.
Inland from the Wash, on England's eastern cost, crisscrossed by substantial rivers and punctuated by soaring church spires, are the low-lying, marshy and mysterious Fens. Formed by marine and freshwater flooding, and historically wealthy owing to the fertility of their soils, the Fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire are one of the most distinctive, neglected and extraordinary regions of England.
Francis Pryor has the most intimate of connections with this landscape. For some forty years he has dug its soils as a working archaeologist – making ground-breaking discoveries about the nature of prehistoric settlement in the area – and raising sheep in the flower-growing country between Spalding and Wisbech. In The Fens, he counterpoints the history of the Fenland landscape and its transformation – from Bronze age field systems to Iron Age hillforts; from the rise of prosperous towns such as King's Lynn, Ely and Cambridge to the ambitious drainage projects that created the Old and New Bedford Rivers – with the story of his own discovery of it as an archaeologist.
Affectionate, richly informative and deftly executed, The Fens weaves together strands of archaeology, history and personal experience into a satisfying narrative portrait of a complex and threatened landscape.
Like others on the circuit, Alan Cadbury is obsessive: he won't let problems lie, even when he's slumped drunk in a lonely bedsit, somewhere in the Fens. But there's another side to him, too: in the late 90s he helped to give a forensic archaeology course and there met Richard Lane, now a senior detective in the Leicestershire force. DCI Lane helps him tackle new cases. But this is his first big one: an 'honour killing', perpetrated eight years ago in Leicester.
It's a dark tale of past wrongdoing and modern criminality. And it's not without violence. Alan's life may be harsh and at times unpleasant, but it's not likely to be very long, either. Oh yes, archaeology can be a very dirty business...