A History of Ancient Britain

Ness of Brodgar

The Ness of Brodgar, Orkney Islands

I recently watched ‘A History of Ancient Britain’, an excellent BBC series by Neil Oliver about the settlement of Britain from its earliest time around 12’000 BC up to the bronze age. At times it focuses rather a lot on the presenter, but you get to see places and items that you would not ordinarily have access to. He travels all over the British Isles and some of the scenery and objects that he gets to handle are absolutely stunning.

The series starts on a beach in South Wales, where archaeologists found the footprints of a band of hunter-gatherers, men, women and children, that crossed the mud flats there 8000 years ago. It’s very poignant to see these usually so fleeting traces preserved when the people who made them are long gone. YouTube has a preview of this episode.

From a writer’s perspective, what also interested me were his interviews with people recreating ancient foods or fighting methods. It’s quite hands-on and he doesn’t hold back with trying out stuff himself, whether it’s grinding flour in a hand quern, smelting copper or sticking arrows in a dead pig!

There are four episodes altogether:
– age of ice
– age of ancestors
– age of cosmology
– age of bronze

And there’s also a follow-on series from the bronze age up to the Romans called ‘A History of Ancient Britain: Celtic Britain’. All in all, I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it to anybody interested in prehistory and how people used to live.

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