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Sunday, 9 June 2013

Ancient Britons

At the end of the last Ice Age, Britain had a cave-dwelling population of Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, whose culture was called Creswellian, after Creswell Crags, Derbyshire, where remains of flint tools were found. Throughout prehistory successive waves of migrants from continental Europe accelerated or introduced cultural innovations.

A peak was reached in Neolithic society in southern England early in the 2nd millennium BC, with the construction of the great stone circles of Avebury and Stonehenge. 

The famous stone circle in Avebury, Wiltshire, was erected between 2600 and 2400BC, taking an estimated 1.5 million man-hours to complete.

Europe's largest stone circle (diameter 412 m/1,350 ft), this megalithic henge monument is thought to have been part of a ritual complex, and contains 650 massive blocks of stone arranged in circles and avenues.

These Neolithic Britons were succeeded in central southern Britain by the Early Bronze Age Wessex culture, with strong trade links across Europe. The Beaker people probably introduced copper working to the British Isles. The aristocratic society of the Bronze Age Wessex culture of southern England is characterized by its circular burial mounds (round barrows); the dead were either buried or cremated, and cremated remains were placed in pottery urns.

Later invaders were the Celts, a warrior aristocracy with an Iron Age technology; they introduced horse-drawn chariots, had their own distinctive art forms, and occupied fortified hilltops

The Ancient Britons responded selectively to Roman influence even before the Roman occupation. For instance the nobles of the tribes of South East Britain acquired a taste for wine through the import of the drink from the Mediterranean area.

Apart from this newly available but expensive wine and mead, many Britons relished cider, an excessively strongly alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of apples.

The Belgae (of mixed Germanic and Celtic stock) were partially Romanized in the century between the first Roman invasion of Britain under Julius Caesar (54 BC) and the Roman conquest (AD 43). They were responsible for the earliest British sites large and complex enough to be called towns; settled in southern Britain, the Belgae resisted the Romans from centres such as Maiden Castle, Dorset.

The native lower class Briton saw little change in his diet after the Roman occupation. The normal insubstantial, dull meals were bean or pea pottage cooked on an open-hearth fire, in confined conditions, with flat bread made from course grain flour. Dental damage begins early in life largely the result of a coarse and insufficient diet.

Sources Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2013. Helicon Publishing is division of RM, 
Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles Of The World by Ed Pearce

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