The Advent of Agriculture in Britain: The Archeological Evidence

The World of Stonehenge – Part 2 the Age of Ancestors

BBC (2018)

Film Review

The Age of Ancestors is about the advent of the agricultural revolution (aka the Neolithic Age) to Britain. The Neolithic began spreading across Europe around 5,000 BC and covered the continent by 4,500 BC. It took several hundreds years for neolithic technology to cross the English Channel to Britain and Ireland.

The best evidence of evidence of this transformation is preserved under peat bogs in western Ireland. It includes an elaborate network of stone walls from 3,500 BC. They were most likely used to separate cows from bulls and calves, suggesting that dairy herding was extensive. There are also pottery containers and hand millstones from the same period. Pollen evidence suggests our neolithic ancestors were growing wheat, oats and barley. There is also evidence, from skeletal remains, of violent conflict, presumably over land claims.

Other archeological evidence suggests that isolated pockets of forest needed to be cleared to create grain fields and pasture. However hunter gatherer groups persisted in remaining forest areas. Skeletal evidence indicates that hunter gatherers were much healthier on a diet of fish and red deer, than farming families relying on a diet of dairy products and grains.

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