Do you want to know the History of Great Britain? Let us start with the pre-Celtic Period
Hundreds of years, a thousand of years and even farther back there were people living in the land which is now called Britain. What happened to them we can only fancy. The historians and archeologists try to piece together the story of those days by looking carefully at the relics that have come down to us from them through more than two thousand centuries.
The History of Great Britain. The Pre-Celtic Period. Part 1
Let us go back through ages of the unknown length to seek them. We find ourselves in the century that we mark B.C. These letters mean Before Christ. If you ask how many centuries there were before Christ, no one can tell you. We live in the century called A.D. These letters mean Anno Domini, the year of the Lord; we count our years, as they pass, from the date of the birth of Christ.
1. Stone Age
So, the history of Britain started before Christ. In those times there were neither the English Channel nor the Irish Sea and the wild animals as well as wild men could roam where they pleased. You can judge of the size and the strength of the wild animals if you go to the Natural History Museum in London: huge wooly mammoths, tigers, bears, lions, reindeer left their bones in the ground. Also in the ground archeologists found the roughly chipped stone tools, which dropped from the hands of the men who made and used them.
According to the historical research, these first inhabitants of the British Isles probably came from the Continent, which was joined to Britain with a strip of land. Then the British Isles were not isles but part of the continent now called Europe.
So, the first inhabitants of the British Isles were nomadic Stone Age hunters. They lived in the dry caves of limestone and chalk cliffs, and as there were impassable woods all around, they could rely only on themselves and on what the nature could offer. So, they lived by hunting, fishing and gathering wild plants.
After a while ancient people learnt how to cultivate land. They settled on Salisbury plain and became first farmers. The poor rough tools, shaped like a pear, were found in the gravel beds of old rivers and now you can see them in the Prehistoric Room of the British Museum.
It was harpoons to catch fish, arrow-heads to shoot birds, bone needles to sew skins together as well as sharp pear-shaped weapons for defense and for hunting. The cave men left behind their drawings and carvings of the animals they saw: the mammoth crashed, the reindeer fighting, the oxen feeding. Many specimens of these earliest drawings are found in the caves of England and France.
Later the newcomers from the Mediterranean lands started to follow the trail probably from the Iberian Peninsula to the Scandinavia. They merged with the cave dwellers and became the first farmers — herders of sheep and cattle and growers of wheat and barley. Their culture was also based on the use of stone and the tools were stone spades and mattocks.
The long and round grave-mounds, called barrows, still to be seen in many parts of the country are believed to belong to the people of these times.
Some time passed and at last the ground sank in some places and rose in others, the sea formed what is now called the North Sea, the English Channel, the Irish Sea and the Thames. After that men had to reach the country from over the sea, but in spite of this many tribes followed each other.
2. Bronze Age
About 2400 B.C. came other newcomers from the Mediterranean lands. These people settled on the chalk hills of Cotswold, the Dorset Downs and Sussex region. They were small, dark, long-headed people and their civilization was far more advanced as shows the splendor of their burial arrangements.
The skeletons and burnt bones, together with cups and vessels were found in these barrows. These contents of British barrows you can also find in the British museum. Sometimes a little child had a whole barrow to itself, sometimes many people were buried together. There were found the ornaments, brooches, necklaces as well as the tools of bronze. Lumps of copper and tin, of which the bronze is made, often lie side by side.
In about 1700 B.C. other newcomers came from the Continent. They settled in the east, south-east and up the Thames Valley and are known as «Beaker People» for the special relic of their period, a drinking vessel – «beaker». They were stumpy and strong, and knew how to deal with bronze as archaeologists found metal tools and weapons of their time.
These people probably merged with the first inhabitants and built some more of Stonehenge, namely, huge stone circles which served as gigantic calendars, helping the people to calculate seed-time and harvest-time by the position of the sun and the moon. Perhaps the great stones set up at Stonehenge were used by them as a sun temple.
The far-off times of the settlers were very dark. They have left us no names and no writings.
The well-known majestic monument Stonehenge dates back to this pre-Celtic period and is connected with these civilizations, which probably constructed it.
- М.С. Зимина, С.Б. Катенин «История Англии с древнейших времен до IV века» при участии Дж. Поллок (Великобритания), 2000, ISBN 5-7931-0133-0
- В.С. Кузнецова «England. History, Geography, Culture» (учебник для вузов), 1976