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Britain BC: Life in Britain and Ireland Before the Romans [Paperback]

Francis Pryor
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Sep 2004

An authoritative and radical rethinking of the history of Ancient Britain and Ancient Ireland, based on remarkable new archaeological finds.

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.

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Britain BC: Life in Britain and Ireland Before the Romans + Britain AD: A Quest for Arthur, England and the Anglo-Saxons + In Search Of The Dark Ages
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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (6 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000712693X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007126934
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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‘Written with pace and passion…immensely readable.’ Tom Holland, Daily Telegraph

‘It bounds along, wonderfully enlivened by Pryor’s earthy enthusiasm. If you want to be introduced painlessly to the fascinating debates surrounding our British past, then “Britain BC” is the book for you.’ Barry Cunliffe, New Scientist

‘Francis Pryor is a modern field archaeologist with a reputation second to none. He has written a book as successful and exciting as its ambition is huge…lucid and engaging.’ Alan Garner, The Times

‘There are enough curious facts, contentious theories and bizarre hypotheses here to hold the interest of anyone concerned with the unique and peculiar story of these islands.’ Independent on Sunday

‘Beautifully written, exciting and extremely good…an essential read.’ British Archaeology

Praise for Francis Pryor’s television series ‘Britain BC’:

‘Fascinating…the evangelical Pryor paints a vivid portrait of pre-Roman society that tackles received wisdom about what was going on here in the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Pryor leaps about the country at a cracking pace, his big personality making sure we never get bored by the scant and rarefied scraps that are his stock-in-trade.’ Observer

From the Inside Flap

Traditionally, British history has been regarded as starting with the Roman Conquest. Yet this is to ignore half a million years of prehistory that still exert a profound influence on British and Irish life today. In Britain BC, Francis Pryor sets the record straight.
Aided in recent years by aerial photography and costal erosion (which has helped expose such sites as Seahenge), and by advances in scientific techniques such as radiocarbon dating and wood analysis, archaeologists have discovered compelling evidence for a much more sophisticated life among the Ancient Britons than has been previously supposed. Far from being woad-painted barbarians, the earliest inhabitants of the British Isles had developed their own religions, laws, crafts, arts, trade systems, farms and priesthood long before the Romans' brief occupation.
Examining sites from the great ceremonial landscapes of Stonehenge, Avebury and the Bend of the Boyne to small domestic settlements, and objects from precious ritual offerings to the tiny fragments of flint discarded by toolmakers, Francis Pryor, one of our leading archaeologists, has created a remarkable portrait of the life of our ancestors, in all its variety and complexity. His authoritative and radical re-examination of Britain and Ireland before the coming of the Romans makes us look afresh at the whole story of our islands. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A big, stimulating book 13 Oct 2010
By Peasant TOP 100 REVIEWER
Though it followed on from a TV series, this is emphatically not the "book of the programme". Frances Pryor is a field archaeologist, whose views have excited some controversy in the academic world. This book, for all its bulk, isn't aimed at archaeology students. Nor is it aimed at the "Time Team" audiences, to whom Pryor's genial ginger figure is by now very familiar. To whom, then, is it aimed?

Despite an easy and at times chatty style, the book covers a huge amount of information and some fairly tricky concepts. I think Pryor has aimed it the well-read amateur, with the intention of getting across his personal reading of our prehistory. Pryor's own work in East Anglia has led him to a view that continuity is far more of a feature of the population of these islands than dislocation; a very different perspective from that of older theories, which tended to see change in terms of invasion and displacement, rather than contact and communication.

"Britain BC" is rarely dry, and at times is a very enjoyable read, even if following the thread takes a lot of concentration. Anyone reading the reviews here will understand that the picture of prehistory Pryor presents is a personal one, and one that many disagree with. Some clearly dislike his style - personally, I enjoyed it. Read it with that in mind, and for balance try some of the other writers on the subject. I can particularly draw your attention to Hengeworld, a book which, for all its faults, is an excellent read.
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97 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Debunking Bad History 26 Jan 2006
By A Customer
Francis Pryor's Britain BC is not a book for those who cling on to old ideas concerning the prehistory and early history of Britain. This is an adventurous book written to bring daring new ideas based on data from archaeological fieldwork. If the old stories of waves of invaders replacing one after an other don't work for you - from Neolithic revolutionaries, to La Tene Celts - if you ever suspected that there was something funamentally wrong with the traditional depictions of the Ancient British past - then read this book!
The author, backed by years of fieldwork experience as a professional archaeologist based in the East of England argues for the case for continuity - that there was no Neolithic Revolution, no invasion of Beaker folk, no mass arrival of continental 'Celts'. Francis Pryor is clearly passionate in his views that modern Britain owes more to prehistoric Britain than is generally accepted. Rome is portrayed as an alien empire that suppressed and stifled the self-identities of a growing and developing prehistoric Britain. Pryor suggests that far from being sparsely populated by painted savages - Late Iron Age Britain, following centuries or even millenia of metal-working, art, monument-building, and agriculture - was thriving and in the process of developing high art forms, tribal federations, trade and cultural links with the Continent, kingdoms, and Oppidi (sprawling ruralised towns) based on age old indigeneous traditions and identities.
Francis Pryor leads you through a series of prehistoric landscapes - the world of the Pre-Anglian Glacial hunters of Boxgrove, hunter-gatherers crossing the Great North Sea Plain, the vast open ritual landscapes of the Neolithic, the diversity of the archaeology of Iron Age Britain and Ireland. An excellent introduction and revision of prehistoric Britain and Ireland.
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82 of 89 people found the following review helpful
By Ian Thumwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Many years ago, I read Alfred Watkin's eccentric account of ancient monuments, the wonderful "The Old Straight Track", but was interested to learn shortly afterwards just how flawed this book was. All of a sudden, alot of the mystery and magic about this era disappeared.
Fortunately, Francis Pryor's excellent book manages to bring back much of this magic combined with sound archeological reasoning. The truth, as we now understand it, is even more remarkable than the theories put forwards by Watkins over eighty years ago. Quite clearly, Pryor has his own agenda (I.e. that many finds are, in fact, ritualistic in origin) but his arguments are very compelling. This is a book that is impossible to put down and this reviewer was left wanting more. As the author clearly states, 500-odd pages are not sufficient to do justice to the missing 99% of the history of the British Isles. In fact, most readers will be amazed just how much has been found and, better still, what can be visited today by those readers with a more enquiring mind.
For me, I particularly enjoyed the early section of the book about the very first humans to live in Britain and Ireland. This is amazing as the author reminds the reader just how different the countryside was then. The size of the population in the country then being little bigger than a large village. There were even different species of human .
I must admit to having a few quibbles. I would have liked to know more about the origin of settlements and the acquisition of intelligence and speech, but appreciate that these are specialist fields.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Real History Lesson
Excellent read ; packed with lots of info. on a period in British history generally overlooked. Made me want to learn more !
Published 5 months ago by Sean Crumpton
3.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to a very long past
The book is written by a passionate archaeologist who fortunately is a consummate communicator. The first half sets out Britain’s prehistory up to the Bronze Age in a racy but... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Joe Palmer
5.0 out of 5 stars perfect for the student
perfect for the student great author very informative anyone studying archaeology will find this book ideal, easy reading for the casual reader (recommended)
Published 6 months ago by LES
5.0 out of 5 stars Britain BC
An interesting book by someone I feel I know well from his appearances on Time Team. It was great to read something by Frances Pryor.
Published 6 months ago by Barbara Lyddiatt
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
A very informative account of Britain's origins, could do with some illustrations though as some of the descriptions were difficult to interpret.
Published 7 months ago by Dominic
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and revealing
I am neither a pre-historian nor archaeologist and I knew nothing about British pre-history before reading this book. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Daniel Owen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Stuff
Great stuff,
This is a wonderful book an I would recommend it to all my friends and relatives two words
Published 8 months ago by TJ MCGINN
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put It Down
The author shows us that what we were told in school was PRE History was the foundation of British culture and character and as true a part of History as any other period.
Published 10 months ago by Olle Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for a novice
I know very little about the history of Britain prior to the Romans. A visit to several stone circles across the UK prompted me to look around for some books that would educate me... Read more
Published 12 months ago by C. Crawford
4.0 out of 5 stars Life before the Romans.
All you need to know about the so called Vikings,and the many ages before them.Prehistory at its best and very informative.
Published 12 months ago by Heather Keen
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