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A Fairweather Eden: Life in Britain Half a Million Years Ago as Revealed by the Excavations at Boxgrove Paperback – 1 Oct 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd; New edition edition (1 Oct. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099644916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099644910
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 239,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mike Pitts is a writer and broadcaster who started out as a professional archaeologist and museum curator, directing excavations at Stonehenge and elsewhere. He has written for the Times, Telegraph, Sunday Times, Guardian, New Scientist, BBC History Magazine and other papers and magazines, and continues to conduct original archaeological research which is published in peer-reviewed journals. He enjoys photography and travelling (having spent some years in Asia, Canada and the Pacific, Madagascar and elsewhere), and helped to open and run a groundbreaking vegetarian restaurant at the World Heritage Site of Avebury in southern England. He is editor of the Council for British Archaeology's magazine, British Archaeology.

Product Description

From the Author

They said it, not me!
‘An outstanding book’ Lewis Wolpert, Mail on Sunday (Non-fiction choice of the week)

‘An absorbing, charming, clever book’ Matt Ridley, Sunday Telegraph

‘A beautiful book, superbly written’ Stephen Aldhouse-Green, Journal of Archaeological Science

‘In setting a dynamic site in the context of a dynamic subject ... this book scores a big hit’ John McNabb, Antiquity

‘Highly readable and enjoyable ... a fascinating book’ Paul Bahn, New Scientist


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Oct. 2001
Fairweather Eden tracks the rise to fame of one of the earliest archaeological sites in the UK. Boxgrove attracted much media attention when it transpired that the site yielded beautifully preserved flint handaxes and, possibly more exciting to the lay-person, the oldest hominid bones in Britain.
Not only does this book delve into the historical aspects of archaeological research and discovery, it illustrates on a personal level, the need for a love of the subject and a willingness to succeed in the face of hardship. Fairweather Eden is not only an interesting, informative and intelligent read, it is a passionate reconstruction of one man's desire to achieve.
A great inspiration to us all!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 16 Sept. 2005
Format: Paperback
What a career as a journalist Pitts might have had! The superb "people skills" and vivid descriptive powers expressed in this book make it a very "human" read. Pitts, however, is an archaeologist, bringing a strong scientific background to an account of a prehistoric dig and what it brought to view. As the evidence mounted of ancient hominids living along the Sussex coast, it became clear that Boxgrove revealed an unprecedented age for European habitation. Boxgrove, as this book makes graphically clear, will become the standard against which older archeology will be judged and future finds compared.
It is difficult to distinguish the respective contributions made by each author in this book. Mark Roberts, a young archeologist at the beginning of the excavations who became the Director of the site, is a dedicated digger. He managed logistics, personnel, site management and analysed the results. It is likely that he provided significant portions of the scientific background for the account. The story is simply one of persistence in using evidence to gain support for extending operations when funding seemed threatened. Those extensions continued to reveal an assemblage of fossils, tools, and other signs of human activity. All from half a million years ago.
With the authors contributing background material on climate conditions, glaciation and sea levels, soil content and the new science of geomagnetism, we're given a detailed picture of the world surrounding those ancient people. What impact did that environment have on their lives? What does the evidence suggest about how they coped with what nature imposed on them? Did they hunt, or scavenge? Was meat a mainstay or a "side dish" in their diet?
Read more ›
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By Brendaannc on 16 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase
Loved it, one of the rare books I read more than once. Michael made it real. Really helped me to understand Boxgrove
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 29 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book gives a detailed history of the Box grove dig, the finds and the change in understanding of when early man arrived in Northern Europe. It could have done with showing more pictures of flint hand axes and perhaps more detailed plans of the dig site and trenches. One disadvantage of the Kindle edition is that the diagrams could not be enlarged along with the font size. This book will appeal to all those interested in archaeology and the lithics. Wholly recommended nevertheless.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Thinking flaky 14 April 2003
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
What a career as a journalist Pitts might have had. The superb "people skills" and vivid descriptive powers expressed in this book make it a very "human." Pitts, however, is an archaeologist, bringing a strong scientific background to an account of a prehistoric dig and what it brought to view. As the evidence mounted of ancient hominids living along the Sussex coast, it became clear that Boxgrove revealed an unprecedented age for European habitation. Boxgrove, as this book makes graphically clear, will become the standard against which older archeology will be judged and future finds compared.
It is difficult to distinguish the respective contributions made by each author in this book. Mark Roberts, a young archeologist at the beginning of the excavations who became the Director of the site, is a dedicated digger. He managed logistics, personnel, site management and analysed the results. It is likely that he provided significant portions of the scientific background for the account. The story is simply one of persistence in using evidence to gain support for extending operations when funding seemed threatened. Those extensions continued to reveal an assemblage of fossils, tools, and other signs of human activity. All from half a million years ago.
With the authors contributing background material on climate conditions, glaciation and sea levels, soil content and the new science of geomagnetism, we're given a detailed picture of the world surrounding those ancient people. What impact did that environment have on their lives? What does the evidence suggest about how they coped with what nature imposed on them? Did they hunt, or scavenge? Was meat a mainstay or a "side dish" in their diet?
This book makes a major leap of interpretation in formulating what sort of people existed those millennia ago. With help from many sources, the authors build a picture of a sophisticated creature. Boxgrove produced a wealth of flint tools and flakes, some the researchers were able to reconstruct into the original stones. The evidence, they assert, suggests a creature with strong intelligence, capable of in-depth analysis in selected topics. The most important consideration was in hunting and creating the tools to make the hunt a success. Knapping flakes from flint is "more than banging a couple of rocks together" - requires the ability to foresee several steps in advance - "like a game of chess." The tools meant ready access to meat - and meat is necessary for increased brain power. Far from a raw savage, Boxgrove's revelations image our ancestor a capable creature. From this interpretation, it's clear older finds must be reassessed. New discoveries will need to draw on the same interdisciplinary teamwork Roberts was able to assemble.
Fairweather Eden is a wealth of information, both historic and current. Much background material is provided, interspersing the descriptions of participants in the finds and subsequent analysis. One individual actually strips down a carcass with the provided flint tools. Beyond the text is an array of diagrams and photographs depicting the information. If this book has a shortcoming, it's the use of notes' sources in lieu of a bibliography. That hardly detracts from its worth, however. The amount and quality of work Pitts and Roberts have put into this study will keep it useful for a long time. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Most interesting 9 Sept. 2013
By Mark P. Chaffin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a compelling read which brought the world of archeology to light. Clearly written and highly informative in its presentation.
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