This is a rather good book about prehistory – written by one of the more publicly well-known archaeologists. I think that Francis Pryor writes in a way that is aimed at the interested general public, rather than any form of specialist – and this means that this book – and a number of his others – is pretty much accessible to anybody.
In this book Pryor gets to write about two of his favourite things – prehistoric ritual sites in (mainly) the UK and himself. This is not meant to be as snide as it probably seems, but the narrative structure of the book relies as much on the development of Pryor’s career as it does on the passing of time in pre-history.
If you don’t mind the inclusion of the ‘then I went to work in Canada’ and the ‘while I was washing the dishing, I realised that……’ sections of the book, it does read as a good introduction to prehistoric ritual sites within the UK.
Which brings me to the biggest single issue – despite the name of the book this is NOT a book about the ‘Seahenge’ ritual site. While this site is included in the book, it occurs near the end, and it no more detail than some other sites. If the book used its sun-heading ‘a quest for life and death in Bronze Age Britain’ as its main title, this would be a more accurate description of the books content.
I do recommend this book as it seems to be a decent, wide ranging account, of a number of significant British Bronze Ages site – but it does not do what it says on the label.
For a more detailed account of Seahenge, you may have to look elsewhere.
An OUTSTANDING attempt to enter the minds of our Neolithic and Bronze Age ancestors. Francis Pryor (yes of Time Team 'fame') attempts, & I believe succeeds in stretching the evidence as far as it will go, without gilding the Lilly. I am interested in where we were then to work out how we arrived here now. Historically it's hard, perhaps impossible to find the beginning of the thread that led to now - though it is clearly the end of the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago; finding something useful though... So, pick up the thread somewhere and see where it leads. Hence, my interest in this book. Pryor uses the evidence to provide hypothetical insights into the beliefs and practices of our ancestors; few conclusions can be drawn, but what can be understood is either stated or can be worked out by the reader. He introduces us to some basic lifestyle necessities of our ancestors and shows some of the logic they used to understand their world, he corrects some misunderstandings about their world and our classifications of their monuments - for example Seahenge was not to do with the sea, nor is it a henge. However, he rightly points out that OUR classifications of THEIR monuments are colossally irrelevant. If you are interested to peering through the foggy lens of past times to gain a misty view of the Neolithic & Bronze Age this is for you.
Writing a popular book about a complex subject is not for the fainthearted, but Francis Pryor manages to pull this off admirably. Like geology, archaeology often whisks you to out-of-the-way places, while creating a need for full explanations based on the scantiest of evidence. But the WHY? (as opposed to How?) is often left unanswered, which is where this rare memoir/study stands out. In a beguiling armchair manner, the author takes us through the day-to-day workings of archaeology itself, a professional awash with out-of-touch experts and obstructive jargon. He then homes in on the Bronze and Iron Age communities in the Fenlands between five and two thousand years ago, all the while elucidating key aspects of archaeology where prior knowledge is too often assumed. On the way he provides insights into other prehistoric cultures - from Wessex and Brittany (useful dedicated chapter) to Holland and Switzerland (in passing). There are one or two forgivable lapses: the great Welsh castles are not in the Marches but the very heart of newly-conquered territory (Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Harlech, Conwy) fulfilling a very different function from 'border posts'; and there is quite a lot of jumping about different sites near Peterborough - a good map at the beginning would have helped (the one provided is too general). But minor stuff. For this layman, "Seahenge" is a refreshingly modest account of life at the heart of amazing archaeological discoveries that are now beginning to deepen our comprehension of that shadowy era. The highlight of the title monument may be delayed, but the lead-up is worth every single ounce of narrative insight and suspense. Future encounters with prehistoric Britain will be all the richer and more reflective.
well Francis , i think you may have been a bit naughty here ! . Fortunatly i like your books and they are very entertaining wonderfully written entertainment , but if you want a book on sea henge this may not be the book for you - granted i am only 3/4 of the way thru , however sea henge has not yet been mentioned - at all ! i guess francis had the book nearly written and the publisher jumped on the newly discovered sea henge bandwagon to sell more copies ? as a book its great , wonderfull to read , well put together , very interesting - as a way of learning about sea henge ( unless the last 1/4 of the book actualy has some thing about seahenge! ) its not so good
Dr Francis Pryor has written a most informative, fascinating and entertaining book here. It introduces the reader to not only the daily goings on at a 'dig' but to the palpable excitement of the field archeologist making new and important discoveries, which enrich outrr understanding of pre-history. The spans of time are mind-boggling but presented in an easy to follow and clear format. I thoroughly enjoyed this work, am looking forward to visiting Flag Fen and other ancient sites. It has opened my eyes to the real and deep history that lies all around us. Long may the explorations continue. I wholeheartedly recommend this title. Thank you Dr Pryor.
While only a fraction of this book deals directly directly with Seahenge (which I quickly learnt is not a henge at all), it does contain an immensely readable account of Francis Pryor's professional work in East Anglia. This multi-faceted autobiographical approach gives readers a great deal of interesting and thought provoking background information that ultimately provides context to the story of Seahenge and its possible origins. I think that (as a non archaeologist) the book's technical content is about right and that the explanations are clear and concise. This book is written with obvious passion and enthusiasm and I very much enjoyed reading it.
Having grown up in North Norfolk I was eager to learn more about one of the country's most baffling conundrums... that of the wooden henge enclosure (RE) discovered on the beach at Holme - next - the Sea in Norfolk. Francis Pryor shares his experience as a renowned archeologist , of a number of fascinating and historically important sites it what has previously been thought of as relatively a ' historically empty ' corner or England...
A passionate and at times whimsical insight to the author who shares his interest in an easily readable and informative book. There is enough to enthrall the average ' Time Teamer ' and enough education the further entice amateur antiquarian..
I bought the paper back but wished I had bought the hard copy..! this is my only complaint... .
Francis Pryor gives us the interesting story of his career in archaeology. It is built around the discovery and excavation of the intriguing Seahenge site in Norfolk, but includes his fascinating and rewarding work in the Fens.
If you only ever buy one book about 'old things in the ground', this should be it. Francis Pryor gives a fast-paced, highly readable account of his career as an archaeologist, and has a refreshingly dismissive approach to some of the traditionally presented facts of prehistory (e.g. pottery used as evidence of mass-movements of people in Europe.)
The story gives a very nice picture of the different interests that want a say in any significant new discovery, including New-Agers! But it was English Heritage who took a chain saw to the central tree of Seahenge, adding an interesting possible answer to the question "who's history is it, anyway?"
Brilliant, and it'll teach you 10 times more about prehistory than any textbook.
2007 update: I'm now biased; I met Francis when we invited 'Time Team' to dig a site on Anglesey last year. The man's as enthusiastic as his books.
I purchased this book, expecting to read quite a bit about the furore about the so-called 'desecration' of this site by archaeologists. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this aspect of the discovery of the monument was not the central theme of the book. What we have here is an almost biographical account of Francis Pryor's life as an archaeologist. It starts in his early days as a post-grad student and describes his gradual acceptance of what has become his life 'quest' - investigation and interpretation of Neolithic landscapes on a wide scale. The book moves through his earlier work on Fengate and the Flag Fen area, and culminates in the Seahenge discovery, touching on the furore mentioned earlier, but using the discovery to pull together all the earlier threads in the book to put forward a coherent theory of what life was like in the Neolithic. Because of this, I found the book to be an enjoyable, entertaining and educational read. Not so academic that it becomes difficult to follow, yet at the same time not pitched too low to become boring. Recommended for anyone interested in the Neolithic.