There are 8 chapters: - Introduction - Making A Living - Material Culture - Monuments - Dealings with the Dead - Times of Change - Places to Visit - Further Reading. There is also an index.
The introduction opens with the vexed subject of how the British Neolithic came about and how it is defined. At around 6000 years ago a major change took place int eh way in which human communities managed the procurement of food. This changed the face of the UK forever as the hunter-gatherer lifestyle was abandoned in favour of farming, accompanied by new social and funerary traditions. Pollard looks at how we define the "Neolithic" and how the perception of this period has changed over the last few decades. He then goes on to examine how and when the principal components that make up the British Neolithic actually occurred, and asks why they occurred. Finally he explains that the remainder of the book is designed to be a brief descriptive and interpretive account of the period, and that the discussion excludes Ireland.
"Making a Living" looks at how the economy of the period operated, beginning with a highly mobile way of tackling land and herds before becoming more sedentary towards the end of the Neolithic. He looks at how the landscape was altered and how even with the introduction of domesticates from overseas the indigenous population still supplemented their diet with wild resources. The evidence for settlement is discussed (remarkably little, probably due to the practice of swidden horticulture). He concludes with a look at social organization and evidence for conflict.
"Material Culture" provides an overview of everyday materials which were used to make items: pottery, stone, antler, wood and bone. Pollard explains that objects offer a means of understanding both technological ability and the activities that were carried out, and makes the point that they could have been used in religious/social contexts in entirely different ways from that that their appearance implies, either as status symbols or religious markers.
"Monuments" tackles the subject of the most conspicuous legacy of the Neolithic communities - a range of monuments that are either still visible in the landscape or survive in the form of soil marks visible in aerial photographs. Pollard dedicates 23 pages to this topic, a reflection of the fact that due to their number and the number of excavations that have taken place at them they are the best source of information about the period. The section is divided into sub-hedings which deal in turn with different forms of monument.
"Dealings with the Dead" is a 5 page chapter looking at funerary traditions and eemphaising the key features common to many tombs. Pollard uses ethnographic analogy to discuss why these practises may have taken this form.
In "Times of Change" Pollard discusses how both tehcnolgoical and social changes occur at c.2500bc. Bronze was introduced and new ceramic forms were established. At the same time funerary and ceremonial traditions change.
Chapter 7 offers recommendations for local museums and lists guide books that might be of assistance.
The "Further Reading" chapter is divided into recommended reading organized by topic, pointing readers twards both general and specialized coverage of the topic. . The book dates to 1997 but some of the Further Reading list has been updated in the current publication (2002) with some recent literature.
Overall this is a good introduction to a vast and complex topic. Pollard covers all types of evidence available and is good at pointing out where the gaps in our knowledge lie and why. Fine detail is necessarily lacking in a book of this size but each chapter gives a good foundation course into the topics that make up our understanding of the Neolithic. The strengths of this book lie in the writer's ability to communicate an overall sense of the period and the provision of a good launch-pad for those interested in learning more.
The text is accompanied by plenty of black and white photographs and diagrams.
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The neolithic period is associated with the introduction of agriculture , widespread use of ceramics and ground tools. .The account covers Britain but not Ireland which the author recognises as having distinctive features . Countries of the north-west european Atlantic seaboard are characterised by the construction of megalithic monuments and a large part of the book is concerned with 'enclosures', barrows , chambered tombs and cursus monuments ; the nature of all of which is illustrated by clear diagrams . Society appears to have been a mobile one [swidden cultivation]. There is scant evidence of permament settlements but a few individual , and also communal , dwelling places have been uncovered . There is evidence of widespread dissemination of goods , for instance certain styles of ceramic and tools made from material mined in particular localities . A major digging tool was the reindeer horn and where these have been deposited alongside the construction site they have provided useful contribution to carbon dating . There is little evidence of a hewirarchical development in society nor of the plague of widespread warfare . It is toward the end of the 'Beaker period' that particular prominence is attributed to certain individuals . The most astounding feature is the construction of megalithic monuments . The manner of interrment of bodies is another peculiar feature since the body was usually allowed to decompse before burial . Alongside this book I read Hengeworld by Mike Pitts which may also be recommended
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