Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Home: A time traveller's tales from Britain's prehistory

Digging around the back of his nightshelf, Stephen Town has found another couple of great reads to donate to the Library.

Pryor, F., Home: A Time Traveller's Tales from Britain's Prehistory in the University Library at EA 2.942 PRY

As many students depart the university, the thoughts of some will turn to home, the subject of my next donation. The author, Francis Pryor, is well-known for his popular writings on archaeology and his appearances on Time Team. We already have most of Pryor’s more academic contributions in the Library, but surprisingly not his ‘Britain BC’ which I found an engaging, readable and informative survey of British prehistory, informed by Pryor’s own field experience on Bronze age sites. I will therefore also add this to my intended donation as this week’s bonus.

Our view of what makes a home has changed over time.
Photo: Making mesolithic tea by Hans Splinter. Used under a Creative Commons license

Pryor's 'Home' covers some similar ground to Britain BC, but from the perspective of the family, their homes and lives. There is an initial focus on Star Carr, the Yorkshire Mesolithic settlement, where the first identifiable British house was built around eleven thousand years ago. Pryor then follows the evidence from other settlements through the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages, taken from sites such as Durrington Walls and Flag Fen. These reveal the sophistication of these earlier times and emphasise the importance of the family and their immediate broader social groups to developing culture.

Pryor’s basic thesis is that family life was a key change agent before the arrival of centralised control (and force) with the Romans. The style is sometimes irritating in this work, but his enthusiasm and polemical fervour enliven the story. Our own Professor Nicky Milner  also receives a prominent acknowledgement.

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