c. 5000 - New Stone Age, or Neolithic, means farming and animal domestication replaced hunting and gathering. This fundamental change in acquiring food allowed more free time for innovation. Stone axes, combs of antlers and pottery were common.  By this time weaving became relatively advanced, and remnants from this time indicate extensive use of brightly colored dyes for textiles.  The arrival of Celts from Spain ??? (see "A United Celtic Nation after all" below)

c. 4000 -
Raised wooden walkways to help travel over boggy/swampy area are constructed near Glastonbury (Somerset Levels).  Around Devon and Hembury the earliest communities appear.

c. 3900-3000 - Farming cultures migrated into Ireland via Scotland.  They settled in the uplands, because the forest was not as thick thus easier to clear.  Unfortunately the land couldn't support this type of agricultural community and the lands eventually became peat bogs.   Please click here to learn more about Neolithic Ireland.

c. 3500-3000 -
This is when long barrows and chambered tombs become prevalent.  At Dorset, corpse exposure, which is exactly what it sounds like, is still practiced in lieu of burials.  Click here is you want to learn more about megaliths.

c. 3000-2500 -
One of the earliest of the stone circles, Castlerigg in Cumbria, is started.  The classic chamber tomb Pentre Ifan, Dyfed, was built.  Bryn Celli Ddu, a passage tomb in Anglesey, was built. To see Castlerigg from inside the circle , there is video on it from YouTube Fill the form to take fast cash money loans for your car.

Photo of Castlerigg courtesy of Chris Tweed

Neolithic Life

As farming becomes the main way to support oneself and one's family, farmsteads begin to appear.  In Scotland,
they typically held one to two families.  Sometimes small communities would sprout up around them.    An
excellent example of a Neolithic settlement is Skara Brae in Orkney (see below).

Other types of settlements included houses with attached field areas.

Sometimes homes were made of wood, while some were made of stone.  

Neolithic farming included domesticating sheep, goats, pigs and cattle.  Dogs were also domesticated during this time.

     

A United Celtic Nation after all?

September 2006
 - A research team at Oxford, led by Professor Bryan Sykes, has produced research indicating that a majority of Britons are descended from Celts from Spain who came over about 5000 BC.  This confirms the origin story (some say myth) of ancient Scotland which states that the Scottish people lived in Spain before settling Scotland.  This was stated in The Declaration of Arbroath of 1320, following the Scottish War of independence against England.

Now I have some questions with this research.  Dr. Sykes is absolutely renowned in his field, but he also has a theory which he recently released that the last of the British Neolithic peoples dies in the 1980's, instead of 10,000 years ago.  

However, He makes his data available to the public and I am the first to admit I am completely unqualified to analyse the data myself.  Here is the link to his site to read for yourself:

http://www.bloodoftheisles.net/index.html

Prof Sykes divided the population into several
groups (clans):

  • Oisin = Celts
  • Wodan = Anglo-Saxons and Danish Vikings
  • Sigurd = Norse Vikings
  • Eshu =genetic links with the Berbers of North Africa
  • Re =a farming people from the Middle East
 

Skara Brae

A storm in 1850 revealed this Neolithic settlement located in Orkney.  Skara Brae was a farming community.  They domesticated cattle and sheep and also grew basic cereal grains.  Their diet was supplemented by hunting red deer and fishing.  

The community's artisans were proficient working with bone, stone and making pottery.  Most instruments, and even the walls of the houses were richly decorated.  Small containers of red ochre were found, implying that the people of Skara Brae also decorated their bodies.

The layout of the village was a cluster of rectangular small homes with
interconnecting passages.  The walls are made of sandstone slabs which are layered.  Only one house had a window.  Most of the houses were laid out similarly.  Facing the entrance door was a stone "dresser" (see below).  
At the center of every hut was a hearth outlined with kerbstones. On the side walls of the houses are stones to create boxes to support beds.  Above the beds were recesses in the wall for either display or storage.

Beyond these connected huts, but still in the village, was an open, paved area and an unfurnished hut.

     
 

Not tonight honey, I have a headache...
The lives of Neolithic peoples seem to be even more brutal than most originally thought.  Early Neolithic inhabitants of England had a one in 20 chance of suffering a skull fracture at the hands of someone else and a one in 50 chance of dying from their injuries.  This was revealed in early 2006 at a meeting of the Society for American Archaeology and reported in New Scientist magazine.  The majority of the injuries were from blunt instruments which may have included clubs. A handful of fractures look like they have been caused by flint arrowheads and spear points. One of the females in the sample seems to have been the victim of a vicious attack with a stone axe.   There was another skull with a suspected projectile fracture, which appeared to have had the ears slashed off - a possible instance of trophy-taking.

     

Call me Ishmael

So even more genetic evidence has been brought to light - and the bottom line from this data states clearly that the British and Irish are one people, genetically.  According to an article in the International Herald Tribune on March 5, 2007 both Britain and Ireland have been inhabited for thousands of years by a single people that have remained in the majority, with only minor additions from later invaders like Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans.

The main ancestors of today's British and Irish
populations arrived from Spain about 16,000 years ago, speaking a language related to Basque. The British Isles were unpopulated at the time of the migration.  They had been cleared of humans by glaciers that had smothered Northern Europe for about 4,000 years and forced the former inhabitants into refuges in Spain and Italy. When the climate warmed and the glaciers retreated, people moved back north. The returning population to the British Isles found a completely uninhabited land, which they could have reached just by walking along the Atlantic coastline, since the English Channel and the Irish Sea were still land.

The returning population, were hunters and gatherers and survived a severe cold era called the Younger Dryas that lasted from 12,300 to 11,000 years ago. Much later, some 6,000 years ago, agriculture finally reached the British Isles from its birthplace in the Near East. Agriculture may have been introduced by people speaking Celtic, iand though the Celtic immigrants may have been few in number, they spread their farming techniques and their language throughout Ireland and the western coast of Britain.

Around 3/4 of the ancestors of today's British and Irish populations arrived 15,000 to 7,500 years ago, when rising sea levels split Britain and Ireland from Continental Europe and from each other.  There is a new book by the main researcher on this, Stephen Oppenheimer, called The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story.

 

Who thought charcoal pits could be so interesting?

In an area south-west of Aberdeen, Scotland a new twist has
been observed to a Neolithic site.  At the site there is a row of
12 pits of charcoal with a north-east/south-west alignment (like
many stone circles and rows). 

What were thought to be Neolithic pits dating to around 3600 BC, ended up being Mesolithic pits from around 8000 BC which had been reused by the local neolithic peoples.

This means that some permanent sites which were originally thought to have been first founded by Neolithic peoples, may have actually had Mesolithic roots.  To add evidence to this thought are 4 pits located near Stonehenge.  3 of them have evidence of pine charcoal as well as evidence for posts, all dating to around 8500 BC.  It was previously thought that
Mesolithic people did not build significant structures.  This
theory is being re-evaluated.

 

 

 

 

   
 
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