Posted 20 hours ago

Ancestors: A prehistory of Britain in seven burials

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Life was a state of existence with a disease, bad teeth, crippling, broken bones healed and unhealed (the Hunter of Amesbury had lost his knee cap and recovered with a horribly crippled leg), heavy burden bone scars.

In 2002, not far from Amesbury in southern Wiltshire and a mile or so from Stonehenge, archaeologists were investigating the site of a new school when they discovered something remarkable.

In the 20th Century, society was largely defined by a division into male and female, and property ownership was the key to social class. Roberts is the new Da Vinci, able to shift between science and humanities, the objective and subjective, the global and the individual. Interesting as the content was, the fluidity with which (in places) she shifted from technical analysis, to dialogue, to whimsy made it difficult to enjoy.

We might hear about the excavation of some odd exterminated village in Germany from 8000 yrs ago as evidenced by a mass grave of familial-related and mutilated corpses.Linguistic gender is the way that words are tied together by categorising the things they represent, thus nouns are tied to pronouns by gender, and both are tied to adjectives in many European languages. But in Ancestors , pre-eminent archaeologist, broadcaster and academic Professor Alice Roberts explores what we can learn about the very earliest Britons, from burial sites and by using new technology to analyse ancient DNA. This is a detailed and richly imagined account of the deep history of the British landscape, which brings alive those “who have walked here before us”, and speaks powerfully of a sense of connectedness to place that is rooted in common humanity: “we are just the latest human beings to occupy this landscape”. The real picture is that perhaps up to 1 out 4 in the Central Europe population reflect war-like bone trauma over the 1000-year era, and it's unseen in earlier and later populations. There is such a scope of knowledge between the covers of this book that you feel like a better and more knowledgeable person having read it.

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