The History Of Prehistoric And Roman Britain
The island of Great Britain is rich in history, and in terms of modern human habitation dates back over thirty thousand years. From the first notable stage of development, the Mesolithic Age, to the invasion and occupation by the Romans, there have been several specific eras which have been studied and theorised about by historians and archaeologists.
It could be argued that the important prehistory of Britain really began six thousand years ago, when the rising sea levels which occurred as a result of the last ice age separated the land from the rest of what is now Europe. The period of around 10000BC to 5000BC is known as the Mesolithic Age. Prior to this there were bands of Homo sapiens who were hunter gatherers. They had very basic tools, and would hunt animals such as deer, horses, and woolly mammoths.
The Mesolithic Age saw humans begin to develop more advanced tools. They were still hunter gatherers living in very basic societies, however. They had not yet joined together to form larger groups, although there is evidence that by this stage people had migrated to explore different areas of the British isles, including the far north of Scotland.
The Mesolithic Age developed into the Neolithic Age in around 5000BC. The Neolithic Age ushered in the arrival of some very notable changes in British prehistory, namely the development of farming as a way of life and the introduction of the tribal system. These were interlinked, as the rising population saw groups of people begin to settle in specific areas and to work off the land. This led to the forming of larger societies with people beginning to take specific roles. Tribal leaders came into existence, for example. These changes to what had gone before were so important that they have become known as the Neolithic Revolution.
The Neolithic Age lasted until around 2300BC, and it was during this period that Stonehenge was built. There are several theories as to why it was constructed, but what it proves without question is that societies were in existence at this time, and were settled enough to be working together towards a common goal. These societies developed as the Neolithic Age turned into the Bronze Age, which lasted until 700BC. Tools and weapons became much more advanced during this period, as did people's dwellings. Intricate pottery and jewellery has been discovered dating from this time, as well as archaeological evidence that Bronze Age people began to bury their dead.
Metal work was introduced in to Britain by the Goidelic Celts with whom the art was well advanced. Bronze was utilised in the manufacture of primary weapons and tools, the precious metals being reserved for ornaments.
The final stage of British Prehistory, meaning the last era before documented history began, was the Iron Age, which lasted from 700BC until 43AD, when the Roman occupation began. The Iron Age is notable for the development of advanced farming techniques, but also for frequent tribal warfare. People learned how to effectively mine for metals such as tin and copper, and the weapons which were built as a result became more powerful and deadly. This period also saw people arriving from mainland Europe, an increase in trade, and coins being created to be used as currency.
The Iron Age ended with the conquest of the early Britons by the Romans in 43AD. The Romans brought with them many technological advancements from their huge empire, including the establishment of a provincial government. They built roads and sewage systems, and founded cities such as London and York. During the Roman occupation of Britain trade was increased and the economy expanded. There was a reduction in tribal warfare due to the occupation, although it still existed in Scotland north of the Antonine Wall, as this region was never conquered. The Roman Empire was in decline towards 400AD, and it was around this time that the Romans withdrew from Britain. With them ended one of the most fascinating periods of British history.
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