Robert Graves on British Prehistory

A brief summary by Robert Graves [White Goddess] of British prehistory.  6000 to 3000 BC. Palaeolithic hunters who were not numerous with a few settlements in scattered places. 3000 to 2500 BC there was occasional and gradual migration of Neolithic hunters with their stone axes and rough pots. 2500 to 2000 BC there was regular traffic across the channel. Then the invasion of the long-headed Neolithic agriculturalists, with domesticated animals, flint making, and ornamental pottery.

Affinities have been found with wares and burials in the Baltic islands of Bornholm and Aland. Originated in Libya and came via Spain, south west France. Or via Spain, Portugal and Brittany. Some came from France from the Baltic to east England after trade contact with the Black Sea.

These people introduced megalith burials in the long barrow style. Inhumation with leaf-shaped arrow heads with crack-willow, purple osier, and elder copies. Leaf-shaped  ‘port holes’ are found in tombs. From 2000 to 1500 BC an invasion of bronze-weaponed, beaker making, avenue building people from Spain. By way of south France and the Rhine. Long-heads from the Baltic, plus south east Europe via the Rhine. Cremation now practised. Less ostentatious and better furnished round barrows were made. Leaf-shaped arrow heads persisted but barbed and tanged began to appear.

1500 to 600 BC showed uninterrupted development in this Bronze Age culture. Cross-channel traffic took place, and settlements continued with iron weaponed visitors around 800 BC in the south. Picts invaded north Britain. There was the importation of small, segmented blue faience beads from Egypt between 1380 and 1350 BC in Wiltshire. The language was proto-Celtic, except for the Picts and the Palaeolithic aboriginals.

In 600 BC there was the invasion of the Goidels with their frill-comb-smear pottery. They migrated from the Baltic coast of Germany, entered the Rhineland. There they adopted the ‘Hallstadt’ Iron Age culture. Then they invaded Britain but were forced to remain in the south east counties.

In 400 BC there came the first Belgic invasion of the ‘La tene’ Iron age culture. They also invaded Ireland around 350 to 300 BC as a mixture of Teutons, and p-Celt Brythons. They overran most of Britain and the ancient British known by the Romans. The druidic culture in France was the La Tene. In 50 BC to 45 AD there occurred the second Belgic invasion. The principal tribesmen were the Atrebates from Artois. Their settlements had bead rimmed bowls and their capital was Calleva Atrebatum or Silchester in north Hampshire. The area of conquest was west Surrey to the Vale of Trowbridge in Wiltshire.


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  1. Pingback: The White Goddess | Redeeming Michael

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