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The ancient Celts believed they were descended from Father Dis (Dis Pater), a god of the dead who resided in the west where the sun set. Today, ideas of our prehistoric origins are more likely based on ocean core samples, radio-carbon dating, and archeological artifacts. But as Barry Cunliffe reminds us in Britain Begins, an archaeologist writing of the past must be constantly aware that the past is, in truth, unknowable. Like the myth-making Celts, we too create stories about our origins, based on what we know today.
Cunliffe here offers readers a vision of both worlds, looking at new myths and old, as he tells the fascinating story of the origins of the British and the Irish, from around 10,000 BC to the eve of the Norman Conquest. Using the most up-to-date archaeological evidence together with new work on DNA and other scientific techniques which help us to trace the origins and movements of these early settlers, Cunliffe offers a rich narrative account of the first islanders--who they were, where they came from, and how they interacted with one another. Underlying this narrative is the story of the sea, and Cunliffe paints a fascinating picture of early ships and sails and of the surprising sophistication of early navigation. The story told by the archaeological evidence is enhanced by historical texts, such as Julius Caesar's well-known if rather murky vision of Britain. Equally interesting, Cunliffe looks at the ideas of Britain's origins formed by our long-ago ancestors themselves, when they used what scraps there were, gleaned from Biblical and classical texts, to create a largely mythological origin for the British.
Cunliffe's text is lively and thoroughly accessible and is supported by nearly 300 high-quality figure drawings and photographs... The book is beautifully produced. Britain Begins is a model of its kind, but this particular beginning may be an impossible act to follow. TLS Barry Cunliffe's beautiful and enthralling Britain Begins (Oxford) puts us all in our place. Andrew Motion, Books of the Year 2012, Guardian A beautifully illustrated, erudite book. His clear and deeply knowledgeable text is brought to life by hundreds of bright, glossy images and detailed, extremely helpful maps ... this is an invaluable introduction to Britain's earliest years. Dan Jones, Daily Telegraph Cunliffe steers a masterful course thorugh more than 11 millennia of human development ... This beautifully produced and informative work of synthesis and interpretation will provide an ideal starting point for those interested in the British past and a useful point of re-engagement for those who feel that thet are already over-familiar with the basic narrative. BBC History Magazine Barry Cunliffe's account is handsomely produced and impeccable in its scholarship, the nearest thing we have to a definitive account of Britain's story from the end of the ice Age to the Norman Conquest. The Scotsman Sweeping from the end of the last Ice Age to the eve of the Norman Conquest, this book contains a vast amount of information, accessibly presented. It is an enjoyable journey, and one that never loses sight of the wider picture. Current Archaeology The best available synthesis of research on the early peopling of these islands ... with marvellous maps and illustrations. Stephen Howe, The Independent When it comes to hard facts, Cunliffe has the data, and the often dramatically beautiful or startling photographs to give them life. His whole account must create a renewed respect for our British and Irish ancestors. Tom Shippey, The Guardian
Number Of Pages: 553
Published: 6th January 2013
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Dimensions (cm): 25.2 x 20.1 x 3.2
Weight (kg): 1.42