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Ancestors: A prehistory of Britain in seven burials

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This is a good thing, because it means she has to paint word pictures of the burials, and her writing is beautiful. 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. The moment I lifted the bowl out of the grave, my hands earthy from digging; the moment the potter (the mourner, the parent? This theoretical viewpoint means that Alice Roberts has to address the ways that contemporary roles in society have been projected backwards onto archaeological remains. It requires imagination, as well as scientific expertise, to read the “stories written in stone, pottery, metal and bone”.

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. At one point Roberts memorably describes excavating Beaker pottery, like that found in the grave of the Amesbury Archer. Archaeologists opened a tomb, found items they thought of as gendered (jewellery/mirrors versus weapons/chariots) and assigned gender to the human remains on that basis. But in Ancestors , anthropologist, 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. But in Ancestors, anthropologist, 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.The scale and the detail of the Thousand Ancient Genomes project, which is collaborating with archaeologists across the UK, could transform our understanding of prehistoric Britain, especially as regards mobility and migrations.

The burials are described in detail, as is the history of their discovery, excavation and the theories around them. Professor Alice Roberts is an academic, author and broadcaster, specialising in human anatomy, physiology, evolution, archaeology and history. You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. 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.The author delivers several of the best summaries I've seen regarding the Beaker People, Arras culture, genetics and isotope analysis, and the long-term implications of 100,000-some years of migrations and retreats.

The main topic is covered in sufficient for the armchair archaeologist and is accessible without descending into a dry, academic, study. The Amesbury Archer is preserved in Salisbury Museum and, according to Roberts, “our visits to museums, to gaze on such human remains, are a form of ancestor worship”. The content was accessible but more importantly, I was gripped by the way she challenged accepted ideas, inviting the reader to engage with a different way of thinking. 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. But their positioning suggested they had been cast into the grave after the body had been laid in the wood-lined chamber.The language of the Beaker People was a variant of Proto-Indo-European, which had two linguistic genders -- animate and inanimate. Although Roberts does draw on genomic evidence to show the migration of peoples in prehistory, what is so fascinating about this book is the way it weaves together scientific and cultural interpretation. The book's highlight is the 20-30-some page chapter survey regarding the salient, significant, bigger picture that the site represents. The blending of hunter gatherers with farmers was troubling, at least in some regions where evidence exists.

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