By Rodney Castleden

Rodney Castleden offers an illuminating and convincing interpretation of Stonhenge's cultural context and old which means.

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Extra info for The Stonehenge People: An Exploration of Life in Neolithic Britain 4700-2000 BC

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The abundance of game for hunting shows that forest was widespread. Yet by 4000 BC there were already countless small clearings, many of them temporary but an increasing number permanent. By 3500 BC much of the chalkland of southern and eastern England was open, while much of the rest of Britain was a mosaic of clearings for cultivation and pasture, open woodland, closed forest, montane grassland, fen and raised bog. The apparent contrast between south and north is slightly puzzling. Far more land remained open, though not necessarily under cultivation, in southern Britain than in the north.

The grassland phase is seen as an attempt to evade the disaster, an act of desperation that failed, since even the pasture ultimately reverted to forest in many places. Possibly the strongest argument against Burgess’s extreme view of the crisis period is the absence of any evidence of social or religious upheaval. There does not seem to have been any increase in territoriality, defensive or aggressive fortifications, or warfare. There is no sign of religious hysteria in new types of fertility monument or more extravagant forms of existing monument.

Either way, the evidence entombed in the monuments is not necessarily typical of the landscape as a whole. In any case, stagnation or reversion to scrub and woodland at the older sites does not rule out the possibility that farmers were simultaneously taking in new land from the forest elsewhere. Clearance and cultivation on lower ground could easily make good the losses on higher ground, once the farmers Here in this magic wood · 25 had the confidence to attempt the heavier soils. All the evidence from the pioneer phase, through the early neolithic and including the alleged crisis, can be seen in terms of extensive farming methods—provided that population levels were still fairly low and there was still a large untapped reserve of forest.

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