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By P.Boguski, P.J.Crabtree

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There is some suggestion, too, that pagan Saxon aristocracies were keen enough on hunting to have areas set aside for the pleasure of the chase, though not on the scale of their Christian Norman successors. Many “barbarian” societies had notions of sacred space, which very likely meant the setting aside of land and water. The Early Mesolithic site at Star Carr in northern England is neatly on the kind of peninsula that taiga communities in Russia later used as sacred locations; part of southern England was, in one interpretation, an “isle of the dead” in the Neolithic.

A N C I E N T E U R O P E They know where prehistoric people lived and how they buried their dead. They know the kinds of tools and other objects these people used, the shape of their houses, and what they ate. Further analysis can reveal where prehistoric people obtained the raw materials they used to make things, how long they lived in one place, and how large their settlements were. With this limited amount of basic information in hand, the archaeologist then looks for larger patterns. This is where the real detective work begins.

A book by the French polymath Isaac Lapeyrère, in which he argued that “thunderbolts” were artifacts of an ancient “pre-Adamite” race, was publicly burned in A N C I E N T E U R O P E Paris by the Inquisition, and the author was forced to recant before the pope. By the Age of Enlightenment, in the second half of the eighteenth century, a new spirit of inquiry in all domains had arisen. It included a strong sense of human progress—that is, a conviction that the human condition was improving from cruder beginnings, that the ways of life of contemporary hunter-gatherers thus might resemble those of early Europeans, and that stone artifacts were indeed tools from before the use of iron.

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Ancient Europe 8000 B.C. to A.D. 1000: An Encyclopedia of the Barbarian World by P.Boguski, P.J.Crabtree


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