The Farming of Prehistoric Britain

P.J. Fowler’s The Farming of Prehistoric Britian.

Once again, a book that was not written for me. Though, Fowler did warn me that the book was a review, and not a “historical narative” because we just don’t know enough. There was discussion of use of air photography for surveying the land, of excavating ard marks, and the other archeological classics such as analyzing pot shards. The question of the book, what do we know about agriculture in Britian before the Romans showed up. Fowler states, “Our ignorance…is impressive.” (pg 81)

Learned that grain storage pits, when properly sealed, keep out vermin and halt rotting due to excess carbon dioxide. (pg 182) This doesn’t make sense, I would think the pits would get soggy, and I need to investigate this further.

The quote that gives a good taste of the best of the book, what can be learned and inferred from tiny bits of evidence, “Seashells in the sandy plough-soil…are not among the most dramatic of archeological finds; but, in that they represent the practice of manuring, they are amongst the most significant.”  Previously, the people did not manure their fields, but would pack up and move along to a new spot when fertility dropped. But, by the first millenium BC they were staying put, and replenishing field fertility (in some parts of Britian) using seaweed, or manure. “…muck-spreading…is critical to agrarian stability and,…involves the fairly skillful, long-term management of numerous human, livestock, and environmental resources.” (pg 171)

I liked the part about crops, harvests, tools, …the pages on pages of soil-scratch evidence, sorta bored me.


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