In the past we knew about events in prehistory – but we weren’t able to date them sufficiently precisely to put them into a chronological sequence,” said Dr.
some 15 times more rapidly – vastly faster than most archaeologists had previously thought.
The new study – partly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council – has also discovered that this farming explosion in around 3850 BC seems to have triggered the construction of Britain’s first monumental buildings – the great communal tombs known today as long barrows.
But the new more precise dating system has also indicated, contrary to previous archaeological belief, that most of them were only in use for two or three generations – not normally the centuries prehistorians had always assumed.
For the first time ever, computer programmers and archaeologists have now fully developed and utilized on a mass scale a technique – known as Bayesian Chronological Modelling – to be able to glimpse the real political and even military events which shaped Britain’s prehistoric past.
The new research, based on computer-refined radiocarbon dates, strongly suggests that farming life-styles were introduced from the continent through Kent and Essex by immigrants – not simply through the transmission of knowledge and ideas.
The work also reveals that for the first 200 years, roughly the first 8 to 10 farming generations, the agricultural revolution spread very slowly – from Kent/Essex in around 4050 BC to the Cotswolds by 3850 BC (on average just over half a mile per year).
But the research also suggests that in around 3850 BC, the new farming culture reached some sort of demographic or political ‘critical mass’ – for the new dates reveal that suddenly the agricultural lifestyle (also being adopted by Britain’s indigenous pre-agricultural inhabitants) spread throughout Britain within just 50 years – at an average speed of around 9 miles per year – ie.
The long-lost ‘history’ of prehistoric Britain, including our island’s first wars, is being re-discovered - courtesy of innovations in computer programming as well as archaeology.
Using newly refined computer systems, developed over recent years by programmers at Oxford University, archaeologists from English Heritage and Cardiff University have for the first time been able to fairly accurately date individual prehistoric battles, migrations and building construction projects.
After eight years of research, the team has been able to create a ‘historical’ chronology for the first 700 years of settled life in Britain.
“In effect, we have been able to turn pre-history into history.