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The introduction of farming into Britain

13 September 2010

The idea that farming was introduced into Britain from France is explored in Shennan, Collard and Thomas et at, in the Journal of Archaeological Science 37 issue 4: April 2010. Here it claims there was a large influx of people into Southern England and as far afield as Central Scotland, around 6000BP (5000-4500BC). Up until that point Britain was sparsely populated, a theory arrived at by the paucity of Mesolithic finds rather than genuine data – a factoid produced by what we don’t know rather than what we might know. Thereafter, populations grew – mainly because farming communities are visible in the landscape. However, as hunter gatherer populations are invariably at a lower density than farm based communities this is probably quite true – and the impetus was also probably due to the Mid Holocene Warm Period that allowed farmers to grow things at high latitudes. The paper claims that migrants appear to have arrived from the Calais region, and the Paris Basin, and that is because of similarities between each region. In addition, the Mesolithic inhabitants may have adopted farming in response to the newcomers – keeping herds of cattle and sheep would hardly have been much different from managing herds of red deer in the wild. This new view appears to overturn consensus archaeology which claims the inhabitants of Britain did not really adopt farming as a way of life until hundreds of years later – especially the growing of fields of wheat and barley. This paper claims otherwise. The only thing we need to know now – how did they get here? Was it by boat or did a land bridge still exist between Britain and northern France?

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