Human impact on the landscape

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Settlements and transport links

Until 8,000 years ago, at the start of the Neolithic era, our land was joined with mainland Europe and early settlers of the British Isles have come across that bridgehead and ancient tracks that led from one place to another such as the Ridgeway. There is evidence that the Stonehenge site was was already in use during this period ie before the land bridge was severed - while the stones date from 4-5,000 years ago several posts date back much earlier to around 7-8,000 years ago.

There are remains of human settlements under the southern North Sea [Doggerland] and in the Solent [near Bouldnor on the Isle of Wight]. All of these settlements were submerged by rising sea levels demonstrating the close balance and alliance of climate, the landscape and human settlement.

Humans have left their mark even earlier than this - evidence of flint working has been found in a quarry at Boxgrove, near Chichester dating back to over 400,000 years ago. While at Goats Hole Cave, Paviland on the Gower Peninsula human remains have been found from 27,000 years ago. Much of the "ancient" development we can still see and visit today eg hillforts was started soon after the last vestiges of ice left us around 10,000 years ago. Many of these sites have been reused over the centuries - with the Romans taking over many Iron Age settlements eg Silchester and then the Normans continued this process.

At many stages in our history new towns have been developed to meet changing economic needs over the last 2,000 years.

Evidence based history

One of the refreshing aspect of Pryor's books is his fresh look at the series of events hat define our past - often debunking or challenging many accepted theories - because when the hard evidence actually does not exists eg the myth of King Arthur, the post Roman collapse and Saxon "invasions". Both he and David Miles [Tribes of Britain] paint a picture of our land which has always had migrant settlers and strong trading links with continental Europe - and has often been the stronger for that.

Settlements and transport links

%human settlement old map%

If you compare a map of any built up area today with the same area 100-150 years ago the change you will see is significant. Large cities like Manchester and London in the mid 19thC resemble large provincial towns today. Even places like Penmaenmawr (see 1963 map above) have changed dramatically over the past 150 years.

The introduction of the railway network in the 19thC and followed by the motor vehicle network in the 20thC having provide the underlying infrastructure to fuel this change in support of massive growth in the economy. Our cities have extended into conurbations by swallowing up local towns and villages. The process was accelerated by people moving off the land and into industry and with that a whole new way of living - and a very different society.

One day I expect us to be able to visit these places at any period via 3D temporal maps base on collected evidence from each locality - where you could see your home town evolve over 10,000 years. Though this could only show the physical environment - the social and cultural chamnge would be impossible to capture.




Start: 1m years ago
End: ongoing


Hoskins. W.S.,: 1955, "Making of the English Landscape"
Pryor. F: 2003, "Britain BC", Harper Perennial.
Pryor. F: 2004, "Britain AD", Harper Perennial.
Pryor. F: 2006, "Britain in the Middle Ages", Harper Perennial.
Pryor. F: 2011, "The Birth of Modern Britain", Harper Perennial.
Pryor F: 2010, "Making of the British Landscape", Allen lane (Penguin)
Miles. D: 2005, "Tribes of Britain", Phoenix (Orion).

Francis Pryor: Blog
Francis Pryor: "Britain BC" film via YouTube
Francis Pryor: "Britain AD" film via YouTube