By Ronald Hutton
This is often the 1st survey of spiritual ideals within the British Isles from the Stone Age to the arrival of Christianity. Hutton attracts upon a wealth of recent facts to bare a few very important rethinking approximately Christianization and the decline of paganism.
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Extra resources for The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy
A count of these is impossible, because so many in the number would be uncertain, represented by crop-marks untested by excavation. Essex, for example, may prove to have either twelve or none. The proven survivors are scattered from the hinterland of Aberdeen to Dorset, the greatest concentration being the sixty-nine on Salisbury Plain. The long mounds, broadening towards one end, vary greatly in size, the largest upon Salisbury Plain being seventy times as big as the smallest. Many began as timber mortuary houses, which often stood for many years before being buried within the mound, just behind a forecourt or a flat façade.
It seems as if each tomb was the focus for a group of scattered farms or a settlement, bonded as a clan or a family. In the Orkneys they were placed upon the worst farming land of each territory, to free all the best for exploitation. One of the insoluble problems arising from this picture is that we do not know how many people were involved. Were these monuments built by many in a short time or by a few over a long period? Did neighbouring groups help each other out? The burial of people without distinctions of rank, and in a fashion which mixed their bones, appears profoundly egalitarian and drew some rash statements from scholars in the previous generation about the democratic nature of Neolithic society.
At the Tuc d'Audoubert in the French Pyrenees, the prints are in six rows, starting close together deep in the cave and fanning out near the entrance, indicating an orderly procession or dance. At El Juyo on the north coast of Spain, excavated in 1979, the cave floor had been prepared as what can only have been a ceremonial centre. Five layers of deer bones, burnt vegetation and red ochre were interspersed with cylinders of clay arranged in rosettes and capped with earth of different colours. The whole pile was studded with bone spearpoints and covered with a huge stalagmite slab set on flat stones.