Olde England Northampton

Briar Hill

Briar Hill Causewayed Enclosure  Circa 3500 BC

Briar Hill Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure

The picture shows a reconstruction of the ditches of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure at Briar Hill in Northampton. The site is dated to circa 3400BC.  Around 5400 years ago sites like these formed meeting places for people who had no permanent villages; they moved around to find seasonal grazing for their animals.  Archaeological evidence shows the ditches were dug out many times to remark the site, which was probably in use for 150 - 505 years..

The Word 'Briar' is taken from the Latin word 'brucus' which means Heather this would indicate that the Hill would have been covered by small trees with hard, woody roots

The site which is on thNeolithic Cremation Buriale Northampton Sands. The ironstone bedrock is capped by varying depths of mixed sand, weathered ironstone and clay, and this forms a complex surface in which it is often difficult to identify or define man-made disturbance.  It is probable that originally the enclosure was also surrounded by banks such as survive at Windmill Hill, but if so, centuries of ploughing have destroyed them, together with the prehistoric ground surface.   Small tips or lenses of blackened sand and charcoal in some ditches may represent rubbish thrown in,  but the only indisputably deliberate deposit is a cremation which was placed on a platform levelled in the fill of one of the inner ditch segments and then, apparently, covered over.

What do we know about Briar Hill?


The site lies on the gentle north facing slope of the Nene Valley, the river itself lying 700 metres to the north. It was discovered during aerial survey in 1972 and excavated by archaeologist Helen Bamford in 1974 to 1978 in advance of housing development. The cropmarks were interpreted and transcribed by RCHME in 1995 as part of the Industry and Enclosure in the Neolithic Project. The enclosure itself comprises two main concentric ditch circuits of interrupted ditch lying between 15 and 28 metres apart. The outer enclosure measures circa 200 metres by 190 metres, covering an area of about 3 hectares. Within the enclosure, to the east and sharing part of the inner ditch circuit is a smaller, sub-circular interrupted ditched enclosure roughly 90 metres in diameter and enclosing circa 0.6 hectares. Excavation Neolithic - Bronze Age Potteryshowed this inner enclosure to be integral with the main inner circuit, the two forming a continuous spiral. Excavation also confirmed the cropmark indications that the interior contained few contemporary structures other than some scattered pits. Excavations showed that the ditches had experienced several episodes of recutting. Finds were concentrated particularly in the segments of the innermost enclosure ditch, and included potsherds, flints, fragments of stone axes, querns and polishing stones. Several pits contained later Neolithic material including sherdsNeolithic Pottery of Grooved Ware, Peterborough Ware and Beakers. A small group of Bronze Age cremations was found on the south west side of the outer enclosure, just inside the edge of the ditch. Four were in bucket-shaped urns and one was accompanied by a barbed and tanged arrowhead. Recent research into the dating of the causewayed enclosure suggests that construction probably took place in 3760-3415 cal BC. The estimate for the early Neolithic disuse of the ditches is probably 3340-2955 cal BC. According to this interpretation the enclosure was in use probably for 150-505 years.


What was Briar Hill used for?

Impression of a Causewayed Enclosure

Causewayed enclosures date from about 3700BC, some time after the beginning of the Neolithic period (4000-2200BC). They consist of a large central area surrounded by a series of ditches and banks. The ditches and banks are not continuous, and it is the spaces between them that give causewayed enclosures their name.

No one is sure why causewayed enclosures were built and what they were used for.  Some people have suggested that these monumental structures were for defence.  However, the gaps in the banks and ditches would make them very difficult to defend. Others think they were a place where the dead were exposed before their bones were buried. But most archaeologists now agree that they were probably used as a multi-purpose gathering place, combining the functions of livestock pen, trading centre, church, feasting area, and ceremonial arena.


Briar Hill Excavation Details

Briar Hill interrupted ditched enclosure, in Hardingstone parish (N.G.R. SP 735594), lies across a gentle, north-facing slope (75m. -80m. O.D.), one-third of a mile south of the river Nene, overlooking Northampton (FIG. 1). Hunsbury Hill Iron Age camp is half a mile to the south. The site was discovered in 1972 as a result of aerial reconnaissance (Northants. Archaeol. 8, (1973), 26). Photographs taken by J. Pickering and D. R. Wilson (1975: PL. 19) show a roughly circular enclosure about 4ha. in extent, bounded by two concentric, discontinuous ditches. Within it, on the east side, is a smaller circular enclosure formed by a third ditch which appears to branch from the main inner circuit. Crossing this innermost ditch is a sub-rectangular enclosure measuring approximately 25m. x 30m. and there is a similar sub-rectangular enclosure to the north-west.

A fluxgate-gradiometer survey carried out by the Ancient Monuments Laboratory of the Department of the Environment produced a much more detailed plan of all, these features and suggested the presence of others (FIG. 3). Finds indicative of Neolithic occupation were obtained during trial trenching in 1973 (Northants. Archaeol. 9, (1974), 84). On this evidence the site appeared to be one of the class of Neolithic earthworks sometimes termed 'causewayed camps'. About thirty of these have now been recorded in Britain south of the Trent, of which more than half resemble Briar Hill in that they are on relatively low-lying ground near rivers. The examples geographically closest to Briar Hill are at Southwick, Northamptonshire (TL 041929) and at Cardington, Bedfordshire (TL 093485). Briar Hill is to be developed for housing by the Northampton Development Corporation, but planning has been phased so as to allow time for a full archaeological investigation. This is particularly fortunate, not only because the site is of great local and regional importance, but also because many questions still remain to be answered about the purpose and function of causewayed camps in general. It is hoped that it will be possible to excavate the enclosure totally over a period of several' years.


the site was in use, intermittently at least, throughout most of the Neolithic period and into the Early Bronze Age. Subsequently the Neolithic earthwork was overlaid by features relating to the extensive Iron Age settlement of the area below Hunsbury Camp, which lies half a mile to the south. On the north side of the site a number of features of Roman date were excavated, but no evidence of Saxon occupation was found beyond the grubenhauser excavated during the first season (Bamford 1976, 10).


The Neolithic Enclosure

The Neolithic enclosure in its entirety measures 206 m x 192 m, is roughly symmetrical on a north west - south east axis, and consists of two main complete and concentric ditch circuits, 14m-16m apart. On the east side the inner of these two ditches curves in a continuous right hand spiral to define the elliptical inner enclosure which measures 92m x 84m. South of the hedge line which formed the southern boundary of the preliminary geophysical survey and of the excavation the inner ditch was located in a trench for a gas pipeline, and the continuation of the outer ditch shows faintly in some of the air photographs (FIG 1).



On the west side of the outer enclosure a gap in the outer ditch circuit and two opposing gaps in the inner ditch were associated with pits (219, 265, and perhaps 236) which may represent the remains of entrance structures (cf Orsett: Hedges 1978, 242). If so, these were not necessarily all contemporary. 219 and 236 were cut by the weathering back of the edges of the adjacent ditch segments, whereas 265, which was almost certainly a large post pit, belongs to a late phase of the adjacent ditch segment. North of 265 and contemporary with it or slightly earlier in date were the remains of what looked like a setting of at least three large timbers, the footings of which were dug from a high level into the fill of a recut of the ditch segment. Another gap in the inner ditch on the south west side of the enclosure may also have been an entrance, but the evidence to support this idea is slight.



No direct evidence survived of any banks associated with the ditches, although it was thought that a thin spread of dark, uniform sandy loam extending over the subsoil surface for 12 m inside the inner edge of the inner ditch on the west side of the enclosure might have been the vestige of a surface formerly protected by a bank. In the fill of many of the excavated outer ditch segments, however, the 3 Northamptonshire Archaeology 14, 1979 HELEN M BAMFORD collapse or slumping of a bank is suggested by large tips, often of loose ironstone rubble, deriving from the inner edge (cf Orsett: Hedges 1978, 234; and Hambledon: Mercer pers comm and 1977). Similar evidence indicates that there may have been mounds or banks at the north and south ends of the inner ditch spiral, between the overlapping ditch segments. No evidence was found of timber palisades or revetting associated with the ditches, apart from a series of four shallow post pits (138-141) no more than 0.30 in deep, along the inner lip of the inner ditch on the south east side of the inner enclosure. These were dug partly into the fill of the primary cut of the ditch.



The main inner and outer ditch circuits consisted, as stated in the first interim report (Bamford 1978, 8), of steep sided, flat bottomed pits or segments separated by `causeways'. The size of individual segments varied considerably within each circuit; most were between 1.5 in - 2 in in depth below the present subsoil surface and they rarely if ever exceeded 10m in length, although some appeared longer on the surface where `causeways' were buried or had been obliterated by recutting. In general the outer ditch segments excavated were slightly narrower and more shallow than those of the main inner ditch, but those which flanked the possible entrance on the west side of the enclosure were, by contrast, particularly large and deep. The segments of the spiral arm of the inner ditch all tended to be relatively small and shallow, none being deeper than 1.5m, and the north west side of the inner enclosure was defined by an arc of small, shallow pits 0.50 in or less in depth. To the south and probably to the north of this arc were pairs of deeper pits set side by side across the line of the `ditch' circuit. The northern pair formed the primary phase of an extensively recut ditch segment. At the north end of the arc was a gap which could have been the entrance to the inner enclosure. In the middle of this two pits (160 and 161) were set close together, and although they were quite shallow there were indications that one or both may have held the base of a large timber upright or some kind of vertical structure. Perhaps the most important single result of the excavation of the ditches has been the accumulation of stratigraphic and other consistent evidence for the repeated recutting of ditch segments which points to a prolonged, if perhaps intermittent, use of the site during the Neolithic period. The policy of excavating ditch segments by the quadrant method so as to obtain complete longitudinal as well as cross sections was continued, and proved invaluable in the recovery and recording of this evidence. At several points along both the outer and inner ditches, including the spiral arm, four successive cuts have been recognised, and the majority of segments examined in each circuit appear to have been redug at least once. These sequences indicate a long chronology. The stratification of the infill of each individual cut is almost invariably consistent with a largely natural, and presumably slow, process of silting, assisted by the collapse in some places of bank material, yet in nearly every instance recuts are from a level high in the secondary silt of the preceding phase. From this it seems probable that the earthwork was reinstated on a grand scale several times at long intervals, although the reconstruction may not necessarily have been complete on each occasion. Hardly any indication of recutting was found in segments of the outer ditch excavated on the north side of the enclosure, and it would seem that here, for much of the time, the outer circuit may not have been complete. The lines of the ditch circuits were followed precisely in the recutting, but the positions of the component segments shifted back and forth along those lines except where entrances have been postulated. At any one time, therefore, these segments would have been more widely spaced than is apparent from the final plan, which is a palimpsest.



A full series of radiocarbon determinations will be required for the chronology of the site to be clarified properly, but the first dates obtained from samples from the ditches support the stratigraphic evidence of a long chronology. Charcoal from just above the primary silt in one of the segments of the outer ditch on the north side of the enclosure gave a date of 3490 ± 1"l0 bcl (HAR-2282). A second date of 1590 ± 80 be (HAR-2389) obtained for a Late Neolithic/ Early Bronze Age pit dug into the fill of the final major recut of an inner ditch segment provides a terminus ante quem for the final silting of the ditch at that point. The stratification of Neolithic pottery in the ditches is consistent with these dates. Sherds of Neolithic bowls which have affinities with the pottery from Broome Heath (Wainwright .1972) and Mildenhall (Clark et al 1960) were associated with most phases of the ditches. Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sherds, including Fengate and Beaker ware, were found only in the top layers of the final fill.



Although large areas of the interior of the enclosure were cleaned and recorded in great detail, very few features of demonstrably Neolithic date were found there, and all of these were within the inner enclosure. The most substantial of the features were three widely spaced, lobed clusters of three or more intersecting pits (156/157, 218 and 183/203), around 0.50 m in depth and up to 2.O m in diameter. Both 156 and 218 incorporated a centrally placed, vertical-sided sub-rectangular pit, the fill of which included quantities of charcoal and burnt sand and ironstone. These are rather shallow to have supported single timber uprights of the dimensions indicated, though this is a possible interpretation. Alternatively, they may have held wooden containers (cf Broome Heath: Wainwright 1972, 18). From 156 there is a radiocarbon date of 2340 ± 80 be (HAR-2625). The fill of 218 contained several small sherds of undecorated Neolithic pottery. Apart from these there were a few very small, shallow pits (eg 137, 155, 143) which seem to be of Neolithic date, and a larger number of small pits which contained no dating evidence but which, from their location and the character of their fill, could also be Neolithic. The distribution of worked flints and sherds of Neolithic pottery on the surface of the subsoil and in the ditches may reflect areas of activity in the interior. It is noticeably denser in the southern and western parts of the inner enclosure and the adjoining ditch segments, and very dense in the pits and ditch segments flanking the possible entrance on the north west side of the inner enclosure. The fill of those features included extensive deposits or tips of dark soil with charcoal and sometimes burnt sand and stone, and contained large quantities of sherds of Neolithic bowls in a variety of fabrics, worked flints, several chips of stone from polished axes, and a number of broken grinding and rubbing stones. It is not clear whether these finds represent `ritual' deposits (Mercer 1975) or simply domestic rubbish. The character of the finds seems domestic but their extremely localised nature might be held to suggest the former possibility. Finds of Neolithic material from the outer enclosure were relatively sparse, although a few Neolithic sherds and flints were found in the fills of the inner ditch segments on the west side. The fill of one of these segments on the south west of the site did, however, include an extensive layer of dark sandy loam, which contained large numbers of worked flints. As observed in the first season's work, finds from the outer ditch were rare.



Towards the end of the Neolithic period the ditches and the banks, if any, around the enclosure must have been vestigial, but still visible. Use of the site at this time, indicated by finds of pottery in the upper fill of the ditches, seems to be confirmed by the discovery of a small, but probably fairly stout timber structure (145) centrally placed in the southern half of the inner enclosure (PL 3). A slot up to 0.70 m in depth from the present subsoil surface defined three sides of a rectangular area 5.0 m x 2.5 m, orientated west-east and open at the east end. This slot had contained timber uprights, and in it were found sherds of Late Neolithic Grooved ware and charcoal giving a date of 2060 ± 90 be (HAR-2607), which is in full agreement with the pottery. There is no evidence that the structure was domestic in character, or even that it was necessarily roofed. West of this was a north-south setting of at least three shallow post pits - a single (158) and a double one (314) which contained sherds of Grooved Ware. Between 158 and 314 was a possible fourth (315). These could be related to 145 or form part of a second, less substantial structure. A very shallow scoop in the subsoil (321), which contained small sherds of Late Neolithic pottery with impressed decoration is the only other feature of the interior which can at present be assigned a specifically Late Neolithic date.



On the south west side of the outer enclosure, 12 m east of the inner ditch was found a tight cluster of small pits in which a number of cremations had been buried. Four of these cremations were contained in the remains of badly decayed bucket shaped urns placed mouth up. The upper part of these urns had been destroyed by ploughing. The rest were without any surviving container, but one was accompanied by a burnt barbed and tanged arrowhead of Early Bronze Age type (PL 4). There was no trace of any barrow or other structure associated with the burials, but if there was formerly a bank on the inner edge of the ditch at this point, they would have been in the tail of it. These cremations lie almost diametrically opposite the burnt bone deposit in one of the inner ditch segments on the east side found in 1975-6 (Bamford 1976, 8). It is unlikely that the two are connected, however; for the latter a radiocarbon date of 2650 ± 90 be has now been obtained.



By the time of the Iron Age occupation of the site the Neolithic ditches had evidently filled up almost entirely. The final silt of the Neolithic ditches contained no Iron Age material and was cut from the highest surviving level by Iron Age pits and ditches. The distribution of Iron Age features behind and between the ditches where banks would have been suggests that the latter, assuming they existed, had now been more or less levelled either deliberately or by process of natural degradation. There were two foci of Iron Age activity within the site. To the south east and straddling the inner enclosure ditch were two rectilinear enclosures measuring 30 m x 21 m, and 15 m x 11 m respectively. The larger of the two (131) was surrounded by a ditch 1.0 m deep of wide V profile with a narrow ' slot along the bottom. Immediately alongside it to the east was the smaller enclosure (109) defined by a slot 0.30 m - 0.40 m deep for a palisade or fence. Both had entrances on the east side. No trace of any hut was found inside either of them, and the only contemporary(?) feature was a shallow pit (132) in the north west corner of 109. East and north of the two enclosures was a widely spaced scatter of pits. Only one of these (107) was a large storage pit, the rest being of relatively small size and varying form. 80 m to the west of these is a third small rectilinear enclosure (194) measuring 11 m x 11 m, with a ditch 0.60 m - 0.70 m deep of slightly irregular wide V profile. This ditch on the east side follows the inner edge of the Neolithic inner ditch, which suggests that the latter was still discernible at this time. Again, no datable features were found inside this enclosure, but clustered closely around it on the west, south and east sides were a number of pits, the majority of which contained evidence of ironworking in the form of slag and fired clay lumps.



Many features on the site cannot be dated securely. As noted above, a number of small pits in the southern half of the inner enclosure and perhaps near the west side of the outer enclosure may be Neolithic in date. The pit alignment which ran east-west across the north end of the site was cut by the Roman pits and is probably Iron Age or earlier in date. In 1978 it was traced further west to where it converged briefly on the Neolithic outer ditch. A shallow slot (198) which ran east-west across the western half of the Neolithic enclosure seems to correspond to 49 on the east side, although it was less substantial than the latter. Both ran to the outer ditch, but could not be traced beyond it. Pottery from 198 is of Iron Age type, including a small sherd of Hunsbury style curvilinear decorated ware, but the evidence of finds from 49 is inconclusive. The rectilinear setting of post pits east of the Iron Age enclosure 194 is most likely to be of Iron Age date also, since the few finds associated with the pits included sherds of Iron Age pottery, and a triangular clay loom weight.



The group of irregular pits straddling the outer ditch on the north side of the site produced pottery of late 1st century and ?4th century date. The largest of these pits (64) had a maximum depth of 2.35 m, and the character of the fill indicates that it was left open for some time and that it contained water.

MEDIEVAL North-south linear features with a sunken track (?) appear to be of medieval or later date and probably relate to a field boundary. The whole site is crossed by traces of ridge and furrow.



The excavation of the Briar Hill Neolithic causewayed enclosure was carried out in advance of development for housing by the Northampton Development Corporation and was thus, in a sense, a `rescue' operation. At the same time it was intended from the outset to be a full investigation of a site which, as the first of its kind to be excavated in the Midland region, was potentially of exceptional importance.  Total excavation or sampling on a very extensive scale seemed the only methods likely to provide the full range of information necessary to any understanding of its history and function.  The site had been under plough and was on a very difficult subsoil. Since there has been some discussion recently concerning the survival and recovery of evidence in the interior of causewayed enclosures generally (Whittle 1977) it should, perhaps, be stressed that the techniques of excavation employed were adopted specifically to facilitate identification of residual and obscure features. Particular care was taken over the initial cleaning and recording of the subsoil surface, which was monitored subsequently under varying conditions and after weathering. Undoubtedly, given the problems, a few man-made features will have been overlooked, but we can be reasonably confident that the great majority which survived within the area of excavation were recognised and investigated. Further excavation, particularly of the north west sector of the enclosure, would have been ideal and would, no doubt, have yielded further details of the plan of the ditch circuits, but on balance it seems unlikely that any information gained would have cast radically different light on the interpretation of the site. The excavation sought answers to two main questions: what was the history of the site? and what was its function or functions? The one has, of course, considerable bearing on the other. The four years' work has gone a long way towards resolving the first question. Unambiguous answers to the second were, as on other causewayed enclosures investigated, less readily forthcoming, and at least one category of useful evidence found on some sites, namely unburnt human and animal bone, did not survive in the acid soil of Briar Hill. The evidence which has been obtained does, however, appear to add weight to the support of certain hypotheses. It would be inappropriate at this stage to embark upon a detailed discussion of the results of the excavation, but some of their implications are already clear. Of these, the first and most striking is not only the evident importance of the enclosure to those who built and used it, but the importance and long continuity of the tradition which caused it to be maintained or renovated substantially several times, over perhaps 1,000 years. Briefly, the evidence suggests that the outlines of the ditch circuits with the inner and outer enclosures were established as an organic design at the beginning, or at least at an early stage, since the inner enclosure might conceivably have been constructed before the rest, and that this design was followed precisely in all subsequent restorations of the site, whether partial or complete. The notable scarcity of contemporary features in the interior is not unusual in a causewayed enclosure but here its significance is emphasised by the scale of the investigation. In this context the negative evidence may be as important as the positive. The question of whether the site was primarily ritual or domestic and utilitarian in function is a complex one and cannot be considered here at any length, but it may be noted that the findings in the interior of the Briar Hill enclosure do not resemble the normal pattern of any known purely domestic site of the period. Pits, hearths or other disturbances indicative of occupation are virtually absent; of the few Neolithic features identified, those which have been dated so far seem to belong to a relatively late phase of the site's history. If we are to assume that a majority of features relating to the use of the site have been destroyed by ploughing and erosion, the record indicates that they must have been ephemeral indeed. The character of the Neolithic artefacts found in the ditches and on the subsoil surface, is consistent with purely domestic activities. The quantity of material recovered from the site is, however, much less than one would expect from intensive domestic occupation over a long period, even though it could represent only a tithe of what has been lifted in ploughing from the now vanished prehistoric surface. Most of the finds in the ditch fills probably arrived there incidentally, although the occasional small deposits of blackened soil with charcoal may represent the tipping of rubbish or hearth ashes. On the other hand, the concentration of finds in the pits of the spiral arm of the inner ditch could well be the result of a deliberate deposition of rubbish, whether for practical or ritual purposes. In either event, the distribution of artefacts overall points to activity inside rather than outside the enclosures, and particularly inside the inner enclosure which seems to have been the focus of the site. The evidence for continuity of use of the site, and of tradition, into the Late Neolithic and perhaps even into the Early Bronze Age period is unusually strong on Briar Hill. The location of Late Neolithic features in relation to the plan of the site as a whole seems deliberate, even though the ditches had, it would seem, largely silted up by this time. The incorporation of cremation burials into the site might be coincidental but, again, their siting suggests that it was deliberate in relation to still-visible earthworks. One is reminded of the Bronze Age round barrows within and around the Windmill Hill site (Smith 1965, FIG 3), but even more strongly of the association of cremation burials with some henges. These burials, together with the evidence of an earlier Grooved Ware presence on the site, raise once again the question of the possibility of an overlap of tradition and function between some causewayed enclosures and henges (eg Catherall 1976, 8). During the Bronze Age the site seems to have been abandoned completely until around 300 BC. The Iron Age occupation is of interest for various reasons, not least because of what it tells us us about the state of the surviving Neolithic earthworks at that time. They seem to have constituted no obstacle to the construction of the features which straddle them and yet were, apparently still partially visible, since some of them are utilised in the siting of the later features, in particular the ditch of enclosure 194. It is possible, however, that the final levelling or degradation of the earthworks took place during this period. The existence of a Roman site is indicated on the north side of the site. The Saxon grubenhauser which were found may relate to more extensive settlement to the east.

Neolithic Life

The Neolithic or New Stone Age can be defined as the time when people took up agriculture as a way of life, and stopped being nomadic hunter-gatherers. Sometime around 4000 BC the ideas and technology of farming, and perhaps some of the first livestock, crossed the Channel and arrived in England. Farming quickly spread all across the British Isles, a social revolution every bit as eventful as the Industrial Revolution some 6000 years later.

Communities were small, but they were communities, so people could and did indulge in large projects requiring group participation, such as the building of communal graves (long barrows), causewayed camps, and henges. Although these people were farmers, they hadn't yet ironed out all the fine details of crop management, so every 10-20 years the land would reach the point where it could no longer support crops and the group would have to move on.

Life span was short, about 35 years for men and 30 for women. Arthritis was rampant, as was malnutrition.

Neolithic Farmers

After the term “Stone Age” was coined in the late 19th century CE, scholars proposed to divide the Stone Age into different periods: Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic. The term Neolithic refers to the last stage of the Stone Age. The period is significant for its megalithic architecture, spread of agricultural practices, and use of polished stone tools.

The term Neolithic or New Stone Age is most frequently used in connection with agriculture, which is the time when cereal cultivation and animal domestication was introduced. Because agriculture developed at different times in different regions of the world, there is no single date for the beginning of the Neolithic.

The people living on the new islands of Britain were descendants of the first modern humans, or Homo sapiens, who arrived in northern Europe around 30,000 - 40,000 years ago. Like their early ancestors they lived by hunting and gathering. The introduction of farming, when people learned how to produce rather than acquire their food, is widely regarded as one of the biggest changes in human history. This change happened at various times in several different places around the world. The concept of farming that reached Britain between about 5000 BC and 4500 BC. The people living on the new islands of Britain were descendants of the first modern humans, or Homo sapiens, who arrived in northern Europe around 30,000 - 40,000 years ago. Like their early ancestors they lived by hunting and gathering. The introduction of farming, when people learned how to produce rather than acquire their food, is widely regarded as one of the biggest changes in human history. This change happened at various times in several different places around the world. The concept of farming that reached Britain between about 5000 BC and 4500 BC

Neolithic Long Houses

The Neolithic long housewas a long, narrow timber dwelling built by the first farmers in Europe beginning at least as early as the period 5000 to 6000 BC. It is thought that these Neolithic houses had no windows and only one doorway. The end farthest from the door appears to have been used for grain storage with working activities being carried out in the better lit door end and the middle used for sleeping and eating. Twenty or thirty people could have lived in each house with villages of six or seven houses known. A long house would measure around 20 metres in length and 7 metres in width.