Some of the best preserved and most visually impressive archaeological sites in Europe are on our own doorstep. From the days of early excavations carried out at Stonehenge and Avebury in the 18th century, to recent extraordinary finds from cities, fields and shoreline, British archaeology provides unique insights into the lives and cultures of its early inhabitants.
The earliest evidence of humans in Britain is at Happisburgh in Norfolk in an area of heavy erosion where the land is being constantly devoured by the sea. This site is particularly significant as it dates to 850,000 years old, pushing back the estimate of
human presence in Northern Europe, and it is also the location of the oldest hominin footprints located outside of Africa.
For millennia Britain was a changing collection of tribal areas, with no overall leader as Celtic tribes arrived from mainland Europe. The Romans successfully invaded in 43 AD and as a result Britain is one of the best places in the former Roman empire for the study of the Roman military. At its height, the garrison of the province comprised something like 55,000 troops, roughly one eighth of the entire armed might of the empire. This major presence has left very extensive physical remains and Britain has a tradition of studying the Roman military as long-standing and well-developed as any other.
Following the Romans, two waves of immigrants came to Britain. Firstly, German tribes: the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. Then,
secondly, the Vikings. For a long period, England was split into various kingdoms until it was unified by Æthelstan in 945 AD and
subsequently, by force, England and Wales in the 13th century by Edward I. The union with Scotland took much longer and
was plagued by hundreds of years of conflicts finally ending in the union in 1707. Finally in 1921, Northern Ireland split from its
southern neighbour in an act of partition to join the United Kingdom we know today.
This diverse and long history has resulted in a plethora of burial mounds, stone circles, hilltop forts, settlements, ancient quarries,
medieval castles and imposing palaces, serving as powerful symbols of authority and prestige.
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