Ancestors: the prehistory of Britain in seven burials

In this latest book by Alice Roberts, we are taken on a tour of prehistoric Britain through an in-depth exploration of seven of the most famous burials from this period found on these shores. Each main chapter of the book focuses on one particular individual – from the oldest human burial in Britain, the ‘Red Lady’ of Paviland, to the Bronze Age charioteer at Pocklington – delving into the circumstances of their discovery, as well as the impact they have had on our understanding of prehistoric life. These chapters are then book-ended by a more personal account of a new ancient DNA project being undertaken at the Crick Institute, which Roberts is helping to champion, that aims to further illuminate this period of Britain by sequencing the entire genomes of a thousand individuals – an ambitious project, which has unfortunately had some setbacks due to the pandemic. With the results of the project postponed, this is not quite the ending Roberts may have envisioned for the book, but it is still an immersive read, with Roberts never shying away from integrating the old with the new, tying in the ancient world with the ongoing challenges of today’s society.

Ancestors: the prehistory of Britain in seven burials, Alice Roberts, Simon & Schuster, £20, ISBN 978-1471188015.
Review by KK.