Brits gathered for celebrations already in the Stone Age

Published 4 November 2023
- By Editorial Staff
Tridents and arrowheads have been found at the site.

Findings of a significant amount of remnants from items like arrows and tridents indicate that large rituals took place in Great Britain during the Stone Age. Additionally, a considerable quantity of pigment has been uncovered at the site, further supporting evidence that body painting was likely a common practice.

In Northwest England, an examination of a 6,500-year-old prehistoric site revealed a vast collection of red ochre fragments. Accompanying this discovery were grinding stones, which, when combined with the red ochre, were likely used to create pigments, as reported by the British Independent.

The term “Britain” is believed to have originated from the Celtic word “pritani”, which translates to “the painted”. This is thought to reflect the ancient inhabitants’ practice of body painting. In total, 610 fragments of red ochre have been uncovered to date.

Located on an island by the River Eden near Carlisle, the site is now believed to have been used for religious rituals and large gatherings. Evidence also suggests that this location was a crucial fishing hub during the salmon spawning season, given the discovery of arrows and tridents, believed to have been used for fishing during this time. To date, hundreds of arrows have been found, despite only a small portion of the island having been excavated.

Complex Society

This suggests that more than a hundred individuals might have gathered at this site. Other discovered artifacts indicate that these individuals hailed from a broad geographical area. Notably, volcanic glass found at the site originates from hundreds of kilometers away.

The Carlisle site is important because it demonstrates the social complexity of Mesolithic hunter-gatherer society – and the remarkable extent to which widely dispersed communities interacted across much of Britain, says Fraser Brown, who leads the archaeological investigation with the British consultancy, Oxford Archaeology.

This discovery is the first time such extensive evidence has been found indicating the interconnected nature of early British groups during the Stone Age, before the advent of farming. The discovery of the red ochre also strengthens the evidence that body painting could have been a British tradition, ultimately giving the country its name, essentially meaning “the land of the painted people”.

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