Thursday, December 29, 2011

Unearthing London: the ancient world of the metropolis

Excavations that take place from time to time in London help to reveal the history of the area on which London now stands. Simon Webb is particularly interested in the use of the land prior to the arrival of the Romans and the building of the city of Londinium. He also examines how certain sites have continuously been used as religious sites throughout the ages.

For thousands of years the area around London consisted of many rivers flowing through marshland into the Thames with the land primarily used for religious purposes. The first section of the book largely looks at how pre-Roman people used the land in and around London, particularly how they honoured their dead. Chapters include an examination of the rivers and hills as part of the ritual landscape, religious views of pre-Roman peoples, plus an examination of gods and goddesses and the practice of severing heads from bodies. With the arrival of the Romans many of the pre-existing gods in Britain merged with the Roman gods and were often worshipped at the same shrines. Webb also investigates the similarity between the Saxon gods and those of pre-Roman Britain.

The final chapter provides a series of walks through London where reminders of earlier life in the city still remain. For those who watch Time Team this book provides additional information relating to some of the excavations undertaken in the program. Unfortunately there is too much repetition in the book  which for me affected its readability.

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