From shamans to sacked churches, an anthropologist reveals nine atmospheric sites that help tell the British story
Britain boasts a past that’s far stranger than might be expected. Those who look far enough back can discover cannibals, shamans and sun, moon and water-worshippers, Christian initiations and pagan bog sacrifices. There’s also evidence of prehistoric mummification, 20th-century magic and all manner of sites that blend old and new beliefs into complex, compelling hybrids. Maybe it’s because so many different peoples have shaped this island, making their marks on the landscape, on artefacts and on the next generation. Each generation, each wave of immigrants, each trade network has brought something new to the party.
Research often focuses on how such wonders were wrought – and modern scientific techniques have answered many pressing questions. But my book Secret Britain, aims to explore the more elusive question: why? Definitive answers aren’t always easy to come by, but we can stand puzzled, moved or uplifted in the presence of this strange and secret history. It’s exactly what the ancestors were doing, too.