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This evening I delivered an online talk for Wiltshire Museum on the theme of ‘History in Prehistory: Interpreting the Prehistoric Landscape in Medieval and Early Modern England’, which examined the evidence for pre-archaeological interpretations of prehistoric landscape features from the early Middle Ages to the advent of antiquarianism in the 16th century.
Medieval and early modern people lived in a rural England whose landscape and boundaries were still determined, to a remarkable degree, by their Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age predecessors. In many parts of the country, people lived in the shadow of artificial landscape features created by prehistoric people which served as landmarks and focuses of local folklore. The talk examined how medieval and early modern people approached the prehistoric past in the landscape before the advent of antiquarianism and archaeology, and how their folklore, religious beliefs and understanding of customary traditions affected their interpretation of prehistoric features.