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Received wisdom tells us that the Romans invaded and brutally suppressed our backward ancestors and that when they left – turning the lights out as they did – we reverted to a state of anarchy, sinking into the Dark Ages until new and more brutal invaders, the Anglo-Saxons, swept everything away again and reintroduced order.
However, according to archaeologist and best-selling author Francis Pryor, received wisdom could not be more wrong. In the follow-up to his hugely successful Britain BC , which offered a radical reinterpretation of pre-Roman Britain, he looks at the myths we too readily accept as our history.
The truth, he says, is far more complicated. In this three-part series, he uncovers the continuous culture that, rather than being destroyed by these outside forces, absorbed them and was strengthened by them. Drawing on new archaeological evidence that confounds traditional views of Britain as a powerless bunch of warring barbarian tribes, he discovers a far more interesting story, one that puts the continuing energy of the ancient Britons at its core.
At the heart of Pryor's search is the mysterious figure of King Arthur. In the Arthurian story of the lady in the lake, he finds clues that indicate lasting rituals and customs that link pre-Roman Britain to the Middle Ages, adding weight to his argument for a strong British culture that endured the influence of outsiders.
This was not a country whose heritage was disappearing under the yoke of oppression, argues Pryor, but one whose unique characteristics endured and shaped the nation for centuries to come.
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