Tag Archives: Skara Brae

To the Manor Born

This month Rita Bay’s Blog will check out how our British and American ancestors lived.  Homes reflect the availability of resources to the people who built it.   Homes also tell us something about the people who built them–what they valued and how they lived. 

Star Carr

The earliest visitors to Great Britain had to come and go with the melting and advancing of the glaciers over thousands of years.  The first people to settle in Britain were hunter gathers who lived on the resources available.  The Star Carr site in Yorkshire is about 10,000 years old.  The inhabitants lived on platforms above the lake.  Archaeologists discovered red deer bones and antlers were discovered with the flint tools to process their hides and meat. 

Antler headdress

They also discovered a boat oar, the bones of a dog and an antler headdress.  About this time the plain that connected what is now Britain and the European continent was flooded.  The flooded area became the North Sea and English Channel.



About 5,000 years ago the residents of th community of Skara Brae on the island of Orkney built partially buried homes of stone.  The buildings were  discovered in 1850   when a storm eroded part of a beach, revealing the settlement. The eight homes were constructed of stone because of the limited amount of  wood on the island.  Stone is a dense material that insulates well.  The residents constructed the homes so they could travel from one area to another without going outside.  The one-room homes built around a central fireplace had rudimentary plumbing and cooking facilities.  The beds, dressers, and tables were also constructed of stone.

Tomorrow, the Celts & Romans move in.  Rita Bay

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Origins of the English Language

Cheddar Man & His Descendant, Adrian Targett

     No one knows the language that the first people who walked across the land bridge from France to England more than 800,000 years ago spoke.  The language of Cheddar Man who died in Cheddar Gorge in Sussex England about 9,000 years ago or the residents of Skara Brae, a 5,000-year-old community on the island of Orkney, is also unknown.  The theory is that all of the European languages-Germanic, Italic, Celtic and Hellenic- are descended from a branch of the ancient “IndoEuropean” language which was spoken about 6,000 years ago. 

Skara Brae

     The first identifiable language spoken in Britain was Celtic around 1000 bc.  The Celts brought their language, weapons technology, and pottery to Britain.  Over the years, the Celtic language evolved into two distinct branches.  Goedelic Celtic included Manx, Irish Gaelic, and Scots Gaelic.  Brythonic Celtic included Cornish, Breton, and Welsh.

Celtic Warriors

In 49 bc, the Roman general Julius Caesar, invaded southern Britain.  The Celtic tribes either surrendered to or were defeated by the Roman legions.  The Romans brought with them their culture and technology—and their language—which influenced the English people for the next four centuries. 

Anglo-Saxon Helmet

     The Romans and Celts brought in Germanic mercenaries to fight the tribes of Scotland who constantly invaded southern Britain. In the 5th century AD the mercenaries—Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, and Danes—liked what they saw so they stayed, forced the Celts to flee to the west and north, and settled their families in the choicest areas.  They also brought their Germanic language which became the primary influence on the English language.

King William & His Brothers

In 1066 AD the Norman French invaded England.  While the Normans continued to speak French for more than a century, the French language was not spoken by the populace.  The French language did make numerous contributions to the English language some of which we’ll see later.  Over the centuries the English language evolved into several forms of Modern English—American, Canadian, British, Australian, Indian, Irish, and Scottish.

Tomorrow:  Using Prefixes to Maximize Your Vocabulary    Rita Bay

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