(Chapter IV, section 10)


The Neolithic in the British Isles

The next move in this geographical game is back to the extreme west again, and to Britain. The Early Neolithic culture of the British Isles was a peripheral echo of the movements which influenced the rest of western Europe. The so-called Windmill Hill culture, closely allied to the Michelsburg expression in southern Germany, may have been originally of either North African or Danubian inspiration, or a blend of both. Childe, seeing Merimdian similarities in the pottery, suggests but does not insist on the former. At any rate, we have no valid evidence in Britain itself to indicate the physical type of the people who brought it.55

The bulk of the Neolithic population of the British Isles seems to have come by sea, 56 with the Megalithic invasions which also passed on to Denmark and southern Sweden. In many parts of Scotland and in Ireland, the Megalithic people may well have been the first bringers of the Neolithic economy. In England, it was their custom to make primary interments under long barrows of earth, unchambered in Yorkshire and Derbyshire, chambered in the counties farther south.

The cranial remains of Long Barrow men, as the occupants of these monuments are called, are abundant.57 (See Appendix I, col. 13) Although over 160 skulls represent this group, the geographical distribution is far from even. Wiltshire, Staffordshire, and Gloucestershire account for 120; fourteen only are from Scotland, and one from Ireland. The remaining thirty come from a few counties of England. Wales is unrepresented as is most of Scotland; the few crania found in the latter country were all buried close to the sea. The Long Barrow people, who had come by water, selected open, unforested country to live in. A large part of the land area in the British Isles was, therefore, either uninhabited or open to the wanderings of earlier human occupants.

The Long Barrow population formed a distinct, homogeneous type; one different from any which, to our knowledge, had previously inhabited the British Isles since the days of Galley Hill; and one which cannot be duplicated, except as an element in a mixed population, anywhere on the western European continent. One is, therefore, led to conclude that the Megalithic cult was not merely a complex of burial rites which diffused without visible carriers; and also that the bearers of this complex avoided mixture by coming by sea.

In stature and bodily build, the Megalithic people belong to a large variety of Mediterranean. The stature for a large number of males58 from England ranges about a mean of 167 or 168 cm.; which is not contraverted by the meager evidence from Scotland and Ireland. Four male skeletons from a single burial in Kent59 may represent, more nearly than most, the Windmill Hill group; they are somewhat shorter than the rest.

The Long Barrow skulls are large for a Mediterranean sub-race, but not as large as those of the Upper Palaeolithic peoples. They are particularly long, moderately narrow, and of medium height. Unlike that of the Corded skulls, the height is less than the breadth. In most instances, the occiput projects far to the rear; the parietals are parallel; the forehead is moderately sloping, and, in contrast to the restricted skull width, very straight and broad.

The face is of medium length and of moderate width; the orbits are of medium dimensions, and in many instances slope downward and outward, as if the confines of the face were too narrow for them. The nasion depression is of medium depth, under browridges of medium development; and the straight-profiled nose is leptorrhine. In its totality, the Long Barrow type is both extreme and striking.

In looking for related populations of equal age, we may eliminate at once the smaller, less dolichocephalic branches of the Mediterranean race proper, including the Danubian. A few individual crania in Neolithic Spain and Italy would qualify, but none of the series from these countries. The standard Egyptian crania, as groups, are all too small, as is the single lady from Greece. In one particular feature, the nasal index, the Long Barrow people resemble the Egyptians more than most of the more northerly Mediterraneans, for the Long Barrow crania are leptorrhine.

In their extreme dolichocephaly, the Long Barrow skulls resemble the Corded group, but the comparison does not hold for all features - the Long Barrow skulls are slightly longer, considerably broader, and much wider of forehead, than the Corded specimens, and, of course, the vault of the Long Barrow skulls is much lower.60 As far as one can tell, the orbits in the two series are much the same, while in regard to the faces, there is not enough evidence in the Corded group for a valid comparison.

A true and valid similarity, however, may be found between the English Long Barrow series and the early skulls from al 'Ubaid in Sumeria, which, whether belonging to the fourth or third millennium B.C., are in either case older than their British counterparts. The only difference, which prevents identity, is that the Mesopotamian faces and noses are somewhat longer.

The current idea that the Long Barrow people were directly derived from the Upper Palaeolithic inhabitants of Britain is clearly erroneous. The Long Barrow skulls are definitely smaller, shorter, and narrower than those of the Upper Palaeolithic group, but of equal or greater height; they have the same forehead breadth, the same upper face height, but a smaller jaw, a much narrower face, and narrower orbits. There is probably a genetic linkage, over a long period of time, between the Long Barrow or Megalithic type and an early Galley Hill or Combe Capelle variety of European man, but the continuity could not, for historical reasons, have taken place in England.

The few crania from the Scottish seashores belong to the standard Long Barrow type, and the same may be said for the one surely Neolithic specimen from Ireland - the male vault from Stoneyisland, Portumna, County Galway.61 The male skull from Ringabella, County Cork,62 which is perhaps also Neolithic, is likewise of Megalithic race, while the disputed Kilgreany specimen, whatever its age, is, although low vaulted, also basically of a Galley Hill Mediterranean type.63 However, the large mandible of the latter, and its low vault, make it atypical, so that it, like two skulls from Phoenix Park, Dublin,64 which may be Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, is not wholly characteristic of the Long Barrow race, and may derive its peculiarities from either a Mesolithic or an early Bronze Age source. We must repeat, in view of these aberrances, that the only surely Neolithic skull in Ireland is of Long Barrow race.

The Megalithic Long Barrow people must have come by sea, and they probably came from somewhere in the Mediterranean. They did not find the British Isles uninhabited, and their homogeneity, in a few restricted localities, cannot mean that they caused the extinction of earlier peoples. Nor did they, when still later invasions of another physical complex reached the British Isles, become extinct.65 The mountains of Wales, the hills of Cornwall and Devon, and almost the whole of Ireland, remain a blank in our early skeletal map of the British Isles.


55. The so-called river-bed skulls, dredged from the bottom of the Thames, are those of low-vaulted Mediterraneans. These may include some examples from the Early Neolithic, but the evidence is inconclusive. (Garson, J. G., JRAI, vol. 20, 1890, pp. 20-25.) Three skulls from stone cists at La Motte, Jersey are similar. (Marett, R. R., Archaeologia, vol. 63, 1911-12, pp. 203-230. Keith, Sir A., Antiquity of Man, vol. 1, pp. 52-65.)

56. Childe, who read Chapters II to VII in manuscript before revision, comments at this point: "I find it hard to believe that the bulk of the British population came by sea. The Windmill Hill culture is predominant in the megalithic tombs, but those earlier." While Childe is undoubtedly correct as to the importance of the Windmill Hill people culturally, there is little evidence of them in the physical sense. This apparent contradiction cannot be explained on the basis of present data. The fact that small Mediterraneans do appear in the living British population (see Chapter X) indicates that Childe's observation may be well founded.

57. Morant, G. M., Biometrika, vol. 18, 1926, pp. 56-98.

58. Calculated by the Pearson formulae on femora from several series, including some eighty-six individuals from England, of which many may be duplicates; three from Scotland, and one from Ireland. Sources: Crania Britannica; Thurman, J.; Garson, J. G.; Mortimer, J. R.; Keith and Bennett; Edwards, A. J. H., and Low, A.; Laing, S., and Huxley, T. H.; and Bryce.

59. Keith, Sir A., and Bennett, JRAI, vol. 43, 1910, pp. 86-100.

60. In this I am relying on Morant's mean of 135.5 mm. for 25 male crania. Schuster (1905) gives 137.8 mm. for 12; Garrison, 135.0 mm. for four from Howe Hill Barrow, Yorkshire. On the other hand, 45 male crania of Thurman (1867) when seriated = 143 mm., 59 from the Crania Britannica and Thurman = 142.1 mm.

61. Martin, C. P., JSAI, vol. 64, June, 1934, pp. 87-89.
Movius, H. L., Jr., op. cit., vol. 65, Dec., 1935, p. 282. For dating by palaeobotany, see Shea, S., JGAS, vol. 15, 1931, pp. 73 ff. White, Miss J. M., INF, vol. 3, 1934, pp. 270-274.

62. Martin, C. P., in Ó Ríordáin, S. P., JSAI, vol. 64, June, 1934, pp. 86-87.

63. Fawcett, E., PBSS for 1928, vol. 3, #3, pp. 126-133.
Martin, C. P., as above.
Movius, H. L., Jr., as above.
Tratman, E. K., ibid., pp. 134-136.

64. Haddon, A. C., PRIA, vols. 3, 4, 1896-98, pp. 570-585.
Also, Crania Britannica, skulls 22 A and B.

65. As suggested by Hooke, Beatrix, G. E., and Morant, G. M., in their article:
Biometrika, vol. 18, 1926, pp. 99-104.