History Files
 

Kingdoms of the British Isles

Prehistoric Britain

 

Early Britain (Albion) (Mesolithic)
Incorporating the British Sauveterrian, Coastal Economy, Creswellian, Horsham, & Maglemosean Cultures

FeatureThe system which has evolved to catalogue the various archaeological expressions of human progress is one which involves cultures. For well over a century, archaeological cultures have remained the framework for global prehistory. The earliest cultures which emerge from Africa and the Near East are perhaps the easiest to catalogue, right up until human expansion reaches the Americas. The task of cataloguing that vast range of human cultures is covered in the related feature (see link, right).

FeatureThe earliest traces of human habitation in the British Isles dates to about 700,000 years ago (see feature link). These people were Homo Heidelbergensis, early humans who formed small, migratory groups of hunter-gatherers. From Europe they entered a Britain which was still firmly attached to the continent following the end of a glacial period. The English Channel was little more than a wide river system at best. As subsequent glacial periods ebbed and flowed, habitation faded and was re-established (it failed an estimated total of seven times).

Modern humans entered the British Isles around 30,000 years ago, although the ice eventually forced them out during a fresh advance. The most recent (and current) recolonisation occurred from about 12,000 BC onwards, a little over five thousand years before the last vestiges of the land bridge were submerged beneath the newly formed North Sea (the beginnings of the English Channel had already been created). These people made up a culture which offered a relatively peaceful communal society, part of the Early Mesolithic Period (8300-6500 BC) and the Late Mesolithic Period (6500-4000 BC).

A detailed study has been made of Mesolithic material in southern and western Britain, and at least four main cultural groups have been named to catalogue them. Maglemosean culture covered much of the south-west, occurring strongly around the Solent and extending into Somerset and Cornwall. Horsham culture has been seen distributed across the Weald (Hampshire to Kent), and with a slight penetration into western Britain. As with other inland cultures, hunting small game was the main means of sustenance.

The 'British Sauveterrian' existed in the west of England, with those industries which exhibited the clearest affinities with the continental Sauveterrian occurring in the west and in Wales. Strangely no examples have been identified in southern and eastern England, making its appearance farther west a bit of a mystery. Various Coastal Economy cultures existed in the south and west, naturally exhibiting a stronger economy which was based on the exploitation of the sea shore, with a diminished reliance on the hunting of small game. Cresswellian technology of between about 10,000-8000 BC on mainland Britain can be linked to the Federmesser tradition in Northern Europe, named after its type-site of Creswell Crags in Derbyshire. The very similar Hamburg is also linked to the Creswellian.

Homo Neanderthalis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Dr Chantal Conneller at the University of Manchester, Professor Nicky Milner at York University, and the Vale of Pickering Research Trust, from On the Ocean, Pytheas of Massalia (work lost, but frequently quoted by other ancient authors), and from External Links: Stonehenge, and Science, and The Mesolithic Period in South and Western Britain, G J Wainwright (Doctoral thesis, University of London, 1961), and Creswellian & Federmesser (Oxford Reference), and Why saying 'Aborigine' isn't OK (Amnesty International).)

c.10,000 BC

FeatureThe most recent ice age is now fast fading in its intensity. As the ice recedes northwards, anatomically modern human hunter-gatherers reach Britain. Their arrival may be as much as the eighth such wave of settlement over the course of 700,000 years, but the first to last any appreciable time (see feature link).

Human Occupation
The history of humans in Britain:
  • The evidence suggests that there were eight major incursions
  • All but the last - about 12,000 years ago - were unsuccessful
  • A number of major palaeo-sites mark the periods of influx
  • Extreme cold made Britain uninhabitable for thousands of years

By this date indigenous people have been in Australia for at least 55,000 years, greatly outlasting the human occupation of the British Isles.

FeatureBritain's early arrivals largely live in caves, although the Creswellian people of Derbyshire also occupy grass plains where available. Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, is one such cave site for southern Britons. It is a fairly dry place which makes a good camp, and with a good food supply from the land immediately outside. The Gorge channels animals such as horse and red deer quite close to the caves, so that setting up ambushes to trap game as it goes past is relatively easy (see feature link).

c.9500 BC

Until now a land bridge has connected Britain to Ireland, roughly from the south-eastern tip of the latter to south-western England. Trapped between this land bridge and the ice sheet to the north, the Irish Sea is filled by melt water which forms a vast lake. At this time, that land bridge is finally submerged beneath the salt water of the Atlantic.

Animals, including the Giant Deer, and the hunter-gatherers who have followed them, are now cut off. The land bridge makes a few more brief appearances as short-term fluctuations interfere with average sea levels before being swallowed up permanently.

Land bridge
This image may be somewhat fanciful, but it gives some impression of how the shrinking land bridge between Ireland and Britain may have looked around eleven and-a-half thousand years ago

c.8500 BC

FeatureEvidence of the earliest people to inhabit Scotland is found by archaeologists in 2001. Discarded hazelnut shells and stone tools are amongst three thousand finds at the site which point to a temporary encampment at Cramond, on the coast near Edinburgh (see feature link).

c.7000 BC

An archaeological discovery in 2015 concludes that wheat is present in Britain at least two thousand years before its first confirmed use in 4000 BC. Fragments of wheat DNA which are recovered from an ancient and now-submerged peat bog between the Isle of Wight and the Solent on Britain's south coast suggest that the grain is traded or exchanged long before it is grown by the first British farmers.

The research also suggests that there exists a sophisticated network of cultural links across Europe at this time. It seems likely that the hunter-gather societies of Britain, far from being isolated, are part of extensive social networks which trade or exchange exotic foodstuffs across much of Europe.

FeatureThe DNA of the einkorn wheat comes from sediment which, at this time, is formed by a peat bog next to a river which itself feeds into the massive river system which forms the basis for the later English Channel (see feature link).

Wheat samples in the Solent
The frequent white flecks in the seabed of the English Channel generally mark wheat samples which have been embedded there since it was a peat bog on the banks of a major river system, around eight or nine thousand years ago

Current opinion is that traders arrive in Britain with the wheat, where they encounter a less advanced hunter-gatherer society. The wheat remains unused for crops, but may instead be used to make flour to supplement the diet. A search for pollen and other clues has revealed no signs that the crop is grown in Britain until much later. The DNA evidence corroborates the archaeological evidence, demonstrating a tangible link with continental Europe which appears to be severed when Britain becomes an island over the course of the next millennium.

c.6150 BC

FeatureAlmost the last vestiges of the Dogger Hills are submerged beneath the rising waters of the North Sea. Hunter-gatherer communities have been living a semi-nomadic life on these sweeping plains of grass which had stretched from the east coast of Britain up to the Shetland Islands and across to Scandinavia (an area known as Doggerland) since the end of the last ice age, around 10,500 BC.

These humans had lived in family groups in huts and had hunted animals such as deer and wild boar until slowly rising water levels had increasingly forced them to retreat to higher ground, land which today forms Britain or continental Europe.

British Isles map about 10,500 BC
The rising water levels began to remake the coastline, from what's seen here around 10,500 BC to the much-reduced coastline of today's British Isles

While initially dated roughly to 6500 BC, more recent archaeology has pinpointed a very precise date of 6150 BC for a disaster which is related to disappearance of Doggerland. This takes the form of a catastrophic tsunami. By this time, Doggerland is already little more than a mass of islands which are divided by the encroaching North Sea waters. To the north, layers of sand and boulders have built up during the ice age along the coast of Norway, under the water on the edge of the continental shelf.

Professor David Tappin, marine geologist for the British Geological Survey, points to a geological scar on the ocean floor as proof that an earthquake strikes the region, sending a two-hundred mile-long section of sediment (the size of Iceland) crashing down onto the sea floor.

Now known as the Storegga Slide, the slide displaces millions of tons of sea water to create a massive tsunami which strikes Iceland, Greenland, North America, and also Britain's eastern coastline as far south as the Humber. It wipes out coastal settlements by the score.

Stregga slide deposits
Deposits which were formed by the Storegga slide and the tsunami it generated are shown in the light grey layer which is bracketed top and bottom by darker grey peat deposits

c.6000 BC

The Lake Agassiz flood from an ice dam in North America's Archaic Period finishes off Doggerland, sweeping over it as sea levels are subjected to a short but intense period of rapid rising. The water has been building up in a huge inland lake, trapped by the retreating ice. Now the ice has weakened to the point at which the water can break out, and it empties quickly into the Atlantic.

Again, coastal settlements are destroyed, although not with the sudden intensity of the recent tsunami. The coastline of Britain and near continental Europe at the end of the Sauveterrian changes remarkably, with the North Sea meeting the English Channel over the inundated grass plains of Doggerland to make Britain an island. It takes another two thousand years before a Neolithic farmer culture can emerge on the islands.

Neolithic Britain (Farmers)
c.4000 - 2450 BC

At the same time as Neolithic Anatolian farmers were flooding into Greece to found the Sesklo culture, further groups of Anatolians were migrating along the northern Mediterranean coastline to reach Iberia, either island hopping in boats or by hugging the coastline. Once there they founded a similar farmer culture, largely replacing the indigenous Mesolithic hunter-gather groups. From there a further migration took place around two or three thousand years later - around 4000 BC. This was a more adventurous exercise as these Iberian Neolithic migrants travelled through France and largely ended up in southern Ireland.

Based on DNA evidence, they also entered mainland Britain, probably via south-western Britain or Wales, although this evidence requires further examination to confirm or refute it. It seems to have been these Neolithic immigrants who brought with them the practice of building megalithic monuments.

DNA evidence also shows that the new arrivals did not mix freely with the native hunter-gatherers. In fact the indigenous hunter-gatherers were almost completely replaced by the Neolithic farmers, apart from one group in western Scotland where the Neolithic inhabitants show elevated local ancestry. This would probably be due to there being more hunter-gatherers and less farmers, so that the superior farmer culture (and DNA) dominated rather than replacing almost entirely.

From initial farmer settlements in Greece and Macedonia, a broad northwards movement of farming people began around 6200-6000 BC. They were looking for new land in what was becoming a crowded corner of Europe. Pioneering farmers took domesticated cattle and sheep towards the lower Danube and the Bug-Dniester line where they formed an extended 'Old Europe'. The thin population of native foragers were largely seen as being 'other', regardless of how the two cultures interacted. Britain's farmer cultures dominated for two and-a-half thousand years, and they excelled in monumental megalithic building - the earlier phases of Stonehenge being the best example of their work.

Ultimately Britain's Neolithic farmer cultures were replaced by the more powerful and energetic Bell Beaker culture which first arrived in Britain around 2700-2500 BC. The publication of DNA research in an early 2018 edition of Nature shows that the replacement was more complete than had previously been thought. It was found that the spread of the Beaker complex had introduced high levels of Indo-European steppe-related ancestry and was associated with the replacement of approximately ninety percent of Britain's gene pool within a few hundred years (simply by sidelining males from the older stock rather than necessarily through killing them).

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Dr Chantal Conneller at the University of Manchester, Professor Nicky Milner at York University, and the Vale of Pickering Research Trust, from On the Ocean, Pytheas of Massalia (work lost, but frequently quoted by other ancient authors), and from External Links: Stonehenge, and Science, and Stonehenge: DNA reveals origin of builders, Paul Rincon (BBC News).)

c.4000 BC

FeatureScotland's oldest-known farm is in use at a site near Blairgowrie in Perthshire in the far north. The farm is close to a burial mound known as Cleave Dyke, which dates from a similar period, and contains a large, roughly circular enclosure which may be home to an extended family of about thirty people (see feature link).

Whitehawk Woman recreation
Continental farmer populations such as this recreation of Whitehawk Woman mixed to a limited extent with local hunter-gatherers as they expanded along both the Mediterranean and Rhine-Danube corridors and into Britain, where they almost entirely replaced the indigenous people

This point marks the end of the British Mesolithic period and the start of the Neolithic, during which farming practices gradually erode the established hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

One of the last Mesolithic sites in modern England is found by archaeologists in 2014. Working on the Blick Mead site near Stonehenge in Wiltshire, they report on an untouched site which contains evidence of feasting, including burnt flints, tools, and the remains of aurochs (large cattle), which are part of the diet of hunter gatherers in Britain.

c.3800 BC

Complex techniques which are used in the construction of chambered tombs become evident at this time on the Orkneys. At Maes Howe, a chambered tomb built around 3000 BC shows that its builders devise a standard unit of length by taking detailed readings from the movement of the sun and stars.

FeatureThe possibility also exists that the skills which are developed here are exported across Britain and from there to Egypt where they are used to construct the first pyramids. Mummification is also practised in Britain, with an example being found which is dated to 1000 BC (see feature link).

Zoser pyramid in Egypt
The Zoser pyramid - built during the twenty-seventh century BC for the burial of Zoser (or Djoser) - shows the development towards the later Great Pyramid of Khufu

c.3590 BC

FeatureA Neolithic massacre takes place when fourteen people die violently, with three of them probably being killed by arrows. The attack takes place at Wayland's Smithy, near Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire (see feature link). It is possible that they are killed in a rush for land or livestock, suggesting a period of increasing social tension and upheaval.

c.3100 BC

FeatureThe site of Skara Brae on the Orkneys is built up and remains occupied until about 2500 BC. The group of six houses and a workshop is connected by a covered close. All buildings except for the workshop are buried to the tops of the walls by midden, a clay-like mixture of refuse consisting of ashes, shells, bones, sand, and other domestic detritus. It is this which protects the site until it is uncovered by a severe storm in AD 1850 (see feature link).

c.2950 - 2900 BC

Phase I of Stonehenge is assembled, comprising a circular bank, ditch, and counterscarp bank of about a hundred metres in diameter. Just inside the earth bank is a circle of the fifty-six Aubrey holes which hold wooden posts.

Skara Brae
The rediscovery of the apparently primitive community on Skara Brae following a severe storm in 1850 uncovered a wealth of data on Neolithic dwellings, with this proving to be one of the most vibrant and prosperous of cultures of its day

c.2900 - 2400 BC

Changes take place for Phase II of Stonehenge. For the next five hundred years, post holes indicate timber settings at the centre of the monument and at the north-eastern entrance. The Aubrey holes no longer hold posts but are partially filled, some with cremation deposits added to the fill. The numerous post holes indicate timber structures but no clear patterns or configurations are discernible which can suggest their shape, form, or function.

c.2700 - 2450 BC

The various Neolithic farmer cultures across Europe and Britain have entered a period of decline. Based on evidence from Eastern Europe the main cause would seem to be climate change which had kicked in after around 3800 BC. It brings about increased levels of warmth and moisture, leading to wetter and hotter summers and winters and then disease which rips through the town-based farmers while leaving the neighbouring forager cultures almost untouched.

In the east and around the Mediterranean a 'dark age' follows the apparent collapse of the agrarian societies of Old Europe such as the Boian-Giuleşti-Mariţa and Cucuteni-Tripolye cultures. Settlements become scarce and people return to dispersed herding economies.

The Thinker Sculpture of the Cucuteni-Tripolye Culture
The Cucuteni-Tripolye culture developed on plains around the Carpathian Mountains - continuing into eastern Romania and south-western Ukraine, with both areas having extremely fertile soil - with the culture also producing artistic marvels such as 'The Thinker', dated to around 4000 BC (click or tap on image to view full sized)

This also results in those very forager cultures, now much stronger and more numerous, flooding through the now defenceless farmer settlements to collect along the Danube and from there head west into Central Europe. In the form of West Indo-Europeans they interact with the European Bell Beaker horizon and, relatively soon afterwards, Britain's Neolithic farmers are quite suddenly replaced by a British form of Bell Beaker culture.

Bell Beaker Culture (Britain) (Chalcolithic / Bronze Age)
c.2700 - 1800 BC

The Bell Beaker culture arrived in Britain around 2700-2500 BC. It was long thought that these incomers had intermingled fairly peacefully with the people of the existing British Neolithic culture, adopting their henges and their henge-building ways. A wrinkle in this cosy view was detected with the publication of DNA research in an early 2018 edition of Nature. It had been found that the spread of the Beaker complex had introduced high levels of Indo-European steppe-related ancestry, and was associated with the replacement of approximately ninety percent of Britain's gene pool within a few hundred years.

It is unclear whether the Bell Beaker arrival was an invasion of a self-contained people, complete with families and herds of cattle, or an influx of a new ruling elite. Later arrivals of Celtic groups would eventually dominate the country in much the same way as the Beaker folk, but these were more likely to be small numbers of arrivals who simply ruled the existing population (their cousins, given that Beaker folk and Celts stemmed from the same West Indo-European origins).

With the Beaker folk the jury is still out, although they do seem to have shifted across eastern and Central Europe as entire populations. There, the first wave of them appear to have been ninety per cent R1b in DNA terms, indicating that they either drove away, killed or (most likely) sidelined males of the Neolithic Y-DNA type I (I1, I2) peoples who originally inhabited Central Europe. In Britain, even if they only formed a new elite, they would seem to have taken the native women for themselves and left the native men almost entirely without hope of producing their own families.

Whatever the form of their migration, these people were farmers and archers, wearing stone wrist guards to protect their arms from the sting of the bowstring. They introduced the roundhouse, which echoed in shape both henges and barrow mounds, made their own distinctive pottery, and were eventually responsible for producing the first woven garments in Britain. They also appear to have introduced the first known alcoholic drink, a form of honey-based mead. This new drinking culture was a key part of Bell Beaker culture across Western Europe, along with the distinctive pots. They brought with them new burial practices so that Neolithic long barrows or cairns were replaced by smaller barrows or tumuli. They also brought in new metalworking techniques, in copper and gold, heralding the start of the Chalcolithic period.

They came from a society which stretched across Europe (with fellow West Indo-Europeans covering much of Germany and northern and southern France excluding the Central Massif, and with cultural dominance also across most of Iberia). They introduced a patriarchal society in which the individual warrior-chieftain became the most important and powerful figure, replacing the existing egalitarian society which built Stonehenge. They gained their name, which is sometimes given as Bell Beaker Folk, through their use of a large number of bell-shaped drinking cups and jars called beakers. Burials with these pots alongside the dead have been used by archaeologists to chart the growth and expansion of the Beaker folk.

MapIt was later Beaker-created culture which was disrupted in the twelfth century BC, possibly by the arrival of Proto-Celtic settlers (see map link) in Prydein during a period of intense disruption which took place as far afield as the Near East, where the collapse of the Hittite empire was a major act in a century of turmoil. Although many would have stayed put and accepted their new proto-Celtic overlords, some would have migrated westwards to avoid them, or were already in the west. Here they remained safe from Celtic domination for much longer, and when that domination finally came, it may only have been through the imposition of the aforementioned warrior elite.

Today's Wales still provides hints of where the Beaker folk and Neolithic people remained to some extent separated. South Wales has Bell Beaker types with a Neolithic admixture, while the mountains of central Wales contain the stockier, more round-headed Neolithics. Judging from that alone one would posit that West-Indo-Europeans took over and settled the South Wales lowlands, without substantially settling the mountains of central Wales, possibly one of those few, ten percent survival areas of Neolithic DNA.

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from the documentary programme, Secrets of the Stonehenge Skeletons, with Mike Parker Pearson, first screened in the UK by Channel 4 Television in 2013, from The Celts, TGE Powell, from The La Tene Celtic Belgae Tribes in England: Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R-U152 - Hypothesis C, David K Faux, from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, and from External Links: Stonehenge, and The Beaker phenomenon and the genomic transformation of northwest Europe (Nature), and Vast Neolithic circle of deep shafts (The Guardian).)

c.2600 - 2500 BC

With the influx of the Beaker folk adding fresh impetus to the work, the construction of Phase III of Stonehenge is begun at this time and continues until around 1600 BC. Aligned with the sunset of the winter solstice, the monument undergoes a complicated sequence of settings of large stones. This starts with a series of Bluestones placed in the Q and R Holes (Sub-Phase 3i).

Stonehenge
The most impressive stages in the construction of Stonehenge took place between 2600-2500 BC, but work continued for another millennium

The Bluestones are subsequently dismantled and a circle of sarsens and a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of Trilithons is erected (Sub-Phase 3ii). The Sarsen Circle is comprised of thirty upright sandstone blocks (only seventeen now remain standing). They support sarsen lintels which form a continuous circle around the top, with each sarsen probably being brought to the site from the Marlborough Downs, about thirty kilometres to the north.

FeatureA huge settlement, one of the largest seen in Britain, is used by the people who build Stonehenge. Its remains are discovered by archaeologists in 2006. This site at Durrington Walls seems to be occupied seasonally, being used for ritual feasting and funeral ceremonies.

Neolithic people from all over the region are probably drawn here, enjoying massive feasts in the midwinter, where prodigious quantities of food are consumed. The bones are then tossed onto the floors of the houses to be unearthed 4,600 years later. Durrington also has its own henge made of wood, which is strikingly similar in layout to Stonehenge but which aligns to the sunrise of the winter solstice.

Durrington Walls
Durrington Walls, the discovery of which was announced by archaeologists in 2006, is surrounded by the even more amazing find (announced in 2020) of Durrington Shafts

c.2550 - 1600 BC

The final stages of the construction and use of Stonehenge, Phase III Sub-Phase 3vi, comprises two circles, one inside the other, known as the Y and Z Holes. These are dug for the placement of stones but are never filled.

Probably also dating to Phase III are the four Station Stones. These sarsen stones stand just inside the bank on more or less the same line as the Aubrey Holes. Also assigned to Phase III are Stoneholes D and E and the recumbent sarsen known as the Slaughter Stone.

The earthwork known as the Avenue is probably laid at this time, extending north-east from the break in the bank-and-ditch. Located further along the Avenue is the so-called Heel Stone (Stone 96).

Wessex Culture (Britain) (Bronze Age)
c.2000 - 1400 BC

The term 'Wessex Culture' was first termed in 1938, before British prehistory had been fully understood and properly categorised. It mainly concentrated on central and southern Britain of the early Bronze Age, and today it can be seen as a sub-category of the Beaker culture, as the Stone Age ended in favour of the Bronze Age. Wessex culture itself can be broken down into two phases, the first in 2000-1650 BC and the second in 1650-1400 BC.

Related to the Hilversum culture of what is now Belgium, the central Netherlands, and northern France, the period saw fresh arrivals of Beaker Folk from these regions (the same pattern of successive waves of immigration by the same people would later be repeated by the Celts). They buried their dead in barrows, although cremation was later practised, with the remains being placed in the same barrows. A rich assortment of grave goods was added to the burials, some of which were imported from very good trading contacts on the Continent. Those links reached as far afield as Latvia and Lithuania (amber), and Mycenaean Greece (beads).

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from the documentary programme, Secrets of the Stonehenge Skeletons, with Mike Parker Pearson, first screened in the UK by Channel 4 Television in 2013, from The Celts, TGE Powell, from The La Tene Celtic Belgae Tribes in England: Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R-U152 - Hypothesis C, David K Faux, from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, and from External Links: Stonehenge, and The Beaker phenomenon and the genomic transformation of northwest Europe (Nature).)

c.2000 BC

The beginning of the Bronze Age in Britain can be placed around this point in time. Although not certain, it is generally thought that the new bronze tools and weapons which are identified with this period are introduced from continental Europe.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge was probably abandoned in the seventeenth century BC as an anachronism which was no longer part of the lives of the people

Skulls which have been recovered from Bronze Age burial sites are different in shape to Stone Age skulls. This would strongly support the notion of fresh ideas and fresh blood are making their way over to Britain from continental Europe. This is the start of 'Wessex Culture I'.

c.1650 BC

'Wessex Culture II' sees the construction of Stonehenge ended, with the last work taking place around 1600 BC (the Y and Z Holes). While a wide range of artefacts from later periods are found at the site, it is still unknown whether the monument remains in use or simply becomes an object of amazement for later generations who are wondering about this massive stone construction.

c.1200 BC

Bell Beaker culture in Britain is disrupted, possibly by the arrival of Q-Celtic-speaking Proto-Celtic settlers during a period of intense disruption which is taking place as far afield as the Near East, where the collapse of the Hittite empire is a major act in a century of turmoil.

Map of Late Bronze Age Cultures c.1200-750 BC
This map showing Late Bronze Age cultures in Europe displays the widespread expansion of the Urnfield culture and many of its splinter groups, although not the smaller groups who reached Britain, Iberia, and perhaps Scandinavia too (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Although many Bell Beaker people will remain where they are and accept their new Celtic overlords, some will migrate westwards to avoid them, or are already in the west. Here they remain safe from Celtic domination for much longer, and when that domination finally comes, it may only be through the imposition of a warrior elite nobility.

It is the tradition regarding the arrival (roughly in the twelfth century BC) of Brutus and his followers which creates the later concept of a high kingship of Britain. This provides the linking narrative for the remainder of Britain's prehistory until the first century AD.