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  • Ancestors

  • A Prehistory of Britain in Seven Burials
  • By: Alice Roberts
  • Narrated by: Alice Roberts
  • Length: 13 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (549 ratings)

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Summary

An extraordinary exploration of the ancestry of Britain through seven burial sites. By using new advances in genetics and taking us through important archaeological discoveries, Professor Alice Roberts helps us better understand life today.

We often think of Britain springing from nowhere with the arrival of the Romans. But in Ancestors, pre-eminent archaeologist, broadcaster and academic Professor Alice Roberts explores what we can learn about the very earliest Britons, from burial sites and by using new technology to analyse ancient DNA.

Told through seven fascinating burial sites, this groundbreaking prehistory of Britain teaches us more about ourselves and our history: how people came and went and how we came to be on this island. It explores forgotten journeys and memories of migrations long ago, written into genes and preserved in the ground for thousands of years.

This is a book about belonging: about walking in ancient places, in the footsteps of the ancestors. It explores our interconnected global ancestry, and the human experience that binds us all together. It’s about reaching back in time, to find ourselves and our place in the world.

©2021 Alice Roberts (P)2021 Simon & Schuster UK

Critic reviews

"This is a terrific, timely and transporting book - taking us heart, body and mind beyond history, to the fascinating truth of the prehistoric past and the present." (Bettany Hughes)

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Patronising and barely disguised prejudice

I was disappointed by this book. I really don’t want to hear page after page of how previous generations got it wrong, thinly disguised attacks on Christianity, and political correctness. It’s a big turn off. I just want the archeology, uncluttered by the accompanying preachy tone. Shame, because I enjoyed her BBC programmes. The author needs to understand many members of the public find the condescending attitude a huge turn off. Stick to archeology in future and stop shoehorning in the lamentable tendency to judge the past by some of the narrow standards of today. Returned

109 people found this helpful

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Great overview of field, pity about the politics

Loved the discussions of key digs such as Cheddar Man, Amesbury Archer et al. Roberts gives the background to each find and the repercussions of such. When she stuck to tbese I loved it. Maybe it is the zeitgeist, but I also felt that too much time was given to issues relating to identity politics. Whole sections on fluid gender, why we mustn't get too attached to our ancestors lest we be racist, etc. felt like padding. We don't need these lectures every 5 minutes.

82 people found this helpful

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Good insights, shame about the politics

Professor Roberts is clearly at the top of her game in forensic archaeology. However whilst criticising the scientists of the previous two centuries for imposing their world views on the science, was unable to avoid the same trap herself.

75 people found this helpful

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Could have been so good

Ruined by woke rubbish. You don't have to be a woman to be buried with a mirror or a man to be buried with a sword. 😳

54 people found this helpful

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Average

6 out of 10.
The author feels the urge to be politically correct with a subject of great historical value.

She insists too much on gender fluidity,a subject of no relevance for an ancestral study.

Other than that, a good book.

42 people found this helpful

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preachy, patronising

I love programmes like Digging up Britain. The author is a very good TV personality with qualifications and a CV to boot. The author is a great advocate an inspiration to understand human history.

That said...moving into writing a book is a big disappointment. I felt as if I was reading/listening to a students end of year paper. lots of cross references, some prejudiced views about gender (which I am sure our ancients didn't consider or care about). Some trashing of archaeological methods and theories. Yes, modern folk always know better.
In my opinion this a a book trying to demonstrate its academic authority but failing miserably.

36 people found this helpful

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Fascinating book

Amazing that something that happened so long ago can be so gripping today. Alice Roberts is brilliant.

22 people found this helpful

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Recommended!

I've read most of Alice Roberts' books and this is another brilliant one :) I have to say though, I couldn't help but switch off a bit when it got political and even skipped parts. Overall I would recommend though, it's a really interesting book and Alice is a great writer and narrator!

20 people found this helpful

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Honest review

Overall there were some interesting points but I don't think it was what I expecting. Quite political.

18 people found this helpful

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Fascinating... but

All of the content around the archeology, DNA and burials is captivating. However the book could have perhaps done without the sections towards the end leading to why religion is wrong. I'm not even really religious but it sort of felt that the authour was dismissive of the believes that must have been held in our distant past and influenced the way that the world is now to a large degree. Still, this is really no reason not to read the book because my eyes have been opened to the clear sophistication of sociaties so long, long ago. You will learn so much.

17 people found this helpful

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  • James
  • 26-06-21

Current narrative

The coverage of up to date knowledge of ancient Britain in regard to archeological and DNA evidence is fascinating. The author however cannot help but intersperse this with long digressions of some feminist, gender and historical perspectives that can currently be found being pushed on many humanities faculties. Finding a mirror in a probable male grave somehow leads to a lecture on current leftist gender views and the statement that there may be five or more genders? Another example is the description of how there was an almost complete replacement of people’s in Britain with the new peoples exhibiting identifiably different DNA, physiology and culture. That all leads into a lecture on racism and how anyone not agreeing is a racist. Yet one definition of race is “A race is a grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct by society.”
Confusing, it’s almost as if she if arguing against herself or was it necessary to make such statements to get published?
Other than that it’s an interesting listen.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Margalarg
  • 29-07-21

Excellent up-to-date perspectives on archaeology

Alice Roberts combines the personal with the professional in her engaging history not just of seven burials, but, also of the changing nature of archeology due both to technical advances and philosophical changes in the way we construe concepts such as "culture," "gender," and "community." Her descriptions of the burials themselves, in chronological order, provide a marvelous sense of the form and contents of the burials, the similarities as well as key differences between them. Roberts often steps back from the description to discuss how these objects and places have been considered by those who discovered or studied them in the past, as well as how she and other scholars think about them today. Through this we get a veritable history of archaeological approaches that is quite thought-provoking in terms of how each era or area constructs notions of community, ritual, status, gender and power, among others. Roberts draws on many scholars, past and present, to illuminate differing theories and ways of considering artifacts and how they produce meaning for those who encounter them and interpret them to the wider public. In the process, she encourages her readers to understand not only how access to objective facts about grave goods have become more available through DNA, radio-carbon dating and other techniques,--often challenging long-held theories-- but also how scholars' subjective assumptions and biases contribute to beliefs about such concepts as cultural identity, human nature, community and progress. Roberts' accessible language, explanations and examples invite all readers to consider how knowledge of the human past is created.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-03-22

Brilliant in all aspects until we hit chapter 12

Brilliant in all aspects until we hit chapter 12 And then the gender identity discussions began.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Britt Clopton
  • 16-03-22

Misleading title, doesn't focus on the ancestors.

Was more about the boring, small minded, religious, men making foolish assumptions about archeological discoveries than about the ancient ancestors themselves. I listened for a few hours about their foolhardy leaps in logic and religion-bound prejudices before I just became too frustrated to keep listening. Why did we spend so much time with their stories, instead of learning about the actual ancestors?

1 person found this helpful

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  • Hebe,
  • 07-05-22

Great losten

Really enjoyed this audible book. Well paced and interesting. Alice Roberts has a easy to follow voice. Recommend.

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  • A. Griffin
  • 18-01-22

More past less present

This was not as advertised. Mostly speculation . I did enjoy the listen , it was mostly what earlier people did and thought and how they got it wrong or right.

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  • Jonathan Ross
  • 13-07-21

Love the concept

It was I good idea for a book but the author rambled off topic too many times and the audio defects really ruined it for me