As far as historical research could establish, the first inhabitants of the British Isles were nomadic Stone Age hunters. They probably lived in the dry caves of the limestone and chalk hills. The palaeolithic population, unable with their rude stone tools to cope with the impassable woods and wild tangled bush growth that covered nearly the whole of the land, had to rely entirely on the bounty of nature. They must have lived on what the woods, the ocean and the rivers had to offer. When they finally passed over to agriculture the first farmers had to cultivate some arable patches on the slopes of downs converging on Salisbury plain. Histo-rians refer to the original population as the Scots and Picts with whom new-comers started merging. It was the geographical position of the land that attracted the newcomers: the way of Mediterranean civilization across the North Sea to Scandinavia, rich in trade amber, lay straight from the Iberian peninsula between what later came to be Ireland and Britain. Those newcomers must have been a Mediterranean people. Their burial places in Cornwall, in Ire-land, in the coastal regions of Wales and Scotland are found to be either long barrows, that is, man-made hills, or huge mounds covering hut-like strucof stone slabs.
Thus one is led to think of them as of very numerous and rather well orgapeople: tools more sophisticated than stone spades and mattocks do not seem to have been found in the archaexcavations, so the newcomers must have been very good farmers to be able to feed a huge crowd of stone-hewers engaged in all those giant-like feats with only that primitive equipment at their disposal.
Among the suppositions made by historians and archaeologists about the Late Stone Age population of Britain, those of special interest to us concern the time (the time is usually given as around 2,400 B.C.) and the reasons of their migration to the British Isles from the Mediterranean areas, their territorial distribution there, the nature-of their civilization.
These people are thought to have settled on the chalk hills of the Cots-wolds, the Sussex and Dorset downs and the Chilterns. They were joined after a few centuries by some similar southern people who settled along the whole of the western coast, so that the modern inhabitants of Western England and Wales and Ireland have good archaeoloreasons to claim them for their forefathers.
Their civilization as the monuments show was quite advanced, and the splendour of their burial arrangements can be taken as a sign of class differen-tiation. An Alpine race came to subdue them, however, about 1700 B.C. from the east and south-east, from the Rhineland and Holland. Historians refer to these later immigrants who settled in the east, south east and up the Thames Valley, as "the Beaker Folk" for they left a characteristic relic of their civilization, an earthenware drinking vessel called "beaker".
They are believed to have been powerand stocky, they surely had a know-ledge of bronze and employed metal tools and weapons. They gradually merged with the previous arrivals; in the Salisbury plain area evidence of both races was discovered, and the mixture was later supplemented by more arrivals, though never so numerous or important as those described.
A characteristic monument to this civilization, primordially rude and pri-mordially majestic, made mysterious by the clarity-obliterating centuries, is the so-called Stonehenge, a sort of sanctuary erected by the abovementioned fusion of peoples on Salisbury Plain about eleven hundred years B.C. or somewhat earlier. This circular strucor rather semi-circular ruin as it is now, was formed by a mere juxta-position of tall narrowish slabs standing so as to provide support for the horizontal slab, capping those perpendiprops for all the world like houses built of playing cards by infant archi-tects reckless enough to disregard the seemingly precarious balance of the hanging stones — whence the name of the structure, the "Hanging Stones", Stonehenge.