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This story of early Scotland begins 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age when the familiar Scottish geography of mountains, glens, and rugged coasts evolved. It follows the movement of hunter-gatherers north, the growth of fishing, the establishment of farming.The author also covers cultural evolution in Scotland the roles played by megalith builders, Celts, Picts, and others. 22 color, 2 b&w illustrations Before Scotland: The Story of Scotland Before History delves deep into the little-known world of the Picts, Scots, and others who lived before written records. It is a far-ranging book, jumping back and forth from a discussion of an ice age 24,000 years ago to a sidebar on the turn-of-the-century Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky. Scotland itself is the only connection between passages on the disparate topics of geology, ancient and modern history, archeology, biology, and anthropology. Before Scotland resists the current fashion in nonfiction to turn history into narrative. It generally reads like a graduate-level textbook, with a touch of bone-dry humor thrown in for good measure. In a typical reference-laden passage, the author describes a foreign name for Scotland, writing, "Lucan, Pliny the Elder, Tacitus and Ptolemy all wrote of Caledonia, and the name has shown considerable staying power. Not only has it survived in place-names like Dunkeld, the nearby mountains of Schiehallion and elsewhere, it is also frequently used in the brands of commercial companies as a pungent and meaningful alternative to 'Scotland' or 'Scottish.' And its poetic atmosphere is often found in popular music and poetry. Exiles appear to be homesick more readily for Caledonia." Occasionally witty and genuinely informative, Before Scotland will greatly interest historians, linguists, and anyone curious about how the natural world has evolved in Scotland through the centuries. --Jennifer Buckendorff
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