Unlike the more focused Seahenge, Francis Pryor’s Home tries to cover a lot of ground — no less than looking at the roots of family life in the Neolithic world, and its development through to recorded history. There’s a lot of evidence to look at, but a lot of it doesn’t deal directly with the home: in fact, Pryor discusses Seahenge and Stonehenge at reasonable length, as well as other potentially sacred places and practices that we don’t now fully understand (or in some cases, understand at all). It somewhat ties in with what I’ve been reading recently about Celtic culture, and the development of infrastructure in Britain, though it covers a lot more centuries, so it was interesting to see where it dovetailed.
Unfortunately, I think the fact that there’s sections about burial practices and the like detracts from the central theme, even though it does relate to how a home life might have been seen and how individuals were treated. Pryor’s willingness to speculate about all these things makes the book seem a little overstuffed at times — reiterating ideas from Seahenge and from Mike Parker Pearson’s Stonehenge, then discussing Pryor’s own digging experiences, and then talking about a hoard found somewhere else… It lacks focus, I think, which is a shame.
It’s still a fascinating book, and Pryor writes well and interestingly, but it feels like the material could equally constitute most of Britain BC, which I haven’t yet read but intend to. It isn’t just about the home; we don’t have enough evidence for that, as much as we would wish it. Instead, questions about ritual and beliefs about death intrude at all times, partly because these are things we are more fascinated to know, and only partly for the way it reflects on the living of life.