Secret Britain: Unearthing our Mysterious Past (Paperback)

Secret Britain: Unearthing our Mysterious Past By Mary-Ann Ochota Cover Image

Secret Britain: Unearthing our Mysterious Past (Paperback)


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"A cornucopia of our weirdest and most wonderful archaeological sites and artefacts. They make you feel proud to be a citizen of these gloriously intriguing isles." Sir Tony Robinson

An Ice Age cannibal’s skull cup, a hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold, a seventeenth century witch bottle… anthropologist Mary-Ann Ochota unearths more than 70 of Britain's most intriguing ancient places and artefacts and explores the mysteries behind them.

Britain is full of ancient wonders: not grand like the Egyptian pyramids, but small, strange places and objects that hint at a deep and enduring relationship with the mystic. Secret Britain offers an expertly guided tour of Britain’s most fascinating mysteries: archaeological sites and artefacts that take us deep into the lives of the many different peoples who have inhabited the island over the millennia.

Illustrated with beautiful photographs, the wonders include buried treasure, stone circles and geoglyphs, outdoor places of worship, caves filled with medieval carvings, and enigmatic tools to divine the future. Explore famous sites such as Stonehenge and Glastonbury, but also discover:
  • The Lindow Man bog body, showing neatly trimmed hair and manicured fingernails despite having been killed 2,000 years ago
  • The Uffington White Horse, a horse-shaped geoglyph maintained by an unbroken chain of people for 3,000 years
  • A roman baby’s bronze cockerel, an underworld companion for a two-year-old who died sometime between AD 100–200
  • St Leonard’s Ossuary, home to 1,200 skulls and a vast stack of human bones made up of around 2,000 people who died from the 1200s to the 1500s
  • The Wenhaston Doom painting, an extraordinary medieval depiction of the Last Judgement painted on a chancel arch
Explore Britain’s secret history and discover why these places still resonate today.

Broadcaster and anthropologist Mary-Ann Ochota is a familiar face on TV archaeology programmes, including the cult show Time Team, History Channel’s Ancient Impossible, and the Smithsonian Channel hit Mystic Britain.

She’s written two other popular archaeology books, including Hidden Histories: A Spotter’s Guide to the British Landscape. It was shortlisted for Current Archaeology’s Book of the Year Award. Mary-Ann also writes regularly for newspapers and magazines on outdoor adventures, anthropology and archaeology, presents documentaries on BBC radio, gives guided walks and performs archaeological storytelling. She’s a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a hillwalking ambassador for the British Mountaineering Council and she holds an MA from Cambridge University in Archaeology and Anthropology.

Find her at and on Twitter and Instagram @MaryAnnOchota.

Product Details ISBN: 9780711288850
ISBN-10: 0711288852
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
Publication Date: March 12th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English
“For anyone looking for a ‘way in’ to the landscapes of the British Isles – in all their glory and diversity – this sumptuously-illustrated book serves as both ‘access all areas’ pass and the keys to a personal time machine. Ochota skilfully uses her selected objects as guides to help us explore and think about landscapes. The chosen objects are much more than mere ‘points of interest’ for walkers. Ochota’s style of writing – knowledgeable but accessible throughout – inherently relates, roots and links her 75 examples to their ‘home’ landscapes… Packed with fascinating facts, and complete with a timeline that helps prevent time-travelling head-spin as we journey around Britain, this book also actively encourages imagining and wonder. The very latest scientific research from America is evidencing how weekly ‘awe walks’ – during which one looks out for things to be amazed by – can boost emotional wellbeing. This book is an engaging guide to the amazing, awe-inspiring secrets to be found when walking across Britain.”
 —Walk magazine, Ramblers Society

“Secret Britain is a pleasure to dip into, illustrating the amazing diversity of archaeology across this country, and accompanied by beautiful, big colour photographs. Its entries are arranged geographically, beginning in the Orkney archipelago and voyaging down the eastern side of Britain before crossing to western Cornwall and returning north as far as the Outer Hebrides. Accessibly written and accompanied by a useful map and timeline to help locate sites and place them in their wider historical context, this is a book to capture the imagination of interested amateurs and experts alike.” 
 —Current Archaeology

“Mary-Ann Ochota reveals the fascinating stories behind many of Britain’s more unusual ancient objects and places. These stories come together to provide an alternative history that takes us away from kings, queens and aristocratic leaders. Mary-Ann has given us a very readable glimpse of the past, as seen through the eyes of the people who created the sites and strange finds that adorn our museums, churches and landscapes.”
 —Francis Pryor - Time Team archaeologist, author of The Fens

“In her engaging new book, Mary-Ann Ochota is our guide to the archaeology of the country, as she takes readers on a roughly clockwise journey if heritage highlights, starting in Orkney far in the north-east and finishing in the Hebrides in the north-west.  Through her enjoyable and well-illustrated account of Britain’s heritage, Ochota offers plenty of information, but also a lot of questions to fire up curiosity about these sites and objects, familiar or otherwise, and highlights the allure of the unknown.”
 —Lucia Marchini, Minerva magazine

“Secret Britain is a fascinating collection of ancient wonders…. The book is packed with excellent photography and will improve the look of any coffee table, but you may also want to find space for it under your passenger seat because if you like a staycation there is a strong chance that you will find yourself near at least one of these mysterious sites. Not only is the book geographically diverse and full of unexpected treasures, but the timeline they span is extraordinary…simply layer upon layer of heritage. Mary-Ann Ochota tells these stories with great flourish and a passion for her subject, opening doors to the past which the most inquisitive of us will want to pass through.”
 —Greg Hackett, Love Reading