REELING IN THE YEARS: The past in the present
Fragments of the past are all around us, components of our modern world that, by chance or design, have survived to become part of the fabric of everyday life and provide a historic dimension to our environment. As earlier chapters in this book illustrate, archaeological remains provide the raw materials from which each successive generation of archaeologists constructs an understanding of the past; but archaeological remains are much more than this. Britain is an old country that has been continuously occupied for over 10,000 years. Thousands of archaeological sites in Britain are still in use, in some cases perpetuating the purposes for which they were originally built. Ancient churches are probably the most obvious and widespread examples, but they head a long list that also includes houses, mills, bridges, roads, tracks and many kinds of boundary. Tens of thousands of sites have fallen out of use yet remain to be seen in the countryside, in villages and in towns (Darvill 1987), and every day archaeological remains are brought back into the light of day after hundreds or thousands of years of lying hidden or forgotten in the ground.