Unlike people today, those in prehistory were adept at entering trance; what we now call shamanism. This gave access to alternative realms where people met and befriended entities that they thought of as spirits. To the people of the past, the otherworld of trance, and the spirits that resided there, were as real to them as anything else they encountered.
Until recently, this otherworldly realm was closed to archaeology; there was no way to reconstruct ancient thought. This changed with the advent of modern neurology. For the first time we can now enter the minds of those who lived thousands of years ago and begin to unravel their lives: the world as they would have believed it to be.
In this bold and groundbreaking book, Dr Williams tackles all the big subjects in archaeology: the spread of humans from Africa, the rise of social groups, the adoption of agriculture, the construction of monuments, the emergence of metal, and the fall of the Celtic tribes. Showing that belief was central to these epic changes, as well as influencing the most mundane, everyday task, a new understanding of our prehistoric past emerges.
Whilst being extensively researched, a fast-paced and engaging narrative makes this a page-turning read. Evocative vignettes supplement the text and take readers back in time to experience for themselves the sights, smells, and sounds of the past. This is a new way to approach prehistory, putting people and the beliefs that they held centre stage. For without understanding people’s beliefs, we will never comprehend their world.
"Prehistoric Belief is a work of great passion and consummate scholarship. In this rich and evocative tour de force Williams leads us back into the lives and minds of our early ancestors, showing how, during both the Palaeolithic and early Mesolithic eras, around 10,000 years ago, there was little division in peoples' minds between this world and the otherworld: the spirits were real, inhabiting and influencing every aspect of their lives. The book's approach to prehistory is unconventional, combining impeccable scholarship with colourful drama, and it succeeds in bringing vividly to life a story of our past which needs to be told, and retold: how the roots of our spiritual and cultural European heritage are profoundly shamanistic, and how the primordial mind still lies dormant within us." Caduceus Magazine
"Williams covers the vast scope of prehistory from the Palaeolithic (100,000+ BCE) to the Iron Age focusing primarily on Europe, Russia and the mid-East, though he discusses other places on our planet as well. There is one chapter, "Journey to the Otherworld" that I found particularly exciting, and would go so far as to suggest that it is worth the price of this book for just these six pages! It is, for me, the best holistic description of this journey to the other side that I have read. It is one of the best [books] I've picked up in years. Having praised "Prehistoric Belief" literally to the heavens…I trust you will read this most exciting book yourself." Sig Lonegren.
"The instant you pick it up, this book feels really good. [Williams’s] writing style is easy to read, the progression of ideas comes as a flow. I found Williams’ interpretations of ancient societies and their structure sympathetic and enlightening, particularly the way he can extrapolate things. What he has undertaken to do in this book is a gargantuan task, to present a chronological history of human development and belief. He uses the archaeology and the landscape to present his ideas and to build a very believable case for his views. To write such a history in itself would be an achievement but to combine that with the changing beliefs of diverse societies is a challenge that he has risen to. Prehistoric Belief will appeal to a very wide audience." Megalithic Portal.
“The book is a fascinating ramble through the eons…a span of close to a quarter of a million years. The book is written in an intelligent clear way and the arguments [Williams] puts forward are convincing. If you want to explore the ancient bedrock of earth-based spirituality that makes up Europe, this book is a must.” Sacred Hoop.
"Williams takes an iconoclastic and panoramic look at the rise of societal groups. He explores how early man constructed and used ritual monuments, he examines possible prehistoric beliefs, he explores the idea of the soul within bronze and iron and looks at the demise of the Celts. Highly recommended.” Pagan Dawn.