Secret Britain: Unearthing our Mysterious Past

Secret Britain: Unearthing our Mysterious Past
Published : 23 Jun 2024 - Frances Lincoln
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.


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

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

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

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.

Minerva Magazine