My original interest in history - and then archaeology - started with childhood curiosity about my own family.

I felt a need to know where we had come from. Why did we live where we did? Who were my grandparents and great-grandparents, and why did they have the lives they did?

From that grew a need to reach further and further back, to understand who first lived in Scotland, and where they had come from before they arrived here.

When Cameron Balbirnie - the series producer on A History Of Ancient Britain - came to me and asked whether I would be interested in presenting a big, all-encompassing series examining the pre-history of these islands, I jumped at the chance.

The opportunity to present a major series on a subject I'm passionate about was a dream come true for me, and I think the fact that I had a background in archaeology meant I was a good fit for the project.

I dived in headfirst, getting involved early on in discussions with the production team that helped to shape the series.

Back in my student days it was the Mesolithic period that attracted me most strongly. Its special power lay, I think, in my basic desire to dig back into time as far as possible.

And that brought me, in the end, to the Scottish Mesolithic, the earliest known human habitation of my own country - between 10,000 and 6,000 years ago.

At this time people hunted red deer, harvested and processed hazelnuts. They also fished.

Mesolithic people, although still nomadic, lived quite local lives, being born, living, and dying perhaps in the same general location.

Having said that, I'd have to admit that during the making of A History Of Ancient Britain I was lured into even deeper time.

In England and Wales there have been tantalising finds of human occupation reaching even further back.

I was therefore blown away by the sight of the so-called Red Lady of Paviland.

This was in fact the bones of a young mammoth hunter who lived and died in what is now South Wales, before the onset of the last Ice Age. His remains are more than 33,000 years old.

Also profoundly moving was the sliver of horse bone found in a cave near Sheffield that had been the canvas for an artist around 13,000 years ago.

That piece of rib bone - sometimes known as the Creswell Crags horse engraving or the Robin Hood cave horse engraving - has on it an etching of a galloping horse.

It is, by any standards, a work of genius. It is composed of just a few confident lines and yet the end result is an image of a living breathing animal.

To come so close to the way some individual, man or woman, was thinking all those millennia ago, while the Ice Age waxed and waned, was very moving for me.

Neil Oliver is the presenter of A History Of Ancient Britain.

A History Of Ancient Britain is on BBC Two and BBC HD at 9pm on Wednesday, 9 February.

For further programme times, please see the upcoming episodes page.

Find out about ancient sites you can visit around the UK and find activities relating to ancient Britain on the BBC Hands On History website.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • Comment number 91. Posted by foxystoat

    on 31 Mar 2011 18:40

    Great news Cameron, I'd prepared myself for a tidy wait as well! Looking forward to it and thanks for letting us know.

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  • Comment number 90. Posted by Cameron Balbirnie

    on 29 Mar 2011 15:38

    Just two weeks ago I posted that the second series would appear in the schedules later this year... well, that's just become "from 7th April" so please look out for it. We pick up around 1000 BC and continue our journey through the Roman period. And as you can imagine, our pre-history starts to get quick busy! The series goes out as "A History of Celtic Britain" just so no one thinks we're putting out repeats!
    Cameron Balbirnie.

  • Comment number 89. Posted by Matt

    on 13 Mar 2011 11:32

    Fanatastic series, easy to follow, Neil Oliver shows his enthusiasm from start to end, which to me keeps the viewer engrossed.

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  • Comment number 88. Posted by Bohanka

    on 13 Mar 2011 00:02

    Really, the pettiness of some of the negative comments are juvenile in the extreme. If you don't like a TV program, turn your set off and get a life. As for the creationism claptrap, it's best I don't comment. Oh! by the way... Great show!

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  • Comment number 87. Posted by foxystoat

    on 11 Mar 2011 16:56

    Cameron, thanks for the confirmation of the second series. You talked above about the big, scenic approach to the filming and I have to say it worked for me, the sense of the landscape and how events and people took a part in shaping it came across very well. I suppose it's all about finding a balance between the finer details and the bigger picture.

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  • Comment number 86. Posted by Cameron Balbirnie

    on 11 Mar 2011 12:38

    I'm delighted that John Lord, the flint knapper has been given some attention. He's a fantastic craftsman with sonderful knowledge and skills. People might also have noticed the bow maker in programme 2 was Will Lord, his son. They're both great and I'm in awe of what they can do. We'll see more experts in series 2 when we see more bronze casting and iron working... as well as some pretty mean sword skills. not forgetting the people who are creating some incredible food.

    Cameron Balbirnie
    Series Producer

  • Comment number 85. Posted by Cameron Balbirnie

    on 11 Mar 2011 12:34

    Most people seem to have enjoyed the big scenic approach we took to making the films; some didn't so much. For us it was important to feel the landscape of Britain... and in fact we went to some lengths to plan shoots in all seasons to see cold, wet, misty, hot Britain and try to get a sense of the "land that we call Britain" coming through... a sense that our hills, mountains, shorelines persist through history.

    Interesting also the "Britain", "Great Britain" discussion. This was quite a big one for us. How do we refer to the land before "Britain" existed? Is there a justification to go to Carnac in Brittany or Ireland? I felt we needed to, in order to explore where influences on Britain came from. Early in programmes we did try to acknowledge in the commentary "this place we call Britain" or similar constructions to signal that we're in an age before geo-political boundaries (certainly boundaries we recognise today in any case), but later in programmes for simplicity and brevity we did contract often to just "Britain" or "our land" or similar.

    Cameron Balbirnie
    Series Producer

  • Comment number 84. Posted by Cameron Balbirnie

    on 11 Mar 2011 10:37

    I've read through all the comments and I'll try to address some of main, recurring points in future notes. For a big general overview, though:

    We are only half way through the story. A second series has been shot and will be appearing in the schedules later this year. We don't know exactly when at the moment, but this will pick up the story around 1000 BC at the height of the Bronze Age and see us through the Iron Age and the Romans... the end of pre-history.

    Neil is also busy writing the book of the series as we speak that will appear later this year and will contain much more detailed content than television ever could. And if you want to linger over the images or watch again in all its glory, then DVDs should also be in the shops.

    It's great to have so many people taking an interest in this series that I feel fills in a real gap in our History offerings. And it's good to read all the comments of all critical hues.

    Cameron Balbirnie
    Series Producer

  • Comment number 83. Posted by Cameron Balbirnie

    on 10 Mar 2011 13:49

    Hi,
    Thanks for all the comments on A History of Ancient Britain. I've been reading through them all and will make some notes so I can offer up some replies and answers to specific queries. So watch this space... there's quite a bit of reading to do.
    Cameron Balbirnie.

  • Comment number 82. Posted by markpettit157

    on 9 Mar 2011 12:38

    Watched the last prog on i-player last night. I really enjoyed this series. In just 4 hours clearly many sites had to left out and theories summarised but for the general/interested viewer this was exceptional material presented with passion by Neil Oliver. Visited Newgrange and Ceide Fields last Easter and this brought it all back. Hoping to get to Carnac in the summer and must try for the Orkneys sometime. Thanks Neil.

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