Modern commentators comment, slightly disparagingly, about how cheap package holidays in the 1960’s and onwards ruined Spain. Suddenly the Costas were filled with sunseekers who didn’t give a damn about culture.
But, my friends, these were not a new phenomenon at all. In fact Spain has been a sunseeker’s destination for thousands of years. People from caveman’s time have been actively holidaying down there on an annual basis.
But don’t take my word for it. There are many wonderful academic pieces which confirm that the same people who headed up to Creswell Crags for midsummer also then trotted off back to Spain and the Iberian peninsula for a bit of winter sun. Well to be more precise they bustled their way down there to avoid the icy blasts of the tail end of the Ice Age. We are currently in what is known as the “Holocene” which is a kind of quiet period between a couple of Ice Ages and this has been a pretty recent phenomenon in global time scales. Basically the last Ice Age made northern Europe uninhabitable until about fifteen thousand years ago.
Then as a period of rapid warming took place people started to repopulate Europe. As nomadic hunter gatherers they tended to travel quite extensively, following their prey animals as they foraged for their preferred foods. One of the delicacies of the time was deer and so these got tracked and hunted.
The northernmost edge of their travels was close to Nottingham at a place called Creswell Crags where a combination of geography and geology made for an ideal hunting and gathering spot.
Midsummer in particular was quite a handy time, because there was an opportunity for tribes to gather and hunt as a group. You must remember that a tribe was actually quite a small unit, varying from eight to a dozen people and so meetings with other groups actually were a vital part of extending the gene pool, so greatly enhancing the success of all involved.
The University of Manchester has recently estimated that the entire population in Britain around this time was only around 2,500 people and so it could be that as much as 10% of the population would have been able to intermingle (and swap genes).
The Geography of the area made it an ideal hunting ground with some steep limestone cliffs over which they were able to herd not only large deer and elk but also even bigger game such as the woolly rhinoceros.
The same limestone also provided them with caves where the temperature was constant and so there was plenty of shelter. These caves also had the unusual property of being pleasantly dry and cool, which made them ideally suited for long-term storage of meat.
What more could a nomad of the time ask for? They had shelter, a great hunting area, plenty of prey and somewhere pleasant to live. No wonder they gathered in their numbers. And that is also why it would be well worth your while taking time to visit Cresswell Crags.
You see, it is highly likely that if you have any European ancestry that you have a personal link with the people who had their summer breaks up here. If you don’t believe me then all you have to do is start a little research about the distribution of “Haplogroup I” and in particular “Europe haplogroup I1-M253”
The harshness of winters meant that Cresswell Crags was only a brief summer camp, and the tribes tended to make their way over the landmass known as Doggerland and on to Spain and Portugal. Once again following the reindeer as they made their way to warmer winter climes.
Eventually as the Ice Age receded stronger populations colonised the northern parts of Europe, but Spain was a winter home for quite some time. So there you have it, Britons have always headed to the sun, it just took a thirteen thousand year break between them taking up the habit again.
And now you can see those happy sunseekers on the southern Costas as they seek to increase the gene pool even further. In fact any kind of mingling around the pools with lots of summer celebrations is clearly an evolutionary win-win situation. So please try to be less judgemental as you observe the antics of today’s hunter gatherers.