The traditional chronological divisions of prehistory are a useful means of breaking down a dauntingly long period of human history, but carry the risk of presenting prehistory as a series of self-contained chunks, rather than a continuum. In this exciting volume, Alex Davies demonstrates the value of looking beyond a single period to investigate change and continuity over a thousand years or so in the Thames Valley.
During this time, single-phase, short-lived settlements of the Late Bronze Age gave way to multiple-phased, long-lived settlements by the Middle Iron Age. Special deposits of pottery and bone became more strongly associated with houses over time. Such differences highlight profound social change, which may otherwise have remained invisible.
The book concludes with discussion of the mechanism of cultural change, which, though useful, would have benefited from consideration of evolutionary theory. The study ends at 100 BC, but, in the spirit of the book, why stop there? I look forward to someone picking up the baton to continue the analysis into the Late Iron Age and beyond.
This review appeared in CA 346.