BAR Publishing, £43
Review Edward Biddulph
For decades, pottery of eastern Mediterranean origin found at 5th- to 7th-century sites in western Britain has been claimed as evidence for the survival of cultural links and direct trade between the two areas in the aftermath of Roman Britain. Tintagel in Cornwall has been something of a key site, with excavations there bringing up fragments of African Red Slip fineware and much larger quantities of late Roman wine and olive-oil amphorae.
This methodical and well-researched book re-examines ceramic datasets not just from Britain, but also from France, Spain, and Portugal, to challenge existing models and compellingly demonstrate that the trade, focused on the export of wine from the eastern Mediterranean, was mediated through coastal sites on the Atlantic Seaboard, with Bordeaux emerging as an economic linchpin.
Presenting a page-turning synthesis and useful ceramic data (the author encountered what has become a familiar problem in ‘big data’ ceramic studies – inconsistent quantification and recording methods), this is an essential volume that transforms our understanding of post-Roman continental trade with western Britain.
This review appeared in CA 345.