This is another in the popular series of books that showcases finds largely recovered by metal-detectorists and recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The objects presented are mouth-watering. There is among them a quartzite bifacial hand axe of Lower or Middle Palaeolithic date, a Bronze Age bracelet of sheet gold, three torcs that represent the earliest Iron Age gold known in Britain, an enamelled souvenir pan from Hadrian’s Wall, the Anglo- Saxon Staffordshire Hoard, a medieval heraldic harness mount, and a post-medieval pocket sundial.
Almost a third of this book comprises a review of pre-Roman record keeping, before moving to the title period under headings such as ‘Archives and libraries in the Roman world’ and ‘Epigraphy’. The latter discusses, among other things, inscriptions on stone, writing tablets, and monuments, such as Trajan’s Column, as examples of forms of visual communication. Five appendices are preceded by a final brief chapter on the Theodosian and Justinianic Codes.
Any excavation carried out a stone’s throw from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and some of its attendant monuments – Durrington Walls, Woodhenge, and, of course, the eponymous monument – is going to be special. The archaeology uncovered at the former military site at Durrington, comprising (among other features) two post-hole alignments, a Late Iron Age defensive ditch, and evidence of Roman-period settlement, is no exception. The post alignments formed part of the ‘web of interconnectivity’ through the ritual landscape. The Iron Age ditch followed the orientation of the postholes, hinting at continuity of landscape organisation. A bluestone disc found in one of the ditches of the later settlement could represent a prized object collected from Stonehenge in the Roman period.
Presenting a broad analysis of the role of animals in Roman society, Cave Canem is largely based on the evidence from ancient contemporaneous texts and visual representations. The author adopts a culturally contextual approach to ordering and explaining the myriad references to animals known to the Romans, rather than a geographical, chronological, or animal-specific one. Given the thousands of depictions and written references to animals, this seems a practical framework for his data.
As you would |expect from CA’s Archaeologist of the Year, this is an extremely well-researched and well-written book. Split into three parts, the first deals with understanding writing and literacy in the Roman world. Part two tackles the data (inkwells), with a focus on metal types. The final section considers writing equipment in terms of identities and social context.
Skilled as they are at piecing together complex and often elusive clues to reconstruct a sequence of events, you might describe archaeologists as a kind of detective. (Certainly, these worlds collide in the field of forensic archaeology.) It is surely no surprise, then, that some archaeologists are also rather good at writing crime fiction. CA has previously reported on Francis Pryor’s Alan Cadbury novels, and now Nicola Ford – the pen name of Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site – has thrown her trowel into the ring with this zippy, clever, and entertaining read.
That picture-postcard village you have just driven through might seem an eternal part of the landscape, but this informative and well-illustrated book introduces us to the vulnerability of villages, and how and why many have been abandoned through the ages.
Another in the series of ‘50 Finds from the Portable Antiquities Scheme’, this book focuses on Warwickshire, and demonstrates, once again, the fruitfulness of encouraging the public to report finds. It must have been difficult to choose 50 from the 28,500 objects recorded by the PAS in the county. Among those selected are a handaxe from Bidford-on-Avon, the Alcester miniature Iron Age shield, a preserved Roman leather sandal found near Newton, the ‘Bidford Bobble’ (an early medieval aestel), and a lead papal bulla of Pope Innocent IV.
Based on archaeological and fragmentary documentary evidence, the Irish Sea was a significant superhighway during prehistory, right through to the medieval period, and beyond. The Isle of Man appears to have been a significant stepping stone for adopting art and architecture, especially during the early Christian period, when 200 or more carved stone crosses occupied many of the churchyards on the island.
Geology has few laws, but the most encompassing and important is the late 18th- to 19th-century Doctrine of Uniformitarianism – ‘the present is the key to the past’ – and generally this is still accepted as true. ‘Historical scientists’ (aka earth scientists), who try to interpret ‘the deep past’, continue, as naive realists, to practise in this belief/ knowledge, as it works well.