Books

Viking-Nottinghamshire

Review – Viking Nottinghamshire

Once part of Mercia, Nottingham was a key Anglo- Saxon settlement that became one of the five Boroughs of the Danelaw. It is therefore surprising that – according to a foreword by eminent Viking scholar Professor Judith Jesch – this slim volume is the first to be dedicated to Viking Age Nottinghamshire, but it is an informative guide to the region’s early medieval heritage, and an enjoyable read.

The-Stonehenge-Bluestones

Review – The Stonehenge Bluestones

The Stonehenge Bluestones is a semi-glossy, well-produced, slim, populist volume that, after ten years, replaces John’s earlier book, The Bluestone Enigma. It is the better of the two, with fewer factual errors, less immoderate language, and a closer understanding of the complexities of the ‘problem’: whence did the bluestones come and how were they moved to Salisbury Plain?

Chambered-Tombs-of-the-Isle-of-Man

Review – The Chambered Tombs of the Isle of Man: a study by Audrey Henshall 1969-1978

The Isle of Man lies at the centre of the Irish Sea and is characterised by its own insular traditions, while also being subject to influences from all those regions surrounding the sea – as well as beyond. This is evident in the megalithic monumental tradition described within this volume, which presents the evidence from Man and places it in its wider context. This definitive account will appeal to scholars of British prehistory, as well as those interested in Manx studies. Although the initial research took place several decades ago, the editors have conscientiously reviewed and updated it.

Paths-to-the-Past

Review – Paths to the Past: encounters with Britain’s hidden landscapes

If anyone is capable of introducing the casual reader to the landscapes of Britain it is Professor Francis Pryor. In a career spanning the last 30 years, he has brought to life lost environments, settlements, and human experience at some of the most ephemeral and enigmatic sites through his archaeological excavations – and, latterly, his books. His latest volume is an anthology of his experiences of various British landscapes, and his personal responses to them.

The-Outcast-Dead

Review – The Outcast Dead: the effect of the New Poor Law on the health and diet of London’s post-medieval poor

Based on the results of the author’s MPhil research at Durham University, this volume examines an intriguing hypothesis: that the introduction of the New Poor Law in 1834 had such a profound effect on the diet of the poor that it left visible traces on their bones. It does so by interrogating historical data, with an osteological assessment of the health of five buried populations.

The-Art-of-the-Roman-Empire

Review – The Art of the Roman Empire AD 100-450

This is the second edition of what has become a standard work on Roman art, and covers the period described as the Second Sophistic – a time that saw a seismic transformation in the art and architecture of the empire. Some of the illustrations and a chapter examining the influence of Roman art beyond the empire are new, but the older material has lost none of its relevance and power.

50-Finds-from-Staffordshire

Review – 50 Finds from Staffordshire

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.

Roman-Record-Keeping-and-Communications

Review – Roman Record Keeping and Communications

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.

Durrington-cover--front

Review – Along Prehistoric Lines

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.

Cave-Canem

Review – Cave Canem: animals and Roman society

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.

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