Maryport stands out among the Roman forts in northern Britain. Popular accounts of such sites normally focus on providing a structural biography of the fort buildings, with less said about individual soldiers or the world beyond its ramparts. Books about Maryport must buck this trend, as comparatively little is known about the fort interior, but fascinating insights into activity outside the defences are steadily accumulating. Despite this work, the fort remains most famous for its collection of sculpture and inscribed stones, especially altars.
Review – New Visions of the Countryside of Roman Britain: Volume 2 – the rural economy of Roman Britain
This is the second volume in the New Visions of the Countryside of Roman Britain series. The first volume, published in 2016 (see CA 324), dealt with settlement evidence and the third volume will be much more people-focused, looking at identities, beliefs, and burial practices.
This volume, a PhD thesis, is a detailed study of round barrows in the central and northern Anglo-Welsh borderland. This is an under-researched region, as other scholars have tended to focus their studies where barrows are densely clustered or have seen extensive antiquarian excavations. The book begins with an overview of approaches to round barrows and their settings, and a useful synthesis of evidence for prehistoric settlement in the study area.
Archaeology always retains the power to surprise. The site of Cirencester’s western cemetery, much developed and truncated over the years, ought to have retained few secrets, but the results of the excavation – 126 graves, a walled cemetery, deviant burials, an enamelled bronze cockerel, and a complete tombstone – exceeded expectations.
Review – Humble Works for Humble People: a history of the fishery piers of County Galway and North Clare, 1800-1922
Humble Works for Humble People is a study of the structures associated with Galway and North Clare’s fishing industry: from ‘artisanal’ piers and slips to larger, more sophisticated ship and boat quays – built in large numbers from the early 19th century. It details the effects of wider, as well as more local, historical events on fishing and traditional occupations in the west of Ireland.
The reader needs to be aware of the author and his previous county-based gazetteers to know what this book covers. The subject matter is not broadly archaeological, as the ‘sites’ mentioned in the title are almost entirely churches with extant pre-Norman fabric, alongside carved stonework found in and around these structures. The only non-ecclesiastical/ monastic sites mentioned are the Cambridgeshire Dykes, the reserve collection of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge, and a few objects from the Peterborough and St Neots museums.
Focusing not so much on marine environments (as the title might suggest) as on wetlands and inland waterways, this book is the latest addition to a series of multi-author volumes exploring the environment of the Anglo-Saxons. Rivers, marshes, landing places, and sacred springs were just some of the important watery places that existed in early medieval England. The nine chapters of this volume explore these features, focusing on some fairly well-researched topics, such as inland waterways, towns, and fishing, and some less familiar ones, like water in Anglo-Saxon poetry and fenland frontiers.
Review – Winchester: an archaeological assessment – St Swithun’s ‘City of Happiness and Good Fortune’
Winchester is a city with remarkable historical and archaeological roots. At various times playing a local, national, and international role, the city has been blessed with an unusual amount of attention in the 20th century when it comes to uncovering its past. Whether through schoolboy endeavours, private and municipal enterprise, a major research unit, or commercial organisations, a massive amount of activity has variously been funded, under-funded, and developer-funded – and so the resulting publication record is uneven.
Geological form and process fundamentally underpin archaeology, but many archaeologists only have a patchy understanding of it – or even a fear of the sedimentary unknown. John Allen’s book is therefore hugely welcome, and it fills a long-neglected gap.
This is an aural companion piece to Marshall’s lyrical photographic vision of the Neolithic landscape of ‘Greater Avebury’, as seen in his Exploring Avebury: The Essential Guide (see CA 322), Like that book, this is the work of an assured artist.