Books

London's-Crypts-&-Catacombs

London’s Crypts and Catacombs

Asked to think about catacombs, our minds might initially turn to the grand subterranean ossuaries of, say, Rome or Paris. However, London is not without its own underground burial places. In this brief but enjoyable book, authors Robert Bard and Adrian Miles take readers on a tour of former and extant catacombs and other hidden structures within and below some of the best-known cemeteries in the capital.

Unearthing-Childhood-

Unearthing Childhood: young lives in prehistory

Robin Derricourt’s book is an overview of current and past research on the nature of the evidence for children in prehistory. As he points out, children are likely to have comprised about 50% of the population of most prehistoric societies, and so it is high time they were studied to the same degree as adults.

Neolithic-Britain

Neolithic Britain: the transformation of social worlds

Over the recent past there has been a flurry of literature concerned with the Neolithic of the British Isles, each book promoting a new interpretation on the life and death of its people. This book is no exception. The literature has clearly shown that the Neolithic is a complex world of social relations and entanglement with ramifications to our present: we are products of this significant period in our history.

Late-Iron-Age-Calleva

Late Iron Age Calleva: the pre-Conquest occupation at Silchester Insula IX

The decades leading up to the Roman conquest of Britain must have been a dynamic and turbulent time, a period of tribal manoeuvrings, with alliances made and loyalties tested in the face of increasing political and material influence from the Continent. From an archaeological perspective, however, the period can be frustratingly bland, with many sites in southern Britain lacking closely dated ceramics, giving only a hedge-betting chronology either side of AD 43. That late Iron Age Calleva presents solid evidence for pre-Conquest occupation, with more than a hint of the political and social complexities, is just one of the aspects that makes this a welcome and exciting volume.

The-River's-Tale

Review – ‘The River’s Tale’: archaeology on the Thames foreshore in Greater London

The River Thames must be one of the longest archaeological sites in Britain, both in terms of distance and duration. People have been collecting artefacts from the muddy foreshore or dredged from the river since the 19th century. More systematic exploration of the waterfront has followed, and, in 2008, the Thames Discovery Programme, an ambitious project involving fieldwork, public events, and the training of an army of volunteers, was launched. This book describes the results of that project, revealing the story of the river from prehistory to modern times.

Footprints-from-the-Past

Review – Footprints from the Past

Recent railway improvements entailed large-scale excavations in the outskirts of Alchester, a Claudian fortress evolving into Oxfordshire’s largest Roman town. Published at impressive speed, this splendid fieldwork monograph presents important new findings for the history of Alchester’s hinterland.

Breaking-the-surface

Review – Breaking the Surface: an art/archaeology of prehistoric architecture

This volume offers the reader a radical view of what prehistoric pits did and the various social layers that made them more than just part of a domestic or ritual structure. Using modern architectural ethics and construction concepts, Bailey goes some way to making sense of the mindset and complex entanglement associated with ancient construction methods.

Blick-Mead

Review – Blick Mead: exploring the ‘first place’ in the Stonehenge landscape

This is a well-rounded and readable account of research undertaken at Blick Mead, and one that undeniably establishes the site’s importance in adding to our understanding of the British Mesolithic, and of the wider Stonehenge landscape. Recollections from some of the project volunteers, which are printed at the start of each chapter, are a fitting tribute to the team’s community involvement and how many people have given their time to help investigate the site. But this monograph also serves as a timely reminder of the site’s significance at a time when the spring and its ancient contents are reportedly threatened by plans for the forthcoming Stonehenge tunnel.

Clash-of-Cultures

Review – Clash of Cultures? The Romano-British period in the West Midlands

This volume has been 16 years in the making, its origins being found in a regional research framework seminar in 2002. While most of the contributions in the book were presented as papers at that seminar, they are by no means out of date, however, having taken into account, for example, recent excavations and the latest data from the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Life-and-Death-in-the-Countryside-of-Roman-Britain

Review – Life and Death in the Countryside of Roman Britain

This is the third and final volume in the New Visions of the Countryside of Roman Britain series, whose geographical scope is England and Wales. The latest volume, like its companions, focuses on the people who lived in the countryside, probably accounting for some 90% of the population of Roman Britain. By concentrating on the majority of poorer rural dwellers, the text offers a contrast to the elite occupants of grand countryside villas. This volume attempts a social archaeology of rural lives.

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