In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Reformation and the Civil War reduced a great many of Britain’s abbeys and castles to ruins – or, as they are described by a number of 18th- and 19thcentury poets, ‘piles’ of a ‘venerable’, ‘stately’, ‘stupendous’ or ‘lowly’ variety, or even ‘dismal Heaps’. These monuments have formed part of the country’s cultural consciousness, and their impact can be felt particularly keenly in Gothic fiction and Gothic Revival architecture.
Perched on a peninsula in the heart of the Orkney archipelago, the Ness of Brodgar is a truly remarkable site. Long-running excavations there are bringing a wealth of discoveries to light, illuminating the life and death of a sophisticated Neolithic community (see CA 335).
With a mixture of personal and archaeological anecdotes, this short book gives a real insight into the life and studies of Brenda Swinbank. As a woman researching in a very male-dominated field, the support she received from more established scholars is a credit to her work. Despite this support, she struggled to get a permanent academic job. Perhaps things were not so different 60 years ago…
This collection of papers by Mark Hassall, for many years a lecturer at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology and co-editor of the epigraphic roundup for the journal Britannia, takes as its model a 1953 collection, Roman Britain and the Roman Army, by the eminent scholar of Roman Britain Eric Birley. Like that volume, this current collection takes stock of previously published research to present an academic ‘greatest hits’ compilation.
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.