Academic journal article Medium Aevum

King Arthur's Round Table: An Archaeological Investigation

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

King Arthur's Round Table: An Archaeological Investigation

Article excerpt

King Arthur's Round Table: An Archaeological Investigation, ed. Martin Biddle (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, zooo). xxxvi + 534 PP. ISBN 0-85115-626-6. L30.00.

This book is the product of twenty-five years of investigation undertaken as part of the archaeology of Winchester project by Martin Biddle, with the help of sixteen other persons named on the title-page. It is a bit of a baggy monster, but it will tell almost anybody everything they could want to know about England's most fascinating piece of medieval furniture, and perhaps rather more.

The first nine chapters give full and attractively illustrated reports on literary Round Tables, the status of the Winchester Round Table as a piece of furniture, its setting in Winchester, its make-up and condition, tree-ring and radiocarbon dating, the painting on its front, and its inscriptions and iconography. These provide the data for three chapters in which Professor Biddle reviews the data and draws his conclusions, of which the most important are that the table was made for the Great Hall of Winchester Castle in 1290, that its legs were removed and it was hung on the wall in 1348, and that the painting of the present and indeed only design on its surface was carried out in 1516, but that when hung up on the wall it had a cover, probably of leather, with a design something like the present one, whose existence is proved by two early sixteenth-century Welsh poems that describe the table as being full of rivets, like a buckler.

The evidence is fascinating and varied, the arguments often exemplary, and the conclusions probable, but there are overlaps, failures to connect, and failures of proportion, and the structure of the argument, which is not Professor Biddle's forte, has significant weaknesses. …

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