Among the New Books

By James, N. | Antiquity, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Among the New Books


James, N., Antiquity


Tools and technology: resource management and social organisation

This quarter's selection on archaeologists' most reliable stock in trade, illustrates various approaches to tools, both traditional and exploratory. How do we assess such studies? They should report on discoveries and address issues about context in ways of life. They should address preservation of evidence or report on interesting archaeological methods and techniques. They should describe the evidence.

PIERRE M. VERMEERSCH (ed.). Palaeolithic quarrying sites in Upper and Middle Egypt (Egyptian Prehistory Monographs 4). 365 pages, 289 figures, 89 tables. 2002. Leuven: Leuven University Press; 90-5867-266-2 paperback 45 [euro].

ROBERT H. COBEAN. A world of obsidian: the mining and trade of a volcanic glass in ancient Mexico. 298+i pages, 173 figures, 27 tables. 2002. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia; 970-18-2508-X paperback.

JOHN CURTIS & MIROSLAW KRUSZYNSKI with ALISTAIR PIKE. Ancient Caucasian and related material in the British Museum (British Museum Occasional Paper 121). vi+128 pages, 49 figures, 3 tables, 20 plates. 2002. London: British Museum; 0-86159-121-6 (ISSN 0142-4815) paperback 20 [pounds sterling].

I.P. STEPHENSON. The Anglo-Saxon shield. 159 pages, 58 figures, 2 tables. 2002. Stroud & Charleston (SC): Tempus; 0-7524-2529-3 paperback 17.99 [pounds sterling] & US$29.99.

PAUL CRADDOCK & JANET LANG (ed.). Mining and metal production through the ages. 296 pages, 209 b&w & colour figures, 31 tables. 2003. London: British Museum Press; 0-7141-2770-1 hardback 65 [pounds sterling].

P. NICK KARDULIAS & RICHARD W. YERKES (ed.). Written in stone: the multiple dimensions of lithic analysis, xvi+143 pages, 25 figures, 4 tables. 2003. Lanham (MD): Lexington; 0-73910536-1 hardback 42 [pounds sterling].

* Dr VERMEERSCH introduces 16 studies on aspects of more than 25 years of research on the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic, illustrating current interest in local strategies for exploiting resources. There are five papers on Middle Palaeolithic chert quarries. At least one complex is now doomed by fraught agricultural development. There follows a paper on an underground chert mine of the Upper Palaeolithic--'by far the oldest in the world' (p. 359)--approached through eleven or twelve shafts. The later quarries were 'more regular' and 'systematic' (p. 359). Manufacture is appraised with the help of simple but effective conventional drawings and some photographs (not all provided with scales), as well as analytic diagrams. There are also three papers on burials at the later site--apparently, the only ones known of this period in northern Africa--and the bones, which are related, it is argued, to sub-Saharan specimens (cf. Antiquity 72: 475:84).

* R.H. COBEAN reports on intermittent fieldwork over nearly 30 years and on concurrent neutron activation analysis of more than 800 specimens from 37 sources (with helpful discussion of statistics by M.D. Glascock), and he reviews the literature, including unpublished or obscure but fruitful references. He considers long-term trends in supply. He remarks that little is published on quarrying, while, for Teotihuacan, supposed industry notwithstanding, there has been no extensive excavation of a workshop--so could more have been said about M.D. Soto's work at Guachimonton? The customary American dependence on photographs of the artefacts works poorly here (obsidian especially awkward), scales are not provided consistently, and most of the maps (even some of the photos of sites) are ineffective. The text is published, with Pittsburgh University, in both English and Spanish.

CURTIS et al. catalogue, describe, illustrate and discuss 117 pieces of copper alloy, bronze and (a few) ceramic pieces from the Late Bronze Age & Early Iron Age Koban Culture, 44 of the same period in Georgia and Azerbaijan (plus an iron spearhead), 33 'Objects of Scythian type' in copper alloy, bronze, gold and iron, and six 'Misc. …

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