Britain & Ireland: Report & Analysis, Evocation & Inspiration
James, N., Wynne-Jones, Stephanie, Antiquity
On Britain, this quarter, we have received both technical site reports and, from Tempus, syntheses on districts for the amateur aficionado. Starting with the latter, we find, on one hand, two accounts arranged around conventional narratives stretching, in chronological steps, from the Mesolithic to today and, on the other, an experiment in divining values for various eras in the same stretch of time. Then comes a thoughtful foil with a conventional presentation, another experiment on deducing values, and, to complement the whole set, a welcome contribution on methodology.
MIKE PARKER PEARSON, NEIL SHARPLES & JIM SYMONDS with JACQUI MULVILLE, JOHN RAVEN, HELEN SMITH & ALEX WOOLF. South Uist: archaeology and history of a Hebridean island. 224 pages, 114 figures, 16 colour illustrations. 2004. Stroud: Tempus; 0-7524-2905-1 paperback 17.99 [pounds sterling].
BILL BEVAN. The upper Derwent: 10,000 years in a Peak District valley. 192 pages, 86 figures. 2004. Stroud: Tempus; 0-7524-2903-5 paperback 17.99 [pounds sterling].
MARK EDMONDS. The Langdales: landscape and prehistory in a Lakeland valley. 224 pages, figures. 2004. Stroud: Tempus; 0-7524-3238-9 paperback 15.99 [pounds sterling].
JOHN BEAVIS. Dorset's World Heritage coast: an archaeological guide. 160 pages, 104 figures, 16 colour photographs. 2004. Stroud: Tempus; 0-7524-2545-5 paperback 15.99 [pounds sterling].
ADRIAN M. CHADWICK (ed.). Stories from the landscape: archaeologies of inhabitation (BAR International Set. 1238). ix+281 pages, figures, plates. 2004. Oxford: Archaeopress; 1-84171-597-2 paperback.
STEPHEN RIPPON with JO CLARK & PETER REA. Historic landscape analysis: deciphering the countryside (Practical Handbooks in Archaeology No. 16). xii+ 166 pages, 52 figures, 7 colour plates, 5 tables. 2004. York: Council for British Archaeology; 1-902771-44-3 paperback 9.50 [pounds sterling].
South Uist and Derwent are both approachable landscape histories. South Uist goes all the way with the emigrants to Canada and concludes with a creative and archaeologically informed essay on 'tradition and change', 'innovation and
retrenchment' (p. 194), 'mainstream or ... margins', 'sunwise' living, and the quality of life. The authors remark on technical discoveries too, including continuity of township sites over 2000 years. Derwent is less conceptually adventurous but also effective as a general introduction, if a little informal with the reader and, hence, vague on problems in the record. Strong, however, on the local history, it takes its story up to the Mass Trespass (1932) and the flooding of the valley by a dam, and concludes with a pointed summary of current scenarios for managing the area in future. Both books provide notes on sites to visit.
Langdales seeks to instil something of the Romantics' reflectiveness (when others, like nephew WORDSWORTH [below] still sought 'a changeless classical paradise' over 'volatile national boundaries' [pp. 15, 13]). 'What was it like?', for Neolithic axe makers, woodsmen in the 1700s, or weekenders in the 1930s or, indeed, how is it today, to scale the rocks as sport and thought? Surely the Langdales were always 'powerful' (p. 92). The author's fancies are unencumbered by archaeological technicality but, underneath his affected style, there is more to learn here about the Norse economy than in South Uist. On 'understanding' landscape, compare BEAVIS, like whom the author is worried about walkers' depredations of the archaeology; and for this quarter's most effective conceit, see Dr EDMONDS's last two pages. Outstanding photographs and, as in Derwent, some clever graphics are related well to the text. The Langdales includes a good bibliography. Each of these books springs from substantial recent research of the writers' own and their colleagues but Dr EDMONDS makes little explicitly of that.
The core of Dorset's World is a compactly produced, clearly written and observant guided walk supported by photographs which are, on the whole, effective, many of them annotated. …