New Book Chronicle
Hummler, Madeleine, Antiquity
December's chronicle concerns Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe, mostly north-western. Megaliths dominate the scene, but settlement and barrow excavations and studies considering the wider landscape are also presented. Different approaches, from analytical to phenomenological, will be evident and their effect on this reader briefly commented on.
Megaliths and other stones
ROGER JOUSSAUME, LUC LAPORTE & CHRIS SCARRE (ed). Origine et developpement du megalithisme de l'ouest de l'Europe/Origin and development of the megalithic monuments of western Europe. Colloque international/International conference, Bougon, 26-30 October 2002. 2 volumes, 832 pages, numerous illustrations & tables. 2006. Bougon: Musee des Tumulus de Bougon; 2-911743-22-9 paperback 38[euro].
MAGDALENA S. MIDGLEY. The megaliths of Northern Europe. xiv+226 pages, 80 illustrations. 2008. London & New York: Routledge; 978-0-415-35180 hardback 60[pounds sterling]; 978-0-203-69855-6 e-book.
MARK GILLINGS, JOSHUA POLLARD, DAVID WHEATLEY & RICK PETERSON. Landscape of the megaliths: excavation and fieldwork on the Avebury monuments 1997-2003. xiv+402 pages, 225 illustrations, 83 tables. Oxford: Oxbow; 978-1-84217-313-8 hardback 40[pounds sterling].
ROSEMARY HILL. Stonehenge. ii+242 pages, 34 illustrations. 2008. London: Profile Books; 978-1-86197-865-3 hardback 12.99[pounds sterling].
From Poitou-Charente, the fiefdom of Segolene Royal, come the proceedings of a specialist colloquium convened at the Musee des Tumulus de Bougon in 2002. Origine et developpement du megalithisme de l'ouest de l'Europe is by 75 contributors, two thirds French and a third from Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain and Morocco. Together they present 52 papers in 800 pages. This is not actually as daunting as it looks: 400 pages really, as the two volumes are bilingual (about which more below). The first, longer, volume contains chapter 1, dedicated to overviews and reports on the megalithic funerary monuments of Scandinavia and north/north-western Europe, France (including Corsica with Sardinia co-opted), the British Isles and the Iberian peninsula. There perhaps the chapter contributed by the late Graham Ritchie makes the best case for not studying megaliths as a separate entity, since megalithic monuments and settlements in timber, earth and stone exist in all combinations in Scotland. If we study megaliths on their own 'we are studying stamp perforations rather than a broader picture' (p. 184). Amongst reports on new sites, the complex long mound C of Pere at Prisse-la-Charriere (Deux-Sevres) is well presented by Laporte, Scarre and Joussaume, with good photographs (p. 367) and a summary of its sequence. Among regional specialities, note the small-but-perfect 'micromonumentality' from the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland (p. 405) or the fact that there is a type of mud-brick megalithism in the Meseta region of central Spain (p. 442). The shorter volume 2 contains three chapters. That on standing stones demonstrates again that they are not a class apart, since there is a multitude of possible associations and that timber structures or wooden predecessors are part of the phenomenon. Chapter 3 deals with megalithic art, and includes a paper by Bueno Ramirez and Balbin Behrmann insisting on the greater number of painted megaliths in Spain, a bit of a demolition job on Shee Twohig's 1981 overview, The megalithic art of Western Europe. The final section of the book, 'other megalithisms', is sparse with just two papers: a presentation of a Moroccan Neolithic (or Iron Age?) complex, and a very brief summary about India. Given the size of the undertaking, some blemishes are inevitable. The editors could have halved their troubles, however, had they decided not to publish a bilingual edition. Indeed, it is often in the translation that problems crop up (though, when Scarre does it himself, it is good): for an example of clumsy translation, see p. …