Reviews to be perceived, and reminds us of the benefits of working together and learning from each other, rather than talking only to ‘like-minded’ individuals; but one is left wondering why then have a ‘post-Medieval’ archaeology at all? Is not 1550 as arbitrary a concept as the division between history and prehistory? In fact, the editors are one step ahead on this point and acknowledge that this is not just arbitrary, it is also ‘a legacy of a postcolonial mindset’, because it is based on the concept of cultural change being driven by cultural contact between Western civilisation and ‘primitive’ indigenous peoples. What matters, they conclude, is not silos, boundaries and precise dates, but ‘archaeological narratives that are well grounded in thorough analysis yet contextualised on a broad enough level to ensure that the relevance of the work is apparent’.
EUROPE’S LOST WORLD V Gaffney, S Fitch and D Smith CBA Research Report 160 £15
Bryony Coles gave the name ‘Doggerland’ to the drowned landscape beneath the North Sea in her 1998 paper in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society summing up all that was then known about the archaeology of an area better known for oil rigs and fishing. It is thanks in part to oil exploration and aggregates prospecting that we have a far richer picture ten years on, because the authors of this present volume have been able to reuse a mass of seismic data generated for mapping mineral deposits to reconstruct an area of lost Mesolithic landscape at least as big as the UK, stretching, at its maximum extent, beyond the Low Countries, Germany and Denmark to Sweden and the Baltic coast.
The core of the book is a detailed description of the character of Doggerland, including its valleys, hills, rivers and plains, its wildlife and its vegetation. A review of the evidence for Mesolithic lifestyles from sites such as the Severn estuary and the Isle of Wight’s Bouldner Cliff all points to the conclusion that Doggerland’s watery, marshy landscape was the perfect environment for hunter-gatherer communities, replete with such seasonal food resources as wildfowl, fish, shellfish and tuberous roots.
A final, more discursive chapter moves from mythical accounts of catastrophic drowning – from Noah’s flood to the Epic of Gilgamesh and Plato’s Atlantis myth – before warning that our complacency about Britain as a safe place, immune from such extreme events, is about to be rudely shattered. Global warming will either transform Britain and Ireland into an almost unrecognisable archipelago of hundreds of large and small islands or (as featured in the Hollywood blockbuster, The Day After Tomorrow) the Gulf Stream will switch off and the UK will freeze under ice sheets and glaciers. The fate of the people of the North Sea is a significant warning for our own future, the authors argue, if we don’t meet the challenges of mankind’s ‘inconsiderate and unrestrained actions’.
ROMAN MOSAICS OF BRITAIN VOL 3: SOUTH EAST BRITAIN David Neal and Stephen Cosh Society of Antiquaries of London £200
Coming to a library near you soon (one hopes, given the investment involved in owning a copy) is the third volume in David Neal and Stephen Cosh’s project to create the first complete corpus of Roman mosaics of Britain. This volume (bound in two parts) covers the areas of Britain that came under Roman control first and where some of the earliest mosaics are to be found – the mainly black-andwhite geometric designs of 1st-century Fishbourne Palace, for example, reflecting contemporary Gaulish fashions. But it also has some of Britain’s most impressive figurative mosaics – Bignor’s Ganymede and gladiatorial scenes and Lullingstone’s Europa and the Bull, for example, or the Bacchus of London’s Leadenhall Street.
Some of these mosaics are amongst the earliest to be uncovered, and the copious illustrations include many a fine antiquarian depiction by such pioneering early 19th century mosaic painters as Richard Smirke and Charles Stothard, along with the authors’ own characteristic gouache paintings, which render the mosaics in faithful colour and detail.
The three volumes now out comprise a rich resource for students of Roman art, craftsmanship, architecture and social life, due to be completed around a year from now, with the fourth and final volume covering the riches of Western Britain and Wales, the region that witnessed the flowering in the 4th-century of the mosaic workshop or team of makers dubbed ‘the Corinium School’.