Unravelling the landscape: an inquisitive approach to archaeology - Mark Bowden (ed.)
208pp, 125 ills, Tempus, March 1999, paperback. ISBN
This is primarily an archaeology textbook, so can be forgiven for being dry in places. It has survived being written by a committee, namely the staff of the RCHME (now English Heritage) National Monuments Record in Swindon, who have brought their combined expertise to bear.
The book focuses on of oft overlooked subject of earthworks, and the analytical survey of these features, although much of the practical advice given also applies to other fields.
Most of the book is a beginners 'How to' overview, briefly setting out what I presume is RCHME 'best practice' for a wide variety of practical subjects. Topics covered include carrying out a survey, what to survey and in what detail. Specialist areas such as work on the foreshore and in woodland are touched upon. There are useful insights into drawing plans, writing reports and the best way in which to present your data for publication and archiving. I found the section on drawing large-scale plans of earthworks most interesting, and learned how to draw those fascinating 'hairy caterpillars' on maps, and that by instead calling them 'hachures' I will sound more authoritative blagging my way in archaeology.
There are some brilliant plans of Avebury, Windmill Hill and West Kennett Long Barrow, and an infra-red aerial photo of Long Meg and Her Daughters, showing the adjacent, older, ditched enclosure, illustrating how we know that the circle is more recent. I will borrow these for my web site if the good RCHME people will let me.
I'm not very impressed with the rather outdated and conservative attitudes to archiving - virtually writing off any form of digital storage as a stable archiving medium. So much these days is generated by computers and held in digital form that this book makes the RCHME appear backward in this area, and for a 1999 book I would expect better.
Overall though this is a good introduction to earthwork surveying techniques, if necessarily shallow in some areas.
Review by Andy Burnham
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