temstonehen.jpg (4190 bytes)Stonehenge and Timber Circles - Alex Gibson
2000, 160pp 126illus. now available in Paperback

If you think tackling the subject of prehistoric ritual sites that you can see (ie. stone circles) is a hard and thankless task often shunned by mainstream archaeology, imagine a book about timber (or pit) circles. Most of these are only seen in aerial photographs, and these require excavation to tell if the pits ever had any posts in them! The book covers the context, dating, possible functions and reconstructions of timber circles. I feel it is a little conservative, more imaginitive speculation (clearly labelled as such) is a feature of Aubrey Burl's books, and is instrumental in making an them interesting to a more casual reader.

Dr Gibson suffered from rather unfortunate timing in the release of this book. Many of the topics are of great interest to those of us who've been following the saga at 'Seahenge', which has thrust the subject of timber circles into the limelight. This book fills in the background lacking in the TV programmes and web sites. In an interesting section on circles in Europe, he refers to a site in Terriers, France that strikes me as quite similar, and of the same data, as Seahenge – two menhirs surrounded by a 12.5m trench containing contiguous timbers, with a radiocarbon date of c.2100 BCE. Gibson describes this site as unique in Europe. It's a great pity this book predates the discovery of Seahenge – indeed a title of Seahenge and Timber Circles might well have shifted some more copies!

Dr Gibson is a prehistorian with English Heritage, indeed he had a fleeting contribution to the Time Team Seahenge special shown in the Winter of 1999. At least one of his prayers has been answered. He writes: "Perhaps the argument is unanswerable, at least until a perfectly preserved, for example waterlogged, site is found… This may be a fanciful dream…"

I don't feel this book has had the recognition it deserves. It's a brave attempt to explain this often overlooked area of archaeology, a difficult subject to bring to life, and this he does well.. If you want to learn more about sites like Seahenge, look no further than this excellent book.

Review by Andy Burnham

Stonehenge and Timber Circles - Alex Gibson
2000, 176pp 126illus. now available in Paperback

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