Current Archaeology’s December issue offers one of the mag’s signature feature write-ups of new books, this time The Complete Ice Age: how climate change shaped the world by Brian Fagan et al. Interesting stuff, where the following passage on the coming of our own species into Ice Age Europe struck me as particularly illuminating:
“In the past, climate change had either forced movement or engendered physical evolution [in the area’s hominid population]. Homo sapiens, supremely intelligent, responded to new challenges through cultural evolution. The interaction between nature and humanity now produced social progress: a gradual accumulation of knowledge and technique, of understanding and skill, that enabled human groups to solve problems by inventing new tools and methods.”
Then there’s a piece on a razed henge monument found at the river end of the ritual avenue that leads to Stonehenge. It may well be that the Stonehenge bluestone orthostats originally formed this riverside henge and were then hauled up to their current site. They were famously quarried in the Preseli hills of Wales, and I just had to check: regrettably, “Presley” and “Preseli” are not cognates. “Presley” is an English word meaning “priest’s meadow”, and “Preseli” is a Welsh word whose etymology I haven’t been able to trace.
A scary story is told about Bamburgh Castle in Northumbria where a senior British archaeologist conducted extensive fieldwork in the 50s, 60s and 70s. This man behaved with such criminal negligence that when he died, some of the documentation and finds were found in his home, a lot was found in hastily abandoned and decades-locked site offices in the castle, and much is simply missing. An unfortunate fieldwork team is now trying to make sense of what he did on site by means of meta-archaeology, digging to document what the earlier excavator did. Needless to say, archaeology would have been much better off if the first campaign at Bamburgh Castle had never taken place at all. Myself, I get really antsy if it takes more than a few months for me to submit my final archive report of a dig.
In a column about “independent archaeology”, which seems to be the British term for well-organised amateur archaeology, CA’s publisher Andrew Selkirk (who comments here at times) tells interesting news from a conference he’s been to. He thinks community archaeology funding is too restricted in the UK. And he lets slip a few asides that show that he doesn’t like the EU, political correctness, bureaucracy, the left wing or overly professional museums. I am unfamiliar with CA’s past, but statements like these make me wonder if the magazine has some kind of anti-government well-to-do hobbyist background? What is Current Archaeology’s official position on fox hunting?