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Fowling has seldom played a part in the food-quest at all comparable with that of hunting or fishing : the situation of St. Kilda, where during the 17th century the 180 inhabitants are held by Martin (1) to have consumed annually some 22,600 Solan Geese (Gannets) and of which the Rev. Macaulay exclaimed in 1758 ‘. . . deprive us of the Fulmar, and St. Kilda is no more (2)’, is an exception which only proves the general rule. Yet, we know that birds helped to vary the diet of most of the communities of prehistoric Europe and that catching them was an activity of economic importance, especially at certain seasons of the year. The only scientific way of estimating the part played by fowling in the economy of any prehistoric group is through an accurate knowledge of the total fauna represented in the food debris, with special regard to the relative proportions of the different species. While this is too seldom available, there is in the aggregate sufficient data to show how far prehistoric man depended on fowling to supply himself with food. As to the methods used, direct evidence of this is all the harder to come by, since these were mainly of a kind to leave little or no tangible trace behind them. Throughout prehistoric times fowling remained at a primitive stage of development, but fortunately the methods used still survived in Europe down to modern times and most are still practised to-day, whether among peasant peoples in the remoter parts of the continent or among poachers nearer home.
Swedish archaeologists have followed with great excitement and the most lively interest the already numerous writings on the remarkable Sutton Hoo excavations of 1939 and the exceptionally significant objects that came to light there.
Much surprise was occasioned by the news of the Coroner's Inquest—something unfamiliar to Swedes—at which the legal title to the find was decided with the help of the passages in Beowulf describing the passing of Scyld and the lavish furnishing of Beowulf's memorial mound :-
‘They left the wealth of nobles to the earth to keep—left the gold in the ground, where it still exists, as unprofitable to men as it had been before’.
A Swedish court of law would probably not let itself be influenced by, shall we say, quotations from the Edda. When, however, it was a matter of getting past the English law's not very clearly thought out definition of Treasure Trove, there was certainly good reason, and especially in this instance, to cite Beowulf. For it is generally accepted that Beowulf was composed in about A.D. 700, that is to say, while many of those who had witnessed the burial at Sutton Hoo were still alive.
In the present state of our knowledge of the true extent of the Phoenician accomplishment in their homelands in the Mediterranean, it may seem foolhardy to try to evaluate their achievements in West Africa, or indeed anywhere else on the periphery of their sphere of influence. The attempt has, however, been made in the past, nearly always from the purely historical aspect, and my excuse for essaying it once again is that the time seems to have come to emphasize how archaeology could help to shed light on their colonial and mercantile activities in those regions.
Before 1200 B.C. the Phoenician cities on the Syrian coast had sent out colonies to Cyprus, Rhodes and possibly Crete, and, not much later, farther west to Utica and even Gades, if we are to believe our ancient sources (1). These colonies and others, situated at the most strategical points in the Mediterranean, were important vantage-places from which to curb the Greek spread westwards. They kept the Greeks from any real foothold west of a line drawn from Cumae to Selinus, apart from an enclave in the Gulf of Lions.
This book should be reviewed by a committee. Like Mr Reed's earlier excursion into Dark Age History, The Battle for Britain in the Fifth Century, it will arouse passions which, ranging from indignation through amused tolerance to befuddled admiration, would require a series of minority reports for their adequate expression. The scholar is in no danger (unless he had a high blood-pressure), and it would be simple enough to advise the non-specialist reader to read not Mr Reed but Mr Reed's despised authorities. Such advice, however, would not constitute a review of a book which, in one sense or another, will fascinate most readers.
Mr Reed apparently seeks to tell the story of the rise of Wessex in new and full detail, and to show that modern authorities are wrong-headed guides. The new details and the full explanations are there, riotously jostling each other for space, but of course they will not be accepted by serious scholars. Probably Mr Reed would be surprised if they were. His second aim does not achieve even this dubious success ; Authority may laugh or fume, according to its mood, but it has undoubtedly survived unscathed what was perhaps designed as an ordeal.