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For someone accustomed to the rural intensity of settlement one still finds in northern Europe, it can be a surprise to find, in mountain France or Italy, how many are the high valleys that now have lost their people. In just one the editor happens to know, La Maglia in the eastern Alpes-Maritimes, which once supported 40 or so farms, the cultivated land, so laboriously won by terracing, is virtually all let go now to grass and scrub. But how old are the structures and fields that belong with dense settlement of these marginal lands? A study has been made at the other side of the same département of the Alpes-Maritimes, in the extreme SE corner of France.
The physical scale of buildings like the Baths of Caracalla give the clearest indication of the importance of bathing in the classical order of things – though whether what Romans did in the bath was always clean and decent may be an open question. But what about the prehistory of bathing, and particularly of bathing in steam? An answer is given here which links the historical and ethnographic record to burnt mounds, among the more common and puzzling types of north European site.
A fast-growing quantity of fossil material – post-cranial as well as skulls and teeth – is combining with cladistics and other new theoretical perspectives radically to change the picture of human evolution. Here, a summary of that picture is given, as the basis for a re-examination of that fundamental question of Pleistocene archaeology, the matching with the bones of the stones of the palaeolithic sequence.
When General Pitt-Rivers was appointed as first Inspector under the 1882 Act, which first protected British Ancient Monuments, the Act's Schedule named just 50 sites nationally. Although many monuments have been added to the Schedule since then, the growth in knowledge of the long and intensive occupation of England has been such that the current total of nearly 13,000 scheduled monuments amounts to only 1 in 50 of the sites thought to exist.
In matters of monument protection, Britain lies somewhere in the middle: well short of the promised land, as we see it, of Denmark where effective protection goes out from the spot site to include its environs; but well ahead of, for example, the USA where respect for a landowner's formal rights of property is so strong that there is still no Federal protection for monuments in private ownership.
English Heritage feels that now is the time to put the Schedule of protected monuments, as it has grown over the years, into rational shape. The present Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Andrew Saunders, and his colleagues explain why and how.
British archaeology and British archaeologists now live in a fast-changing world. There are new administrative agencies and frameworks, major reviews of monument protection (above, this issue) and of university archaeology (last issue), a fundamental shift in the economics of the countryside (current issues passim), and a new mood in which an entrepreneurial ‘heritage industry’ has become conspicuous.
In 1986 the Environment Select Committee of the House of Commons investigated historic buildings and ancient monuments. Peter Fowler here reports the attitudes it brought to its study of archaeology and history, and the assessments of their value that it made.
Some fundamental problems in the design of wheeled animal-drawn vehicles result from the inescapable mechanical forces the vehicle deals with. Here, one of those problems is explored, with ethnohistorical information from recent Europe as a starting-point.
The Northumbrian monastic communities, and their crafts, are fundamental to the study of 7th-century Britain. New excavation has revealed significant evidence for the community at Hartlepool, as well as moulds and crucibles from fine metal-working on the site.
How many excavators of deep palaeolithic sites, especially in caves or rock-shelters, dig with any clear knowledge of how deep the deposits they are working in actually are, or of the ages of the lower portions? Here an alternative is offered to the traditional approach by a ‘deep sounding’ of conventional excavation. A crucial element to the strategy at Klithi is the possibility of carbon-dating, by accelerator, samples of the small size commonly obtained from a drilled core.
Archaeoastronomy in Europe, when it comes to megalithic sites, is still at the perhaps stage: perhaps there was some systematic understanding of the heavens that can be called astronomy, perhaps there was not. In the Americas matters are different, with the ‘long-count’ and other systems showing a clear interest in calendars, and in the timely movements of the heavens. Here the lunar order of the Maya scheme of things is set out.
Thirty years after his death, on 19 October 1957, V. Gordon Childe's ideas seem full of life. Peter Gathercole has watched the Childe literature grow – with three biographical studies, any number of articles and a major conference in Mexico last year (its proceedings will be reviewed in the next number) – and has contributed to it himself. ANTIQUITY invited him to make the points that seem most pertinent about Childe today.
Southern England, especially after yet another miserably wet summer, seems a surprising place to find neolithic grape-pips – at least by comparison with the sunnier places like southern France and Greece where early records of both wild and domesticated grapes have been reported. But here is a find of a grape-pip from neolithic Dorset.
Since seeds and grains have in the past proved intrusive even into deposits that seemed stratigraphically secure, an uncomfortable choice had to be made after the identification: to preserve the pip, leaving its date unproven; or to make a radiocarbon determination on the pip and so to destroy it in securing evidence of its date. The second option was taken, which is why this report is on a pip which no longer exists.
The reconstructed trireme (Coates & Morrison 1987; March issue, 87–90) was launched in the Aegean this summer. Here is the first first-hand report for many centuries as to how a great classical Greek warship actually rows and sails.