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In volume III of ‘The Cambridge Journal’ (1949, 131–47) the present Editor of ‘Antiquity’ wrote an article entitled ‘A defence of prehistory’ in which he referred to ‘the environmentalist school of Fleure and Fox, the hyperdiffusionist school of Elliot Smith, Parry, and Raglan, or the Marxist school of Childe’. Professor Childe wrote a rejoinder which Michael Oakshott, the Editor of ‘The Cambridge Journal’, could not find room to publish. Childe did not publish it elsewhere; there is now a great and continuing interest in his method and theory, and it seemed worth while publishing it at last, 30 years after it was written. Childe died in 1957; ‘The Cambridge Journal’ was short-lived: begun in 1947, it died in 1953.
One question fundamental to the interpretation of the elaborate sceptre found at Sutton Hoo is why whetstone should have been chosen as its material. Too heavy for convenience, yet neither rare nor intrinsically beautiful, why was this substance thought appropriate for such an important item of regalia? The interpretation so far has been that it symbolized the king as war-leader, ‘the forger, giver and master of the swords of his followers’. While this is undoubtedly an attractive and appropriate interpretation, it lacks literary confinnation; I would therefore like to put forward an alternative (or supplementary) hypothesis based on the evidence of certain passages in Old Icelandic writings where whetstones are mentioned in a mythical context, or are described as being used in non-realistic circumstances suggestive of ritual. Despite their late date, Icelandic sources have often cast valuable light on Germanic religion.
Keith Branigan, Professor of Prehistory and Archaeology in the University of Sheffield, has written for us a review article on Doro Levi's massive excavation report on his excavations at the palace of Phaistos in Crete: Festos e la Civilta Minoica I, i and II, ii (Incunabula Graeca LX. Institute for Mycenean and Aegeo-Anatolian Studies: Rome, 1976. 864 pp., 86 col. pls., 248 black-and-white pls., 1,214 figs., 39 plans. Lire 250,000; £162). Professor Branigan was one of only two Britons who had the opportunity to supervise excavations at Phaistos under Professor Levi's direction. In his review here, he concentrates his discussion on the problems of the first Minoan palaces, in the light of the Phaistos excavations.
Dr Jan Albert Bakker, of the Albert Egges van Giffen Instituut voor Prae-en Protohistorie, University of Amsterdam, presents us with what he has called, in a letter to the Editor, ‘an article on sixteenth-century Stonehenge drawings, partly well-known, partly not’. His main concern is with the Flemish painter Lucas de Heere's drawing and description of Stonehenge. Published in 1937 by two Dutchmen, it is perhaps fitting that it has taken a third, in Dr Bakker, to draw the attention of British archaeologists to what they have overlooked for more than 40 years. Dr Bakker, who has excavated and studied hunebeds and their contents in Drenthe, was stimulated by Professor Piggott's ‘Ruins in a landscape: essays on antiquarianism’ to study the authorship and the nature of the L.D.H. drawing of Stonehenge. Dr Bakker would like to express his gratitude to Miss Linda Therkorn, Amsterdam, for assistance in preparing this article in English.
The subject of this article, ‘Rattus rattus’ (Linnaeus, 1758), or the black rat, has, in Mr Rackham's estimation, considerable archaeological importance, especially in view of recent discussions on plague and the end of Roman Britain, and subsequent plagues of the Anglo-Saxon period. We learn that some recent finds suggest a Roman date for the introduction of the black rat into Britain. Mr Rackham is a Senior Research Assistant in the Biological Laboratory, Department of Archaeology, University of Durham, with a research interest in late Pleistocene vertebrate fauna. Current work in the Department involves the environmental analysis, particularly zoological, of archaeological sites of all periods in the northern five counties of England.
Dr Marshall McKusick is Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, University of Iowa, USA. He and others have been concerned with the rise of antiquarian speculation in the United States, which is historically comparable to mound-builder theories of a century ago that gained great popular currency. Professor McKusick's book on the subject of the various speculations Atlantic voyages to prehistoric America, will be published early next year by the Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.
In 1966 [Sir] Fred Hoyle published two papers on the possible use of Stonehenge as an eclipse predictor (1966a,b). He has now (Hoyle, 1977) returned to this theme with a very clearly written and well-illustrated book that is essentially an expansion of the material in the two 1966 papers. In brief, Hoyle proposes that the extant features of Stonehenge I provide the necessary means systematically to observe the sun and moon and to keep track of the nodes of the lunar orbit. This would provide sufficient information to allow eclipses of the moon to be predicted. He also proposes that by the time of Stonehenge III this method was superseded by the use of the Saros cycle of 18 years 11 days to predict eclipses. This last method almost certainly implies that written records of events at full moon were kept. Since there is no evidence from the British Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age of writing or numeracy this proposal is purely speculative.