CWA 80 Book Reviews

Nicholas Bartos reviews some of the latest archaeological books. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan Describing Peter Frankopan’s monumental 656-page work as ‘ambitious’ may be an understatement: he sets out, in no uncertain terms, to fundamentally reorient the axis of world history to the east, right along the crooked spine […]


Book Review – The German Ocean: Medieval Europe around the North Sea

  In the full flush of Brexit, Brian Ayers’ new book makes for compelling reading. Re-reading the results of countless excavations over the past 50 years and their 11th to 16th century meaning, Ayers concludes: ‘It is a maritime region where the seas bind communities together rather than dividing them’, the archaeology thus gives ‘timely […]


By steppe, desert, and ocean

The birth of Eurasia Brian Fagan reviews Barry Cunliffe’s masterful ‘big history’ book that traces the development of Eurasia from the first farmers to the expansion of the Mongols.   Eurasia tends to be a blank on archaeological maps. Enormous distances, harsh climatic conditions, formidable linguistic challenges, and politics had been almost insurmountable obstacles until […]

New light the Byzantine Dark Ages

  Sean Kingsley explores a long-needed audit of the Byzantine world that uses archaeology to ask big questions about the end of antiquity and the rise of the medieval Mediterranean. The Dark Ages conjures up images of an end of days – barbarian hordes ransacking Rome, Vikings storming across the North Sea, and medieval villages spluttering their way through […]

Later Prehistory featured

The Later Prehistory of North-West Europe by Richard Bradley, Colin Haselgrove, Marc Vander Linden, and Leo Webley

This publication reassesses long-established assumptions and narratives within the prehistoric archaeology of north-west Europe. Focusing on elements such as settlement patterning and the enigmatic processes behind the adoption of agricultural subsistence strategies, the authors draw on datasets from the largely untapped resources of commercial sector grey (unpublished or unavailable) literature to construct a more holistic understanding of the period between […]

Sons of the Sun featured

Sons of the Sun: rise and decline of the Fifth Dynasty by Miroslav Verner

This well-researched study explores the complicated history of the royal line of Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty. Using extensive archaeological and textual evidence, as well as current theoretical opinion, Verner examines the political instability at the end of the Fourth Dynasty, the questions surrounding the lineage of the Fifth Dynasty kings, the dynamic changes that occurred throughout the period of the […]

Kings and Conquerors featured

In Search of Kings and Conquerors: Gertrude Bell and the archaeology of the Middle East by Lisa Cooper

Bell’s archaeological career is often overshadowed by tales of her privileged upbringing, unhappy love life, political involvements, and untimely death. The first woman to receive a ‘First’ from Oxford, she proved herself to be an astute and highly accomplished archaeologist, particularly in Anatolia and Mesopotamia (where she discovered the magnificent fortress at Ukhaidir), but rarely received the level of recognition enjoyed […]

The Med in history featured

The Mediterranean in History by David Abulafia (ed.)

Nine chapters, each by a different authority, tackle succeeding eras from early prehistory more than 3,000 years ago to the ‘globalized Mediterranean’ of the 21st century – though it ends just before the sad plight of refugees who risk their lives on these dangerous waters today. Each section is deftly stitched together and commented on by the editor, who concludes with his own […]

Death rituals featured

Death Rituals, Social Order and the Archaeology of Immortality in the Ancient World, by Colin Renfrew, Michael J Boyd, and Iain Morley (eds)

Bookended by Man Booker Prize winner Ben Okri, this collection begins with his poem, concludes with his essay, includes a reference to Damien Hirst’s pickled shark The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, and follows a conference called Death shall have no dominion, the title of a Dylan Thomas poem. Such literary and artistic references are apt: this […]


Book Review: Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind

Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind Colin Renfrew The Folio Society Ltd, £29.95 This beautiful new edition of Professor Renfrew’s Prehistory is a bookshelf essential for anyone interested in the questions and theories behind the cultural evolution of humankind. Here, Renfrew lends his expertise of archaeological theory, genetics, linguistics and radiocarbon dating to the vast […]

Book Review: Exchange Networks and Local Transformations

Exchange Networks and Local Transformations Maria Emanuela Alberti and Serena Sabatini Oxbow Books, £38.00 ISBN 978-1842174852   Exploring the complex web of social, commercial, and cultural contacts that existed between the peoples of Bronze and Iron Age Europe, this collection of articles neatly integrates archaeological theory with discoveries from the field. It is a wide-ranging […]

Book Review: Horemheb: the forgotten pharaoh

Horemheb: The Forgotten Pharaoh Charlotte Booth Amberley, £9.99 ISBN 978-1445610184   Coming to the throne shortly after Akhenaten and Tutankhamun, Horemheb is often overshadowed by his more famous predecessors. Yet his 15-year reign was vital in restoring stability to Egypt after the dramatic cultural and social changes of the Amarna period, Charlotte Booth writes in […]

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