Archaeological primer for historians

Cover of Graham-Campbell and Valor (edd.), The Archaeology of Medieval Europe

For once a short post, this just to draw your attention to a new book edited by James Graham-Campbell and Magdalina Valor called The Archaeology of Medieval Europe, Eighth to Twelfth Centuries, Acta Jutlandica LXXXIII:1, Humanities Series 79 (Aarhus 2007). According to Amazon it’s not out yet but there’s a review copy here, and it looks pretty good. There’s sections on broad themes (Research and Teaching, Peoples and Environments, Rural Settlement, Urban Settlement, Housing Culture, Food, Technology Craft and Industry, Material Culture and Daily Life, Travel and Transport, Trade and Exchange, Fortifications, The Display of Secular Power, Religions, Religious Buildings, and Life Death and Memory, punctuation of list titles brutalised by me for clear separation), and little articlets giving a basic historical orientation when they move into areas that may be unfamiliar to the readers, like al-Andalus. Lots of maps too. And although most of the contributors are Scandinavian, as you’d expect for a book part-edited by a Vikings specialist and published in Aarhus, they do appear to be up-to-date with scholarship even in those farflung areas, which is reassuring, because so many archaeologists don’t talk to historians because historians don’t talk to archaeologists and so on and so on.

So, if you feel that the future lies in breaking that chain of non-communication by branching into archaeology and its theory and results for our field, my rapidly-gathered opinion is that this book is possibly the best thing you could start with for the time being. A high medieval counterpart volume is apparently to follow, but I’m sorted mate, and will hope to pick a copy up at Leeds

8 responses to “Archaeological primer for historians

  1. [recently returned from a crusade in Syria, hence the long silence]

    It might be added from ‘the other side’ (idem est Archaeology) that this book just might be very useful for archaeologists as well… ;-)

  2. Oh, hullo Henrik, glad to see you back. Does this mean Recent Finds will be resurrected? It was my first blogroll entry, after all, it would be nice to have it back :-)

  3. I had a major accident with my database. For now people will have to wayback me…*/*

    God willing (as they say) i shall be able to restore the site and the most important (i.e. in-linked) content during the coming months.

    I cannot promise, however, that Recent Finds will be truly revived in it’s former glory, but I’ll surely throw you a punch whenever something happens :-)

  4. That looks like an interesting book.

    I’ve always read both fields, history and archaeology. Literature as well (you can learn a few things about feudalism by a careful analysis of the chansons de geste).

    I never liked ivory tower academica.

  5. I’ll have to add this one to my list to read. Thanks for the suggestion.

  6. Henrik, sounds terrible, my sympathies. I hope things can be recovered.

    Gabriele, the ivory tower stuff is only much good, in my opinion, if the authors of the sources occasionally got out in the streets themselves. For example, I can be interested in what Alcuin thought about things and how he got his clever laughs at court, when I reflect that he was also trying to unify a Bible text for the whole of the Carolingian Empire, run an abbey and various other big things. And I can share the intellectual joy of someone like John Scottus Eriguena even though it’s not really relevant, but a lot of writing about him is just, well, doesn’t tell me anything more about his age and his background. I don’t need to know where he fits in a world history of philosophy! I need to know what he got paid and how many other people were on that kind of retainer, and what their work was meant to change in the world right then!

    I also have a soft spot for John the Scot because he has Latin puns recorded, of course…

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