Friday, June 15, 2007

A new book, Wetland Archaeology and Environments: Regional Issues, Global Perspectives , is reviewed by Robert Van de Noort (University of Exeter), himself an expert on wetland archaeology, on the Prehistoric Society website (submitted June 2007). It is quite a detailed review, so here's just a short extract:

Wetland Archaeology and Environments. Regional Issues, Global Perspectives is a collection of 23 papers on wetlands from around the world, and based on a conference under the same name in 2000. It includes a number of regional archaeologies of wetlands from nearly every continent (including several from the UK, alongside contributions from Russia, Sweden, Indonesia, Australia, north America and central Africa) alongside a number of more general (eg, on wetland science by Mike Corfield) and methodological papers (eg, on interpreting molluscan assemblages by Paul Davies, non-marine ostracods by Huw Griffiths and diatoms by Jane Reed). In their introduction and reflection, the editors present the case for the archaeological study of wetlands with, on the one hand, the better-than-usual preservation encountered in these anoxic environments and, on the other, the world-wide threat to many wetlands as their drainage and exploitation continues apace. All papers in this volume, to varying degrees, present examples of high quality preservation (eg, the Tumbeagh Bog Body by Nora Bermingham and most papers incorporate palaeoecological data in their results), whilst four papers consider aspects of the threats to wetlands (notably In-situ preservation by Malcolm Lillie).

The most interesting paper, at least for archaeologists working in wetlands, is Francis Pryor’s ‘Beware the Glutinous Ghetto’. In this short paper, Pryor effectively argues against a Wetland Archaeology as a distinct (sub-) discipline in archaeology. Somewhat surprisingly (and unfortunately), the editors do not comment on this evocative challenge put to them by Pryor in either their introduction or reflection. However, the arguments in this paper can not go unchallenged, so I’ll pick up the challenge here.

Wetland Archaeology and Environments. Regional Issues, Global Perspectives Edited By M. Lillie & S. Ellis Oxbow Books, Oxford, 2006, 336pp, 127 b&w illus, 13 tabs, pb ISBN 1842171542 (£19.95)