Review – Breaking the Surface: an art/archaeology of prehistoric architecture

1 min read
Doug Bailey
Oxford University Press, £25.49
ISBN 978-0190611880
Review George Nash

This volume offers the reader a radical view of what prehistoric pits did and the various social layers that made them more than just part of a domestic or ritual structure. Using modern architectural ethics and construction concepts, Bailey goes some way to making sense of the mindset and complex entanglement associated with ancient construction methods. Much of the archaeological discussion derives from Bailey’s fieldwork, undertaken in south-east Europe, but British sites, such as Wilsford Shaft in Wilshire, are also included.

My initial reaction to this book was one of confusion. Is it simply an account in which art and architecture are fused conveniently to provide deep meaning to a fragmentary archaeology where only earth-cut features such as pits and holes survive, or are those pits and holes merely construction features? Either way, the reader has to think laterally.

The book, organised into nine well-crafted chapters, will remind many of those halcyon days of the 1980s when theoretical archaeology made many an undergraduate student shudder with fear.

This review appeared in CA 347.

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