REVIEW: Time’s Anvil: England, archaeology and the imagination

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Time's-AnvilTime’s Anvil: England,  archaeology and  the imagination
Richard Morris
Phoenix, £9.99
ISBN 978-1780222448

The press release for this  remarkable book announces  that it ‘defies categorisation’.  It is not wrong. Longlisted for  the Samuel Johnson prize,  Time’s Anvil contemplates what  is now England over a span  of 750,000 years. Morris, a  former director of the Council  for British Archaeology, calls  on art, poetry, autobiography,  archaeology, and much more  to weave a narrative that  bounds through times and  places. He contends that period  categorisation blinds us to  long-term patterns by arbitrarily  severing monuments  such as henges and churches  just because they were founded  thousands of years apart.

Sometimes we are left with  snapshots, including the  varying view from Paviland  Cave over the last 29,000 years;  elsewhere the text lingers,  as with the felling of the Old  Wood. Along the way we meet  eminent practitioners of many  disciplines, as archaeology  itself emerges and the stories  it tells evolve. ‘Archaeology’,  we are told, ‘might be seen  as but a late ripple in the cult  of ancestors’. An acquired  taste, perhaps, but presenting  archaeology in this way has  created an especially thought-provoking  read.

Review by Matthew Symonds

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