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The summer of 1989 was hot and exceptionally dry in Britain, making it a good year for aerial archaeology, especially in those damper regions which are rarely forthcoming with visible crop- or parch-marks. Major finds of last year are presented, in the context of the larger pattern of year-by-year work.
There is no expansion of human settlement to match the colonization of the Pacific islands, from Island Southeast Asia right across to Hawaii, Easter Island and down to New Zealand. The expansion is given an extra interest by the new finding that it began as early as the Pleistocene. The settlement of the remote Pacific began after 3500 BP and computer modelling and analysis of inter-island transits explains not just how settlement was possible-but how it must have followed from the controlled navigation of directed voyages and strategies for survival.
Some of the major sea-ports of medieval Europe still continue and flourish as ports; medieval Hamwic became the container port of Southampton. Some have faded away, as their harbours have silted or the pattern of trade has moved away. Some have so completely failed that certain knowledge of what and where they has been forgotten. Chief of these lost ports of Europe is Quentovic, whose site has been sought in northern France and is here defined in the Canche valley, south of Boulogne.
Evidence for the late-Pleistocene and early-Holocene settlement of Tasmania is now offered by a growing number of sites in a variety of landscapes; among the more remarkable finds are cave-sites with evidence for human settlement of periglacial uplands before 30,000 BP. Good faunal assemblages and environmental records allow the reconstruction of a subsistence system different in character from those modelled on a European Pleistocene prototype.
The Eastern Sahara – an arid waste since Neolithic times – is one of the very few regions where one can find, by simple surface survey, little clusters of stone artefacts lying just where they fell 5000 and more years ago. They offer rather direct and specific information about how stone was moved, used and left behind by mobile pastoralists in a marginal environment.
Who first used a word for the idea of ‘prehistory’? Chippindale, in a paper published last year, tried to clear up this old confusion once and for all. He failed. Here are more answers to the question — a matter of real historical importance since the invention of a prehistoric past was so central to the 19th-century development of archaeology.
Carvings made of elephant ivory are a characteristic, though uncommon, artefact of the later Bronze Age in Greece and the islands. Where did the raw material for them come from — Syria to the east, or Africa to the south and southwest?
Absolute dating of rock paintings has always used an indirect means, generally by dating material in strata sealing or overlying the pictures. AMS dating of very small carbon samples now allows direct determination of the age of an organic portion in the matter of the picture itself.
Antiquity reported, three years ago, a grape pip securely dated to the British Neolithic. Here are brought together reliable finds of grape pips from the Neolithic of Scandinavia — yet further from the Mediterranean warmth where the vine is comfortable. How they got to the north — by an early passion for viticulture in an unpromising climate? in a precocious long-distance exchange of sultanas? — is an intriguing question
New archaeological evidence, principally from rural settlements, questions previous conceptions of the economic background to the transition from the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages. In particular, finds from the Balkans, a geographical ‘hinge’ between North and South and East and West, is discussed. The major periods of change are both the 5th and the 7th centuries AD.
The Dalmatian province of Yugoslavia, lying between the limestone mountains of the Dinaric range and the Adriatic Sea, is an important zone for early European agriculture, as both its neighbouring regions are precocious in their development. New information on the nature and chronology of first Dalmation farming is presented.
The Coppergate helmet, found in central York in 1982 and of Anglo-Saxon date, bears a Latin inscription. A new reading of the inscription is offered, and a different view consequently taken of its significance.
Prehistoric rock art in southern Africa has been studied — with remarkable success — in the light of ethnographic data obtained from modern ‘San’ or ‘Bushmen’. Yet examples of rock paintings reflect conceptual associations similar if not identical to those identified among Bantu-speakers. It is recommended that the art be studied in the light of linguistic as well as ethnographic data without adopting a ‘San-centric’ stance.
Tom Greeves referred to conservation and archaeology in the Somerset Levels in his Green paper (Archaeology and the Green movement, ANTIQUITY 63 (December 1989): 659–65). John Coles, who has run the Somerest Levels Project since 1973, takes issue.