Books : reviews

Christopher (2) Evans, Duncan Mackay, Leo Webley.
Borderlands: the archaeology of the Addenbrooke's environs, south Cambridge.
Cambridge Archaeological Unit. 2008

This is the first volume in a new Cambridge Archaeological Unit publication initiative, New Archaeologies of the Cambridge Region. Taking its inspiration from Cyril Fox’s ground-breaking 1923 study of its namesake (and issued to mark that volume’s 85th anniversary), the series is dedicated to the archaeology of Cambridge’s hinterland. The publication relates the 2002/03 Hutchison Site excavations along the west side of Addenbrooke’s Hospital. While primarily concerned with its Iron Age/Roman Conquest-Period dynamics, there was also significant later Bronze Age and Middle Saxon occupation.

The site’s sequence both informs, and is informed by, the results of an evaluation survey extending over 200 ha west to the River Cam, which led to the recovery of some 20 new sites. Thereafter, three other landscape valuation case-studies are presented, drawn both from the County’s southern chalklands and, also its western and northern clays. Seeing comparable site-discovery rates – their results, thereby allow archaeologists to appreciate for the first time what is, in effect, the past fabric of the land – and this enormous increase in site densities has fundamental implications for understanding early land use and settlement/population levels. The case is made that such grand-scale surveys should be considered as ‘stand-alone’ programmes of investigation in their own right. Arguably an ethos which Fox himself would have thoroughly approved, a historiographic perspective is promoted throughout and reappraisal is made of, and new archival sources included from, a number of earlier South Cambridge excavations.

Christopher (2) Evans, Sam Lucy, Ricky Patten Webley.
Riversides: neolithic barrows, a Beaker grave, iron age and Anglo-Saxon burials and settlement at Trumpington, Cambridge.
Oxbow. 2018

Where Three Rivers Meet – the 2010–11 excavations along Trumpington’s riverside proved extraordinary on a number of counts. Particularly for its ‘dead’, as it included Neolithic barrows (one with a mass interment), a double Beaker grave and an Early Anglo-Saxon cemetery, with a rich bed-burial interment in the latter accompanied by a rare gold cross. Associated settlement remains were recovered with each.

Most significant was the site's Early Iron Age occupation. This yielded enormous artefact assemblages and was intensively sampled for economic data. The depositional dynamics of its pit clusters are here interrogated in depth. This period saw a high number of burials and loose human bone (some worked as implements), and emphasis is duly given to the settlement’s ‘ritual logic’, which seems predominantly motivated by bird associations. With males suffering head-wound trauma, the evidence of the immediate region’s distinctly circular-plan ringwork forts is reviewed and, arguably, contestation and violence is attested.

Not only does the volume provide a summary of the development of the now widely investigated greater Trumpington/Addenbrooke’s landscape – including its major Middle Bronze Age settlements and an important Late Iron Age complex – but also it overviews recent fieldwork results from South Cambridgeshire. Aside from historiographically themed Inset sections (plus an account of the War Ditches’ Anglo-Saxon cemetery and Grantchester’s settlement of that period), there are detailed scientific analyses (e.g. DNA, isotopic and wear studies of its human bone) and more than 30 radiocarbon dates were achieved. The concluding chapter critically addresses issues of local continuity and de facto notions of ‘settlement evolution’.