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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Recommended Reading.
by Ronald Jessup.

In a recent review of Professor W F Grimes' The Excavation of Roman and Medieval London (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968, 63 shillings) Mr Norman Cook tells us that the Corporation of London has just allocated 1,000 towards the cost of a city excavation and many members will want to renew their acquaintence with the Roman city. There is no better book than The Roman City of London by Ralph Merrifield of the Guildhall Museum (Museum of London) published by Ernest Benn Ltd., 1965, 63 shillings. Professor Grimes gives a preliminary record of the 1947-62 excavations, quite properly in highly technical terms, but Mr. Merrifield bears also in mind the needs of the layman and goes so far as to provide an adequate visitor's guide. His book is illustrated with first-class photographs and it is a remarkably fine work of its kind.

Romanists should also read Miss Joan Liversidge's Britain in the Roman Empire, (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968, 5 and 5 shillings). It is an expensive book, but judging by the reported good sales many libraries will have a copy. This is a book written by a humanist for human archaeologists, and a careful reading of its 500 or so pages will bring a great deal of knowledge and not least one or two broad smiles as the author graphically describes what life was really like in Roman Britain. Read what she has to say about fleas, about the Indian parrots imported into Rome to learn Latin, and the duties of a ladies' maid. Her detailed technical account of painted wall-plaster on which she is an acknowledged expert should be read by everyone who digs on a Roman site.

From time to time it does us good to read of the digging habits of our ancestors. They were not all bad. Compare the digging on a November night recorded in his romantic fashion by the Revd Charles Wools in The Barrow Diggers, 1839, with the factual account of the digging of the Ringwould Bronze Age barrows in 1872 recorded in volume IX of Archaeologia Cantiana. The Romantic Movement served archaeology in its own fashion, but little did I ever think that I should see at the Faversham Conference the re-incarnation of a Springhead nymph.

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