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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Book Reviews.
by Trevor Dennis, Wendy Williams.

THE GREEKS OVERSEAS By John Boardman (Pelican by Penguin Books Ltd., price 65p.). Reviewed by Trevor Dennis.

Having recently returned from a prolonged stay in Greece and having admired and wondered at the achievements of the ancient Greeks as seen in their natural surroundings of blue sea, islands and sunshine I felt more than ready to learn something more about these highly sophisticated people of ancient history. The Greeks Overseas introduces the reader to the increasingly larger area controlled by the pre-Classical Greek colonists during the period 800-500 BC and succeeds in giving a comprehensive and absorbing account of the expansion of the Greeks from their homeland along and around the perimeter of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. All the knowledge of their travels has been gathered largely from evidence brought to light by archaeological excavation rather than historical sources although these are referred to occasionally.

The author traces Greek emigration through a close study of Greek pottery found in other countries together with other available data. The pottery is, of course dateable by stylistic changes and its scatter throughout the ancient world is translated into information about trade, the foundation of colonies and subsequent adaptation to the native populations. The author also studies the influence of the Near East and Egypt on early Greek potters, sculptors and architects.

The book is not intended as an account of Greek thought, literature and philosophy but as a survey of their material progress. I can particularly recommend this book as background reading for any proposed trip to the Mediterranean or Black Sea areas for it would serve as an invaluable guide to the development of the ancient world and help bring to life the many fascinating ruins scattered throughout the countryside.

GODS, GRAVES AND SCHOLARS By C W Ceram The Story of Archaeology (Pelican by Penguin Books Ltd., price 1.00). Reviewed by Wendy Williams.

To me the story of archaeology is one of the most dramatic, frustrating and sometimes tragic aspects of our progress over the last few hundred years. In the light of modern science many of our historical counterparts seem to have been no more than treasure-hunters although, as in every scientific field, it was those first fumbling steps in the pre-scientific dark that brought us to our present stage of development.

C W Ceram's book Gods Graves and Scholars, first published in Britain in 1952 and now a fairly recent addition to the admirable Pelican Book collection tells the story of archaeology in an imaginative and personal way which is far more often found in fiction than in study of this nature. This is the man of our own time looking back over the blunders and triumphs of the past with a sensitive and understanding eye. As the book progresses archaeology gradually emerges from its roots in the search for artistic objects (well illustrated by the looting of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the 18th century) to the beginnings of true understanding and study of the distant past (and here we must applaud the outstanding work of men such as Champollion who translated the hieroglyphics) through to our own time and the methodical examination of every scrap of information the earth can offer us in terms of archaeological data.

This was, in fact, the first book of its kind and if archaeology is a popular subject in 1974, much of this is due to this book by C W Ceram. First published in Germany in 1951 it brought world fame to the author and is now translated into twenty-six languages. It is a book which aims to bring the past to life through all the famous men who gave their lives and fortunes towards understanding their ancestors.

YOUR BOOK OF PREHISTORIC BRITAIN By James Dyer (Published by Faber & Faber, price 1.20). Reviewed by Wendy Williams.

I am ashamed to admit that I first opened this book with the disgracefully patronising attitude of the adult to a child's A B C of archaeology, only to find that this delightful book contained all sorts of information about prehistory entirely new to me. Not only was much of it new but it was presented in the wonderfully uncomplicated language of children's books which can be so refreshing after a few hours of ploughing through a reference text.

Photographs and drawings are, of course, a must in the presentation of this subject to children, and my only sorrow was that the photographs were all in black and white. However, that is a minor consideration and what I feel is important is that this is a book which could be read from, passed around and used as a basis for individual projects in the classroom during history lessons. Also of great interest is Chapter 10, Some Museums and Books and You -- a useful guide to parents and teachers, let alone children!

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