This article appeared in the Summer 1977 (Issue #48) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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STRANGE MANSION by Tony Rook.
(Published by Milton House Books, price £2.30)
This new book seems to be the very first truly archaeological 'who- dunnit' ever written. It has a strong Kentish flavour in that it comes from the pen of the son of the late -- 'Rooky' the great Lullingstone character who put so much energy into the villa-dig and later became its colourful and enthusiastic curator. Tony himself dug at Lullingstone and now leads archaeological activities in Hertfordshire.
The story follows the joint investigation of a local archaeologist and a police inspector into the murder of a respected member. It incorporates delightful character studies of people peculiar (one hopes) to the antiquarian fringe of archaeology and describes the Broadshire County Society, its meetings, museum and members.
There is a hint that the Broadshire Society could never have existed and the publishers make it clear that all characters are fictitious. This is endorsed by the scene of the crime and two of the leading characters. The impossible scene is an Ancient Monuments Department show-piece villa covered by a hideous low building in asbestos cement corrugated sheeting. The mythical victim is a retired Army major of Artillery, who having excavated the site some years before, is found dead trouserless down the well inside the villa holding a butterfly net. The equally unlikely local archaeologist is a small, thick-set man. who wears check shirts, a deer-stalker hat, a large black beard and who teaches chemistry. This book will certainly appeal to all dedicated archaeologists and Eynsford residents will be interested in the mosaic on the front cover.
THE ARMOUR OF IMPERIAL ROME by H Russell Robinson
(Published by Arms & Armour Press, price £11.95)
This is the first full-length illustrated account of the armour of the mighty Roman Army, whose disciplined strength carved out and maintained a vast empire for over four centuries. Hitherto a subject afforded but scant recognition in print, much of the popular impression of Roman armour has come from now-outdated histories of a more general nature.
To correct previous misconceptions, H Russell Robinson undertook long and painstaking research that drew information from the museums of Britain, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Romania and Hungary, and also closely examined the discoveries from archaeological excavations. In his introduction he gives a general outline of the historical background, describes Roman manufacturing processes and presents evidence supporting or discounting commonly-held theories, to which end he makes extensive use of knowledge gleaned from excavations of the sites of forts and camps.
The first part of the book consists of a chronological classification of helmets by type, in which many photographs and drawings assist the text in making clear their evolution. Details of helmet construction are given and minor variations between the types are discussed and explained. A survey of the available information on body armour, greaves and horse armour forms the second part of the book, and again the text is complemented by photographs and drawings of surviving material and contemporary sculpture.
The Armour of Imperial Rome, with over 500 plates (four pages of which are in colour) and more than 100 line drawings, will take its place as the definitive and standard work on the subject. (Large Format 13¼ inches by 10 inches).
MEDIEVAL FLOOR TILES by Jane A Wight
(Published by John Baker, price £6.50)
Medieval floor tiles have been unjustly neglected both in print and in situ, and Miss Wight's book is, astonishingly, the first full-scale appreciation of the subject since 1858.The book describes the methods of manufacture of the various types of medieval tile from the earliest mosaic to the elaboration of the later inlaid varieties, and traces the development of design in the main areas of tile making. Miss Wight has drawn many examples herself and the groups of illustrations in the book show clearly how a particular subject or symbol -- for instance the fleur-de-lis of the Virgin Mary -- was used and developed in an incredibly wide variety of ways. For the first time the mass of tiles is approached with an enthusiasm for their artistic achievement as well as their technical categorisation, and the Gazetteer lists a comforting number of places where -- if we take the trouble to look downwards as well as upwards -- we can still see examples of most of the types of medieval tile. (With 4 colour plates, 45 figures and 4 black and white photographs.)