Here are my choices for Desert Island archaeology books – you can tell I’m hoping that it’ll be quite some time before I’m rescued and have to face the real world again!
Mark Edmonds – Ancestral Geographies of the Neolithic: Landscapes, Monuments and Memory
A favourite of mine, I love the brave decision to use fiction in alternate chapters, made after loosing the first manuscript on the train. Admirable just for the fact he started again! Mark was my dissertation supervisor at Sheffield – he inspired my love of landscape archaeology. I once overhead some first year Oxford student in the library dismissing it roundly to one of her friends – I wanted to jump up and defend it wholeheartedly.
Simon Schama – Landscape & Memory
This is a book that I bought second hand a few years ago and have been meaning to read ever since. One reason is it is too difficult to hold up in bed. It would be useful to stand on to look for passing ships too.
Francis Pryor – Seahenge: A Quest for Life and Death in Bronze Age Britain
Just a great story, full of interest and the real life of an amazing archaeologist. Francis is a great writer and from the beginning where he describes Maisie and him eating spaghetti during hard times you just feel like you’ve been allowed to peek into his world.
John Barrett – Fragments from Antiquity: Archaeology of Social Life in Britain, 2900-1200 BC
One of my set texts at university – maybe with all that time on an island I might finally understand it all. Rather embarrsingly our household copy is a photocopied one – it was so in demand at university! Might need to ask the dolphins for a real version. I do need to understand for my PhD.
Anne Michaels – Fugitive Pieces
This is a novel, so a bit outside the usual realm of archaeological books. But one of the main characters is an archaeologist, a wood preservation specalist who worked at Biskupin and there are lots of amazing sections about bog bodies, decay, change etc – usually as compelling metaphors. The book is very beautiful – the author is a poet and you can really tell.
Ronald Hutton – Blood and Mistletoe: the History of the Druids in Britain
Again, this is a bit of a tome, and I’d like to re-read it. It’s a great example of huge scholarly intellect creating something readable and engaging. The story, particularly the recent history, is fascinating too. Who wouldn’t want to read more about William Stukeley, Iolo Morganwg and Dr William Price?
Richard Bradley – Prehistory of Britain
This is such an important book, each page stuffed with new and interesting discoveries from the world of commercial archaeology. It’s quite overwhelming to read in one sitting – you need to read a little bit and then mull over what he’s said, comparing it what we thought we knew from all those better known sites.
Leslie Webster – The Franks Casket
This my favourite from the series of ‘Objects in Focus’ books that the British Museum have published. The Franks Casket, an extraordinary box made of whalebone from 8th century northern England, is full of intricate carved details – you can look at it for hours and still see new things. This book reproduces each side and facet of the casket in full page photographs, allowing you to do just that.
Seamus Heaney – Beowulf
I’ve read this once and would love to go back and read it again. It’s full of exciting adventure (dragons, warriors, mead-halls…) and Heaney’s poetry brings the story alive in his brilliant but distinctive way.
Julian Richards – Pop Up Book of Stonehenge
A classic, loved by everyone who sees it, and yet accurate and interesting too. I’d use it to impress the locals.
Sue works as Senior Properties Historian for English Heritage. Since 2009, Sue worked on the exhibition and interpretation planned for the new Stonehenge visitor centre, and has this work has recently included meeting the site’s most famous recent visitor, the President of the United States, Barak Obama.