Dawn Cansfield

I would fill my time waiting to be rescued with a bit of hunting and gathering and the odd wander round the island looking for archaeological remains. In my downtime I would read these books to remind me of home.

Sun, Moon and Standing Stones – John Edwin Wood
Back in the 1980s this book captured my imagination when studying maths (my least favourite subject to this day) at school with its exciting connections between archaeological sites and geometry and astronomy. The combination of this and a visit to Castlerigg stone circle around the same time sowed the seeds of an interest in the Neolithic which was to emerge again in later years.

Midhurst – John Magilton and Spencer Thomas
This is the Chichester District Council monograph of the archaeology of my home town. It was in and around Midhurst during my childhood that my father took me and my brother metal detecting along Roman roads and the like, sharing his love of the area and its history which eventually rubbed off on us both.

singingThe Singing Neanderthals – Steven Mithen
My first experience of archaeology in Higher Education was a part-time (they’ve ALL been part-time) certificate course at Reading University. As evening class students we generally spent a couple of hours once a week with our regular lecturer but occasionally were treated to special lectures by other members of staff. Prof Mithen was one such guest lecturer and I remember us all being wowed by his knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject. This subsequently led to me buy the fascinating and groundbreaking The Singing Neanderthals.

AD 43 The Roman Invasion of Britain – John Manley
The first ever dig I went on was at Fishbourne Roman Palace in 2002 and the excavation, which was directed by John Manley, coincided with the launch of his book putting the case for the Roman invasion having been through Sussex rather than Kent. Being a Sussex girl myself I was more than happy to accept his analysis in this thoroughly engaging book, which is autographed for me by the author himself.

Landscapes of War: The Archaeology of Aggression and Defence – Paul Hill and Julie Wileman
While at Surrey University, where I completed my first degree having relocated from Berkshire, I acquired this book from its authors who were also my two favourite lecturers. It tied-in nicely with the module of the same name and inspired in me an unanticipated interest in defensive structures. It is also autographed – but only by one of the writers, I notice.

The Human Bone Manual – Tim White & Pieter A Folkens
My must-have osteo book. I love it for its wonderful, all-bases-covered detail, the myriad photographs of all the bones in the human body from every angle and its handy, portable size.

circles from skyLines on the Landscape, Circles from the Sky – Trevor Garnham
I was delighted – if a little surprised – when my brother and his wife went to live in Orkney and I made my first trip up to visit them at the earliest opportunity. A magical World Heritage site with so many Neolithic sites to see. I bought this book on my first visit and have a steadily growing collection of Orcadian souvenirs from my annual visits including, of course, a NoB hat from the Ness of Brodgar excavations.

Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind – Donald Johanson and Maitland Edey
In 2007, on a bit of a whim, I went with a friend to Houston one weekend to see the Lucy’s Legacy exhibition at the Natural History Museum. It was incredible and humbling to see the ‘superstar ‘ Australopithecus afarensis in person at the beginning of her six year tour of the States, but difficult for a keen photographer such as myself not to take any pictures (however I wasn’t going to argue with the armed guard). Instead, to mark the occasion, I have this excellent book by the man who found her.

Sussex Archaeological Collections 71 & 77
I’m not usually a collector (really!) but one day I hope to own the complete Sussex Archaeological Collections. Currently I have about 50 of the 150 volumes sitting on shelves in my study. This includes numbers 71 and 77 which are the two that contain reports on the 1930s excavations at Whitehawk Camp which I have been reading as part of my research.

A Body in the Bath House – Lindsey Davis
The Falco books always make me chuckle and this one, set at Fishbourne Roman Palace, was the first one I read having discovered it in the gift shop when I was digging there at FBE02.

Originally a Human Resources person but now far more interested in human remains (which, funnily enough, was what the HR department was affectionately known as), Dawn Cansfield has been inexorably drawn into the world of archaeology over the past decade or so. Currently spending her spare time doing a PhD at the University of Winchester in Early Neolithic mortuary practice.

Lisa-Marie Shillito

Stranded on a desert island, what would be on a geoarchaeologist’s reading list?

1. Interpretation of Micromorphological Features of Soils and Regoliths – Georges Stoops, Vera Marcelino and Floria Mees (eds).
Let’s start with the reference books. I guess the first thing I’d bring would be Stoops et al. 2003. This is my go to reference for all aspects of micromorphology, and is much nicer to look at than many of the older textbooks, with lots of nice colour images. I’d bring this so I could get on with my thin section descriptions. Seriously, the process of thin section description is an incredibly long and time consuming process. If I’m stuck on a desert island I may as well make good use of the free time and get on with all those slides in the ‘to do’ box. Can I bring my microscope too…?

leopards tale2. Çatalhöyük: The Leopard’s Tale – Ian Hodder
When I got bored with micromorphology (no really, it does happen!) I’d probably move on to some nice light reading on my pet topics, Çatalhöyük and Stonehenge. I’ve been working at Çatalhöyük for over 10 years now, and this book came out just as I was finishing my PhD thesis. Which was frustrating at the time cause it meant I had to speed read this book and make sure I referenced it. Turned out it was actually a really good refresher exercise for the viva. This book does a great job of presenting a huge amount of complex information in an accessible format, and makes me feel proud that I have contributed to the story of this amazing site.

3. Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery – Mike Parker Pearson
I used to mock the British Neolithic, chortling at how my beloved Near Eastern inhabitants were busy inventing writing and developing civilisation during the third millennium, whilst at the same time we were still obsessed with large bits of rock back in Britain. I changed my mind after spending two years working on the Feeding Stonehenge project. This book summarises the latest research on the people of Stonehenge and its landscape, and how the monument fits in to the bigger picture of the archaeology of the British Isles. Turns out we’re more interesting than I gave us credit for.

4. Archaeology of Time – Gavin Lucas
Because a desert island list wouldn’t be complete without some headache inducing theory, and my own personal little headache is reconciling microarchaeology, palimpsests and time. This is also handy and pocket sized so I could take it with me on a wander around my new desert abode.

edward-said5. Orientalism by Edward Said.
This is one of those books that was thrust upon me as a terrified first year undergraduate at Oxford that filled me full of insecurity that I didn’t really belong there as I didn’t have a clue what it was talking about . I wish I could go back and tell my 18 year old self that future me would think it’s great, despite its flaws. I’m not sure I would believe myself. It’s the kind of book that is best appreciated with a wider understanding of the world. After spending several years working in various parts of the Middle East, I have a much greater appreciation of the importance of this book and will now thrust it upon my own students. Said’s ‘Orientalism’ includes the sort of romanticised images that surround popular archaeology of the past. It is also a good example of how the subject matter of archaeology is interlinked with that of geography and anthropology, and highlights the importance of being reflexive with interpreting the past.

6. The Archaeology of the Prussian Crusade: Holy War and Colonisation – Aleks Pluskowski
This is a great introduction to the archaeology of a region and period that have received relatively little attention, and draws on historic documentary sources, archaeological and environmental evidence – basically how research should be done, taking a central question and drawing on all available lines of evidence to answer it rather than relying on a single approach. I also drew some of the figures so it can be in there for vanity reasons.

7. The Great Basin: a Natural Prehistory – Donald Grayon
Going back to my roots a bit and throwing in a combination geoscience and archaeology, this is a great introduction to one of my favourite places in the world. I studied geography as an undergraduate, and always thought I was more interested in the landscapes than the people. I used to grumble that I’d rather take more physical geography classes than all that human stuff on cultural landscapes and gender. But it turns out the people are not so bad after all, especially if they’re people in the past, and all those human geography classes didn’t go to waste as the concepts have a huge amount of overlap with anthropology. This book is a great overview of the environmental and human history of the Great Basin region of the USA, and illustrates the overlap between environmental and archaeological archives, and the many shared goals of archaeology and Quaternary environment reconstruction.

8. Oregon Archaeology – Melvin Aikens, Thomas J. Connolly and Dennis L Jenkins
Kinda related to number 7, this book focuses on the archaeology of Oregon, written as a narrative and drawing on evidence from key archaeological sites. Well written and easy to read, it’s a great introduction to this area and covers everything from early prehistory to the present. All of my books seem to be work related don’t they? It’s true that I have done some work in Oregon, but the reason I became interested in this area is because my husband’s family are from central Oregon. He’s also an archaeologist, and my mother in law was even on the committee for the Archaeological Society of Central Oregon. We’re doing a survey on their property just for fun. Working there was inevitable really.

9. Formation Process of the Archaeological Record – Michael B. Schiffer
What is this, another theory book? This book is the cornerstone of my (evolving) theoretical position in archaeology. I do not consider myself a processualist by any means (in fact I am increasingly convinced that our backgrounds play the most important role in how we interpret data), but I do recognise the importance of understanding the formation of the archaeological record, and the taphonomic processes that have impacted on it. The central thesis of this book highlights how formation processes and the nature of preservation of the archaeological the record impact the research questions that can be addressed. It emphasises that a firm foundation is needed before we can do the inference bit of archaeology, and that no theoretical program can explain all aspects of human behaviour.

10. Adventure Calls – Katharine Woolley
Katharine Woolley is a remarkable figure in the history of archaeology and her story fascinates me. She was invited to join early excavations at Ur due to her illustration skills, and she ended up marrying director Sir Charles Leonard Woolley so that she could remain on the excavations (the funders weren’t thrilled when they found out a young widow was living in the field with 4 men). She was the major driving force behind fundraising for the excavations, and also directed them in their final year. It is rumoured that Agatha Christie based a murder victim in one of her books on her! Katharine wrote her own book, Adventure Calls, about a young woman who disguises herself as a man so that she can go off on archaeological adventures – I haven’t actually read it yet as it is out of print and impossible to get a hold of, though there is a copy in the Scottish National Library, so for the purposes of my desert island trip, let’s say I was allowed to ‘borrow’ it!


Lisa-Marie Shillito is a Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, where she investigates human-environment interactions at all scales from micro to landscape. She blogs about geoarchaeology, archaeological science and the odd bit of theory at http://castlesandcoprolites.blogspot.co.uk/

Brian Wilkinson

I’ve always thought that archaeologists would be well suited to making the most of a survival situation. Surely we’d be able to turn our understandings of past environments, societies, economies and food production strategies to some good use? So I’ll trust in my hard earned knowledge of medieval or later rural settlement to muddle through making shelter and finding food and water. I’ll spend my free time reading, and enjoying, the following and thinking about the significance and interpretation of the things we find.

Freeman Tilden: Interpreting our Heritage
Tilden should be better known by archaeologists, particularly those of us interested in engaging with the public. A journalist who went to work for the American National Parks service he, literally, wrote the book on heritage interpretation, setting down its theories and principles which, nearly 60 years later, still sound fresh, inspiring and relevant.

aftertheiceSteven Mithen: After the Ice
Exploring 15,000 years of global prehistory in 640 pages of accessible, imaginative prose? Yes please. A masterpiece of archaeopoetics that uses interpretive description to illustrate the fieldwork findings of dozens of sites, and makes me wonder about the how and why of it all (see also A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil McGregor which appears to have been left in my cabin).

P V Glob: The Bog People
The chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation, so said Tilden anyway. He also places importance on encountering ‘the thing itself’. This book does both, presenting us with Danish bog bodies so that we come face to face with the past, provoking us to consider these people’s lives, and deaths, and confront our essential similarities. Also famously inspired Seamus Heaney to verse in his Bog Poems. Archaeopoetics at work again.

RCAHMS: North-East Perth: an Archaeological Landscape.
A fully illustrated overview of a historic landscape this is detailed observation, survey and recording and description of the highest standard. Unlikely my desert island will feature any Pictish period Pitcarmick-type houses but I should learn more than a thing or two about landscape archaeology.

Gwyn Jones: A History of the Vikings.
Not only one of the most comprehensive accounts of the Viking world but also beautifully written and incredibly readable. Why can’t more scholarly books explain things this easily and with such enthusiasm? Took this to Iceland one summer and it helped me understand the place so much better. A classic and a favourite. I grew up not far from where Prof Jones was born too! He didn’t do bad for a boy from The South Wales Valleys.

Usborne Children’s World History.
My favourite set of books as a lad. This is the combined, hardcover volume of the Usborne Children’s Picture World History series that I read, voraciously, as a speccy, geeky, shy kid. I loved the illustrations and thumbnail sketches of life across the world during prehistory and history. The picture of the Assyrians counting the heads of the slain sticks in my memory particularly. Might have played a small part in my eventual career choice, and my interest in interpreting the past to kids.

Shanks and Tilley: Re-constructing Archaeology
A theory book? Well, yes. And a challenging one at that. I never managed this at university, but have got round to getting my own copy recently. A heady mix of social theory, philosophy and archaeology, worth reading for its relevance to community archaeology. And it’ll stop my brain from ossifying.

Kevin Walsh: The Representation of the Past: Museums and Heritage in the Post-Modern World
Another quite dense theoretical book, but one that I have found useful for understanding the relationships between ‘experts’ and the public, and how we represent the past to them, for them and with them. It’s critical of how (post)modern society , including the heritage ‘industry’, alienates people from authentic experiences and suggests how we might want to overcome this and why. I find myself recommending this one quite a lot.

contructed pastPeter G. Stone and Philippe G. Planel (eds): The Constructed Past.
This was a reading list book on a Heritage Education module I took for my MSc. and inspired me to specialise in Historic Environment Education. A One World Archaeology volume looking at experimental archaeology, education and the public – the fun stuff! Wrestles with how we try to communicate our discoveries and interpretations meaningfully while trying to present authentic, honest, and enjoyable experiences and avoid turning the past into a theme park. Lots of case studies giving great advice for what worked well, and not so well in sharing the past.

Scotland’s Rural Past: A Practical Guide to Recording Archaeological Sites
I’ll declare an interest here. I was involved in the Scotland’s Rural Past project, and this is one of our legacies. With this I’ll be well prepared to survey and record the field archaeology of this island, and write up accurate descriptions of whatever I might find. Luckily this trunk also contains a plane table, alidade, tripod, tapes and an ample supply of drawing film and pencils. Let’s get to work!


Brian Wilkinson is an archaeologist, freelance educator and interpreter. He’s recently set up Heritage Journeys, to work with agencies, communities and organisations across Scotland to help them investigate, learn about and communicate the significance of the historic environment. He’s been a director of Archaeology Scotland for six years and still helps out with their Learning team. He’s now a director of the Shieling Project a new venture offering place-based learning to teachers and pupils in the Scottish Highlands (www.theshielingproject.org). He has a thing for turf buildings. You can often find him on Twitter @BrianRhys

Ken Hamilton

Compiling this list was an interesting exercise on a number of levels – the first thing it did was highlight to me how out of date a lot of my reading material is. That said, while Harwood’s Historic Environment Law (2013, with 2014 supplement) is possibly my most useful book at work, it would be neither useful nor particularly distracting on a desert island. And it is only 400 pages, so if I needed to light a fire in a hurry, that is a limited burn time compared to the likes of Banister Fletcher…

Of course, the other factor is that if I am stuck on a desert island, a weighty tome on early medieval brooch typologies might be a good thing to read professionally, but it would also run the risk of driving me out to take my chances with the sharks. These books stand out for the quality of their writing, as well as the quality of their content.

Trigger, B (2006) A History of Archaeological Thought CUP
This is the book that set archaeology in context for me, and opened my eyes to the possibilities and consequences of archaeological interpretation. This book should be a required, regular read for anyone who claims an interest in the past. This would be the book I would save in a storm.

Biek, L (1963) Archaeology and the Microscope Lutterworth Press
The first book published on scientific analysis of archaeological objects. While many of the analytical methods in this book have been superseded or refined well beyond the examples given, this book opens the door on the possibilities of archaeological analysis. On top of that, Biek is an object lesson in scientific writing – the principles are clear, without being dumbed down in any way, and the writing style is the closest to poetic that science gets.

Clifton Taylor, A (1987) The Pattern of English Building Faber and Faber
From Biek to Clifton Taylor… There is a large part of me that cannot stand this book. The writing style is patronising at best and downright snobbish at worst. However, it is extremely well informed, and despite the above statement, a surprisingly entertaining read. An excellent background to materials and techniques in English architecture prior to the 20th Century.

51kbxxoTgeL._SL500_SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Rudenko, S (1970) Frozen Tombs of Siberia University of California Press
This book represented a turning point in my archaeological career. I was interested in the tattoos of the Pazyryk chieftain, so went to the source material, and in reading started to pull in all sorts of connections – with Herodotus, with concepts of trade and theft, unified artistic styles and chronology. And, of course, the book contains some of the most beautiful iconography in antiquity.

Fletcher, B (1996) A History of Architecture Athlone Press
I have referenced the 20th edition of this, as it is the most recent (I have the 18th edition), though far from the most popular. It is THE sourcebook for architectural history. A massive book, that covers the architectural history of north west Europe (with a few diversions to pre-Conquest Americas, ancient Egypt, Japan etc.). Worth it for its size alone, for it would make a handy pillow.

Scollar, I (1990) Archaeological Prospecting and Remote Sensing Cambridge University Press
I am a big believer in the principle that you should not use a technology unless you understand the physical principles of what underlies it. This book covers aerial photography, magnetic survey, electromagnetic survey and data processing in great depth – it is not for the faint hearted. However, it is invaluable for anyone with an interest in geophysics or image processing.

Bell, M and Walker, M (1992) Late Quaternary Environmental Change: Physical and Human Perspectives Prentice Hall
Human activity is driven by its surrounding environment, and so it is impossible to even attempt to understand an archaeological site without trying to understand its physical environment. This is particularly true of early prehistory, and Bell and Walker is the classic sourcebook for that.

Aitken, M (1990) Science Based Dating in Archaeology Longman
Dating is a bit of a blind spot for me. I deal with the most common techniques through work (predominantly 14C and OSL dating, occasionally archaeomagnetic dating), but other techniques are mostly just names. The 1990 edition of Aitken is what I used at college, so to update my knowledge I have to go back and work on the techniques I am not so secure with. Or get a more modern edition and update all round (probably a better idea – can I have the most recent edition, please?)

978-1-59874-714-0-frontcoverSchofield, J and Cocroft, W (2007) A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse Legacies of the Cold War Left Coast Press
The archaeology of the Cold War is one of my specialisms, and it covers a variety of fields, from the architecture of defence through to the archaeology of protest. Schofield and Cocroft is the broadest study of the period, covering all aspects. A collection of papers, rather than a learned tome, there are a number of viewpoints and a number of styles here, all highly relevant to a fragile and rapidly diminishing resource.

Herodotus – The Histories
My copy is the Penguin edition, but it could be any. The Father of History/the Father of Lies, depending on your viewpoint, but Herodotus seldom fails to entertain. There are some undoubted porkies in here, but who cares. It has incest, death, sex, violence and intrigue on a scale that Game of Thrones could only dream of, and because it is classical literature, it is all in the name of improving the mind… it was this or the Iliad for my non-technical book, but the Scythian/Siberian connection means that Herodotus wins.


Dr Ken Hamilton is the Senior Historic Environment Officer (Planning) in Norfolk County Council’s Historic Environment Service. You can find him on Twitter at @fen_ken