Barry Cunliffe has been an outstanding contributor to British archaeological publications over the past four decades, achieving the remarkable feat of producing influential academic tomes (Iron Age Communities in Britain: An Account of England, Scotland and Wales from the Seventh Century BC Until the Roman Conquest
, The Danebury Environs Programme: Introduction v. 1: The Prehistory of a Wessex Landscape: Introduction v. 1 (Oxford University School of Archaeology Monograph)
) as well as easily intelligible, high quality accounts for the general readership, such as this book.
No where is he more at home that in the Southern British Iron Age and with the topic of Danebury, the Hampshire hillfort which he excavated over twenty years. This books updates an earlier edition by including the results of the seven year Danebury Environs Programme, which placed the central hill in the context of a much wider landscape.
No popular account has bettered that of the area bounded by the ramparts but although the presentation of the landscape around it is important the data is uneven, unrepresentative, because the project's methodology was based on geophysical survey and excavation of features recorded and broadly dated by Rog Palmer's seminal study (Danebury: an Iron Age Hillfort in Hampshire: An Aerial Photographic Interpretation of Its Environs (Supplementary series / Royal Commission on Historical Monuments)
) of a huge air phtograph collection accumulated over six decades.
The story of the particular keyholes in the landscape is intriguing, but the coverage is not sufficient to sustain Cunliffe's claim that Danebury may have been the near exclusive site of habitative settlement at its Iron Age zenith.
At the time of writing he no doubt felt he had vindicated a similar conclusion from an early survey around Maiden Castle, Dorset (English Heritage Book of Maiden Castle (English Heritage)
).However, although Richard Tabor's account of Cadbury Castle hillfort's interior cannot compare (due to insufficiency of the data), his findings from the wider landscape (Cadbury Castle: The Hillfort and Landscapes
) suggest extensive settlement around it in the Middle Iron Age.
This book will interest anyone with an interest in Iron Age southern Britain, hillforts in particular, and will be of great use to A level students and undergraduates.