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The Modern Antiquarian: A Pre-millennial Odyssey Through Megalithic Britain : Including a Gazetteer to Over 300 Prehistoric Sites Hardcover – 14 Apr 2011

4.8 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Thorsons; Slp edition (14 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0722535996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0722535998
  • Product Dimensions: 20.5 x 4.3 x 29.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 34,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Julian Cope has come a long way since the Teardrop Explodes. For eight years he has researched Britain's megalithic heritage in order to write about its inspirational and mythic importance.The Modern Antiquarian is quite an achievement, in which the singing space cadet once more reconciles himself to Earth. Book One is a series of ten essays reconstructing British paganism prior to the muscular intervention of Christianity. Seriously subjective, frequently wayward, they collectively seek to recover the Great Goddess, and restore a sense of femininity and spirituality to our landscape, dotted with its long barrows and standing stones. In the process, Cope introduces imaginative etymosophies [sic] and some wonderful chapter headings, such as "Why the Romans were so Heavy", and "Ur Indoors", while indulging his distaste for cities and his love of Roman-bashing, for their corruption of collective folk memory, and the straightness of their roads. Cope's own infectious vision is, understandably, more circular, if not exactly rounded. It would be easy to mock, with its amateur snaps (sometimes including a variously coiffed Cope or family, for scale, one presumes), and homespun New Age philosophy. However, Book Two, a rainbow-indexed gazetteer to over 300 prehistoric sites in Britain, is tremendous. Each entry combines a photograph, Ordnance Survey directions, a paragraph of geo-historical significance, and a personal observational note of Cope's. Occasional poetry surfaces--"Atop Knap Hill I eat my snot/For 'tis the only food I got"--but generally the absurdities are kept at bay, as St Julian leads us on a pilgrimage. There are even charming guidelines for those who use the gazetteer properly, including the invaluable tip to keep a plastic bag down your sock to collect rubbish in (Julian does). Splendidly eccentric, impossible not to enjoy, and as much a map of the errant genius of Cope as the land with which he so passionately communes. --David Vincent


'Utterly unique…opens a real window on Britain's prehistory.' The Times

'A unique blend of information, observation, personal experience and opinion… A strange and marvellous artefact.' The Independent

'Not only a joy, but a useful field guide.' The Guardian

'Immensely detailed and sumptuously illustrated…an essential guide' The Daily Telegraph

‘A remarkable fusion of scholarship, practical advice and visionary insight’ Daily Express

'A sumptuous technicolour delight. Erudite, playful and provocative.' Mojo

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Format: Hardcover
Our Passionate Friend Julian Cope surprised us all in the 1990's by suddenly coming out as a megalithomaniac. The Modern Antiquarian is partly Julian's very personal take on ancient Britain and how the church and those pesky Romans ballsed it all up for us and partly a gazetteer of ancient sites around Britain, complete with directions, maps, idle jottings and some marvellous photographs.
The gazetteer is arranged geographically with each section colour-coded for ease of reference. Unfortunately some of the background colours are so dense that the print becomes difficult to read. In part one in particular there are some garishly photoshopped images laid out in various eccentric styles so that no two pages look quite the same. But these add to the charm of the book and what it might lack in academic rigour it makes up for in sheer enthusiasm. The binding of the book has come in for some criticism although my own copy is still all in one piece despite constant reference for 4 years or so now.
Cope lists many sites I would never have known about let alone have visited were it not for The Modern Antiquarian. The bizarre Figsbury Ring, near Salisbury, is a good example. There are some other sites listed and described here that I may have been put off from visiting had I not double-checked elsewhere.
Some of the material is already quite dated and some is just downright inaccurate. The entry on Stoney Littleton really needs to be updated as things have improved immeasurably at this site. The information on The Chestnuts in Kent needs some revising and correction. I'm sure there are many others besides.
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Format: Hardcover
As a guide to where to find ancient monuments this is very good, and I'll certainly be using it to give some targets on my walking trips. I like the look and feel of the book a lot; it's well organised, and it's nice to read his notes on each monument - they communicate his enthusiasm and encourage me to get out and find these places, as do the pictures.
The essays at the beginning are entertaining; I wouldn't know how true they are, but I have to say that I suspect it has to be wishful thinking. I speak Welsh, and some of the things he says in the sections about Wales are completely wrong (eg his translation of Pontypridd is so far off the mark, it's laughable), or misleading (eg he says that the ancient Welsh in former days called Britain 'Prydain'. That's true but, err, so do the modern Welsh in current days. Didn't he know that?) These aren't difficult things to find out, so it makes me wonder about everything else he presents as fact.
So if you're looking for a scholarly, reliable guide to ancient British monuments, don't buy this book. If you're looking for a personal, entertaining interpretation of these sites, which will encourage you to get out there, get this book and take it with a large pinch of salt. I'm glad I've got it though.
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Format: Hardcover
Brilliant. This is one of my all-time favourite books, and it's had such heavy useage in the field that I've bought another copy. They both sit together on my shelf, in all their luminous, rock-album clothed glory.
As you will have noticed from the above, The Modern Antiquarian is split into two sections, the first a collection of highly entertaining and thought-provoking essays on modern and ancient society and life, the second being a gazateer of epic proportions to the significant ancient sites of Britain. The latter is as close to perfection as you could possibly wish for, even down to the O/S co-ordinates and hints on visiting.
The former may prove a little more contentious. The essays are written with an infectious passion, are superby argued, and deliberatly provocative. Yes, they are subjective. The subject matter can be nothing but that. Their aim is not just to inform, but to yank us out of apathy; to make us think laterally; to think in circles, transcend what we have previously thought or been taught. And that can only be a good, and beneficial thing.
It's very easy to get a little 'New Age' dealing with this subject matter. Julian avoids that with the effectiveness of a sledgehammer smashing through lead-crystal glass. He's still a rocker, a brillant one, and so is this book, which took him eight years to research and write, which shows the painstaking research detail that went into it, and it's all the better for it. It certainly opened my eyes. The Modern Antiquarian is worth every penny of the asking price. If you're thinking about buying it, do so. I can promise this much -you won't regret it.
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Format: Hardcover
So after 8 years of research not-mad rock and popster Julian Cope finally finishes the Modern Antiquarian. The gazeteer, wipe-clean cover and rainbow pages we were always promised are there as are poems and a collection of essays. The essay section won't make the archaeologists happy, but hopefully it will make them think. The sections on landscape temples are especially good. Some might find the etymosophy hard to swallow but just wait till the sequel 'Let Me Talk To The Driver' is published, Er...Look Out! The gazeteer triumphs where others fall short by having a full page and colour photo for almost all the sites covered as well as a description and notes written in the field. Some sites even get one of the aforementioned poems (over 50 of them) my personal favorite was the one for Knapp Hill, which begins 'On Knapp Hill I eat my Snot, For 'tis the only food I've Got'. Julian visited every site in the book and took most of the excellent photographs (unlike the famous archaeologist who wrote a whole paper on the Clava Cairns in Scotland without once leaving his office). All in all the Modern Antiquarian in a scholarly and visionary book which should set the archaeologists talking (if ever they decide to leave their offices).
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