Cornwall's archaeological heritage up to the Roman conquest is rich and diverse, its interpretation fraught with hazard. Rowe begins this work with a brief summary of techniques used to gather information and then covers the various periods from Palaeolithic to the Iron Age in separate chapters, each ending with an excellent gazetteer of places to visit and a map showing their location. The book is well-illustrated and ends with a glossary of archaeological terms, an extensive bibliography, and websites worth visiting.
Rowe clearly knows her subject, but this book lacks polish -it is sadly marred by a large number of botched captions to photographs and poor English. Also, while she goes to some pains to ensure that academic reference is made to papers quoted or arguments presented by other archaeologists, this is not always the case. Common beginnings to sentences are, "Evidence would suggest..." and "It is believed...", when no evidence is provided or people so believing named. Rowe also all too quickly seizes on interpretations that suggest a ritual use of a site rather than a more mundane one. She also mentions beliefs of modern pagans at times as if it provides supportive evidence of possible ritual usages of archaeological sites. In a final postscript academic rigor is finally thrown to the wind in favour of outright popularism when she delves briefly into matters such as King Arthur, piskies, ley lines and local customs and fables.
This somewhat expensive book may make the professional archaeologist cringe. However, it can still act, for the wary reader, as useful introduction to a complex subject.
Mrs Rowe must be congratulated on her book 'Cornwall in Prehistory'. In one slim volume she has managed to capture the threads of this long period of time and weave them together into a coherent story. In her text she successfully manages to steer the reader through the extremes of both academic dryness and romantic fantasy, whilst retaining both intellectual coherence and the illusive magic of this special part of the world. This work should appeal to both the casually interested visitor to the subject as well as the more knowledgeable student. The clear, concise and current text is perhaps let down a little by the odd typo, the erratic labelling of the photographs in the latter part of the book and by the lack of 'further reading' lists after chapter one. The latter being particularly relevant as some of the references given in the text are not expanded in the bibliography. This is knit-picking and I am sure that these issues will be addressed in subsequent editions. In short, this book is highly recommended.