I really need more books on archaeology; it’s a relaxing thing to read about, somehow, and I prefer it to biography because it can be so varied. Time’s Anvil certainly delivered on the ‘varied’ front, though it is very varied in a way that does feel odd at times: one moment it reflects on the personal life of Morris’ forebears, the next on the historical landscape of Britain, and the two are rather mingled. It meanders, is the best way I can think of to put it. It’s not uninteresting, but some chapters feel immensely dense while others just don’t go into the depth I’d like.
Stuff I did find interesting: the battlefield archaeology stuff, particularly on placing battle sites like that of Bosworth more precisely; the attention to that moment of thrill in holding an artefact that links you somehow to someone hundreds or thousands of years before you; examining the role of metal detecting; examining problems with excavation vs preservation, and in addition, what should be preserved and how we should do that…
There’s a lot of interesting stuff touched on, but it’s not really a book about any one thing, save for the development of English archaeology in general. A book like Seahenge is much more satisfying to me: it sets out a problem, a mystery, and seeks to solve it — knowing always that we can’t have that final scene where the culprit is decisively named. I like the chains of evidence, comparisons between sites, the surprises that crop up during excavations… In that sense, this book isn’t specific enough for me.
So, all in all, enjoyable enough, but not what I really wanted.