And no, it is not another post about Snorri Sturluson, although who could ever get enough of those?
Some years ago, it seemed as though I would one day be a “proper” archaeologist. I went to conferences, I met people, I had discussions about interpretation that left my head full of dizzying expanding possibility. Didn’t take, of course. Don’t imagine that I’m bitter; that’s just how the ball bounces and I’ve seen the same happen to a lot of my colleagues.
But one of those conferences was about a place called Yeavering, which at the time I didn’t really know much about. I think I went because my then-MA supervisor was introducing me to the person who eventually became my PhD supervisor. But regardless, it was fascinating stuff. And it was through that that I became aware of Yeavering.
Note the italics; Yeavering the site is fascinating, but today I’m going to talk about Yeavering the book. Because the book is amazing. One day a few years ago, I was in Heffer’s on Trinity Street in Cambridge and I went, as I do, to browse the bargain section. You never know! I was skint at the time, and bargain books were about the limit of my price range. And I found the Yeavering report. A little beaten up, but still in pretty good shape and 2/3 off! Of course, that meant it was still £25, but I bought it anyway with a wince and a stab of guilty joy.
The Yeavering report was the work of the late Brian Hope-Taylor, and it is the work of a baller. Hope-Taylor excavated the shit out of that site, and just as a fuck you to everyone else he did all the illustrations himself. And they are amazing. I can’t reproduce a fraction of them here, but here are some favourites.
There’s one of the main site maps, with its amazing complicated building sequence just cut off by the edge of my scanner down there. But what I want to zoom in on is the compass up in the corner.
Look at those little dudes! Like little Franks Casket dudes! Fantastic. And the others all have their own little weird designs too. And there’s loads of this stuff throughout the book, this wonderful combination of Insular art and groovy 60s-ism.
Here is Grave AX, and you tell me what the hell this is all about. It’s got a goat skull, it’s got weird sui generis artefacts …
And lastly, here’s a little self-portrait, jauntily stuck on top of a section drawing.
I don’t think I really have a point to this entry, except perhaps:
a) I really really like it when a book that tells me about something interesting is also itself interesting as a thing — as a work of art.
b) I have a big-ass expensive book full of weird Anglo-Saxon stuff and groovy archaeological art and cool maps and I will find excuses to talk about it.