Berry antique : milieu, hommes, espaces, Supplément No.21 à
la Revue archéologique du Centre by C. Batardy, O. Buchsenschutz
and F. Dumasay
Tours, 2001, ISSN 1159-715; ISBN 2-913272-05-3, 192 pp.
Supplément no.21 of the fast moving extra series to la Revue archéologique du Centre is devoted entirely to an archaeological atlas of Berry in the Iron Age and Roman periods, “Berry Antique”. The editorial team behind the production of the atlas was evidently led by Olivier Buchsenschutz, the leading editor of the first volume in the supplemetary series published only in 1988 (Buchsenschutz et al. 1988). The authors of the individual sections include Ian Ralston (on the Iron Age oppida), who would otherwise have been quite the most appropriate person to review this volume on behalf of the Prehistoric Society.
Berry lies at the very centre of France, centred on Bourges, the medieval and modern city built on the site of Roman “Avaricum”. The middle reaches of the Loire and Sançerre mark the north east boundary of the region of Berry, embracing but extending also a little to the north and south of the modern départements of Cher and Indre. Historically Berry is defined as “la cité biturige”. On the eve of the Roman conquest it was the land of the Celtic people of the Bituriges.
The long term history and setting of Berry Antique are summarised and depicted in the opening section of the atlas. A regressive analysis with maps takes the historical story back to the Roman period. Summaries of the development of historical and archaeological research, including field and air survey, are in turn linked to maps showing the varying precision of archaeological fieldwork in the context of modern day land use and vegetation. The natural setting, geology, soils and palaeo-environmental data are in turn linked to the long term archeological story of the Holocene.
The main part of the volume is concerned with the mapping of the archaeological data for the Iron Age and Roman periods. This is achieved within a geographical paradigm, first looking successively at rural settlement, urban places and the funerary landscape, each from the beginning of the Iron Age to the end of the Roman period. These themes are then set within the wider landscape as defined by roads, rivers and water supply. These in turn provide the setting for the penultimate section on production and exchange, agriculture and industry. The final section uses the data from preceding sections to provide explanations for the distribution and location of urban and rural settlement across the region.
As an archaeological atlas this is a successful volume, avoiding the problems which beset many such studies when set within the straitjacket of a defined series and pre-defined format. There is a clear internal logic to this volume and it certainly provides a useful introduction to the later prehistory and Roman archaeology of the region. My main criticism of the volume, which might be directed at many studies of the later and prehistoric and Roman periods, is that it disregards the possibility that elements of the later medieval medieval and modern countryside may be relict parts of earlier Roman and prehistoric landscapes. In a region where many of the principal highways originate as Roman military roads, is it not possible that some other elements of the man made landscape, such as roadways, tracks, field and land boundaries, also have their origins at least partly in the Roman and prehistoric periods.
The layout and printing of the volume are of a high standard, as one has come to expect and enjoy in so many publications from France. Michel Sapin’s preface notes that the reader might be surprised at the securing of financial assistance for the volume from both European and more local sources, but then concludes with some ideas for its relevance to present day concerns - the future of agriculture, the development of rural industry, natural and “touristique” areas or parks. Archaeological mapping provides one means on which to reflect for the future.
Buchsenschutz O. et al. (1988), L'évolution du canton de Levroux d'après les prospections et les sondages archéologiques, 1er supplément à la revue archéologique du Centre de la France, Levroux, 1988.
Review Submitted: June 2003
The views expressed in this review are not necessarily those of the Society or the Reviews Editor.
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