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Welsh History Review

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Vol. 18, nos. 1-4 1996-97

The formation of the Medieval West: studies in the oral culture of the Barbarians. Book review.

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Such criticisms might seem like nit-picking but they fairly reflect the
frustrations encountered in trying to reconstruct the stratigraphy from the
evidence provided. Moreover, the line of arguments sometimes left this
reviewer stunned due to inconsistency and/or assumption. In the
discussion (p. 37) of the all-important building LI, the reader is told that
while the building is 'perfectly acceptable as a structure, its floor area of 65
m2 appeared distinctly small for a drinking hall'. In dating the Period 11
rampart 'the deposition of two amphora sherds in the make-up of Rampart
E indicates that the ramparts were built in or after the last quarter of the
fifth century AD' (p. Ill) because they were deliberately incorporated
during construction and were not residual (p. 112). Artefacts dateable to
Period 11 were found in the Period 12 Rampart but had to be residual
because the latter also contained late Saxon ceramics. It does not
necessarily follow that an unabraded sherd has to be in a primary location
(pp. 113-14) yet the one and only such sherd of an amphora from one of
the features interpreted as part of Building Ll is taken to date the building.
The fifth or sixth century AD rim clamp from the field ditch,
stratigraphically amongst the latest features in the sequence, is residual.
Confidence might be further diminished when the reader notes that on the
plan (Illus. 3.3) of the Cadbury 12 S-W gate the left-hand features have
been partially erased, moved and re-aligned.
The evidence provided does not allow alternative interpretations of the
sequence, but its presentation inevitably leads to doubts which detract
from the more general conclusions regarding the significance of the data. A
wealth of evidence in the form of artefacts, ramparts and structures was
recovered in the excavation which is important and stimulating, but given
the doubts and ambiguities regarding the phasing and dates of some of
these elements it would have been preferable to have a more transparent
report through which it was possible to engage in debate regarding the
evidence.
C.J.ARNOLD
Aberystwyth
THE FORMATION OF THE MEDIEVAL WEST: STUDIES IN THE ORAL CULTURE OF
THE BARBARIANS. By Michael Richter. Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Four Courts
Press; New York: St. Martin's Press. Pp. xv, 292. £ 30.00
Michael Richter, now at the University of Konstanz, has had the ideal
preparation for writing this book: not only is he thoroughly familiar with
German scholarship and with medieval European history, but his time in
Wales and Ireland (resulting, among other things, in books on Giraldus
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