Why are Castles Castle-Shaped?; The Archaeolgist's Handbook
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Why are Castles Castle-Shaped?
The Archaeolgist's Handbook
Illustrated by Kevin Maddison
Two nicely produced paperbacks, the first is an approachable and easily digested question and answer book on castles, full of information in Philip Ardagh's chatty, informal style. Don't be irritated by his diversions in so many different directions - you will undoubtedly learn plenty of interesting things en route. Line drawings provide additional information on armour or the feudal pyramid for example, as well as a pictorial sequence of the changing shape of castles from 11th-century motte and bailey to 16th-century Tudor rose. Quizzes intersperse the questions, while a glossary and index help you track down specific information. Slightly frustrating that the only actual castles mentioned are the Tower of London and six famous castles in other parts of the world (kark des Chevaliers et al), but for a broad sweep on medieval life, this is an entertaining volume.
The Archaeologist's Handbook by the same author offers a much more satisfying approach to the history of the past. In a light-hearted foreword, Sandi Toksvig (not just a comic writer but President of the Young Friends of the British Museum) tells us 'this marvellous handbook covers the lot...in here is everything you need to know'. Her words of praise are quite justified, for it is indeed an excellent introduction to modern archaeology, from the basic methods of excavation with trowel and barrow to the most up-to-date technological advances. Ardagh includes descriptions of five of the most famous and exciting archaeological finds including Pompeii, Troy and Tutankhamun's tomb, with plenty of spooky stuff about the curse of the mummy. If you want a thoroughly readable update on archaeology today, this is highly recommended, and it should be required reading for all who volunteer to join a dig.