Book Review – “Artifacts” by Henry Hodges

by Jamie Hall on January 30, 2015

 Book Review – “Artifacts” by Henry Hodges

Hodges at the Institute of Archaeology, 1958/59This is an excellent companion text, similar to Leahy’s “Anglo-Saxon Crafts”, as it focuses on several crafts, but with a much broader scope – covering all pre-industrial eras. There are two very distinct sections, the first on materials, and the second on examination of artefacts, and while both are aimed at the archaeologist and conservator, I have found the former to to have a practical slant, while the latter offers scientific perspectives on the behaviour of materials over time.

As the name suggests, the book is about objects and their construction. The various chapters, in both sections, are split by material, rather than technique. For this reason, I found myself reading everything, in case useful processes or materials were named in, say, the textile or pottery sections. Methods of production are covered in reasonable detail, or at least enough to start you off. In the chapters on metals, the information is split between iron, copper alloys and precious metals, and each chemical reaction or technique illuminates the ancient workshop. Various alloys are described, plus the refining of ores and metals.

A basic grasp of materials is required to get the most from this book. The archaeologist learning workshop practice, or the practitioner exploring the science of their craft would benefit most. A novice might be overwhelmed by lists of materials and nomenclature mixed in with practical descriptions, but for the £20ish that is costs, there is a great deal of information for future study, across several disciplines, and the text is surprisingly well written, particularly as Hodges must have been more an academic than a practitioner! For further information about Hodges, who died in 1997, you can read his obituary in the Independent.

Image: Hodges at the Institute of Archaeology, 1958/59, taken from Archaeology International

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