Snails and Shells help archaeologists learn about Land and People - the Conchological Society supports new publication

Mike Allen

The Conchological Society has agreed to be a publishing partner for one volume of the newly established Prehistoric Society Research Papers Series. The publication Land and People is dedicated to the late John Evans, an archaeologist and conchologist who wrote in 1972 the definitive publication on Land Snails in Archaeology derived from his doctorial and post-doctorial research. The 20 papers cover many aspects of research he engaged in during his career; a number of papers on landscape archaeology and environmental archaeology – and not surprisingly a number of papers relate to land snails and shells, some written by members of the Conchological Society.

Papers by Paul Davies and Mark Robinson examine land snails in particular, with Paul discussing the nature of modern recording and ecology of woodland and Mark examining the palaeoecology of Ena montana. Palaeoecological sequences of land snails are discussed from Roman colluvium at Rock Roman villa on the Isle of Wight by George Speller, Richard Preece and Simon Parfitt, and from sediment cores from mire in Orkney by Terry O’Connor and Jane Bunting. Data derived from land snail evidence provide the basis of arguments of prehistoric land-use of the chalklands of southern England by Mike Allen and Julie Gardiner, and to a lesser extent by Charly French. Land snails were used in some of the preliminary work examining the prehistory of the Wylye valley, Wiltshire (Gardiner & Allen).

Marine shells, in the form of prehistoric middens, are discussed to examine continuity and change in the Mesolithic – Neolithic of the west coast of Scotland, by Nicky Milner and Oliver Craig. Their study included isotope and radiocarbon analysis of the shells.

The appreciation of John Evans first published in 2006 in J. Conch. 39 is re-published with but with some additional comments as well as a number of other molluscan references omitted from the previous list, and several published since then. This volume therefore brings together papers that address themes on a variety of levels. They cover geographical, methodological and thematic areas that were of interest to, and had been studied by, John Evans. In some instances papers have been inspired by John’s approaches to landscape and landscape analysis and their application to new or wider areas than John himself studied in detail. Others take forward, reexamine or elaborate on some of his specific theories and interpretations, looking at new or improved datasets. As a collection, the papers in this volume provide a diverse and cohesive picture of how archaeological landscapes are viewed within current research frameworks and approaches, while also paying tribute to the innovative and inspirational work of one of the leading protagonists of environmental archaeology and the holistic approach to landscape interpretation and showing how snails and shells have been, and continue to be, key to understanding some of our most important prehistoric landscapes and sites.

This new series has a distinctive format; the books are published in hard cover (no flopping about on your shelves), and are not that uniform uninteresting A4 format, but a squarer format and imaginatively designed allowing images to bleed into the white space making wide and varied content more pleasing to read. But also these volumes are affordable – due to subvention from the Prehistoric Society, and their skilled editors and editorial board, as well as co-operation from their co-publishers Oxbow Books and the support of the Conchological Society - the book is published at only £35. Pre-publication price is now only £25 and post-publication members of the Conchological Society are entitled to a 25% discount on the normal cover price.

The book will be launched at the Association for Environmental Archaeology’s 30th Anniversary Conference in York on 3-5th September 2009.

The volume will contain a Tabula Commemorativa that will be published in the front of the book of all those who wish to honour John, his work and contribution to environmental archaeology, conchology, and archaeological thinking. To take advantage of the pre-publication offer and to honour the achievements of John G Evans by adding your name to the Tabula Commemorativa please download the form on the Conchological Society Website or use the form below.