The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

Issue 13 (August 2010)  |   Issue Editor: Larry Swain


Davis, Jennifer R. and McCormick, Michael, eds. 2008. The Long Morning of Medieval Europe: New Directions in Early Medieval Studies. Hampshire and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, Pp. 345. ISBN: 978–0–7546–6254–9.

No scholar of the Middle Ages is unaware of the stigma attached to the period. Gibbon and others have provided ample fodder to fuel the public perception of a brutal, violent period marked by the absence of thought, learning, or virtually any of the characteristics which we today consider the marks of civilization. While the Medievalist has labored, with some success, against this stereotype, this picture has maintained itself more firmly for the Early Middle Ages. Only recently has the "Dark Ages" patina begun to be cast aside in the realization that the post-Roman society was a vibrant, active world filled with literacy, thriving exchange systems, and a creativity of thought which formed the framework for the advances of the last thousand years of Western Civilization. In this volume Jennifer Davis and Michael McCormick provide us with further evidence for casting aside this old, tired stereotype. In addition, as the editors state in their introduction, these essays are designed to provide a sample of "new directions" in medieval studies—new methodologies, research tools, and collaborative efforts with colleagues in other disciplines: "New tools and methods highlighted in this volume open new possibilities for discovering the early medieval past. But they also require new skills. . . . This means that we in the humanities need to learn to collaborate better, with each other and with our colleagues in disciplines that are coming to be related fields, such as economics, certainly, but biology and computer science as well" (10).

This book developed from an October 2004 conference, "New Directions 2: The Early Middle Ages Today" held at Harvard University. The conference proceedings have been published in 19 essays, authored by some of the foremost scholars in the field and divided into five subject areas. McCormick has authored an introduction to each topical segment and the final essay in each section provides a summation of the discussion.

For those who haven't read his Framing the Early Middle Ages (2005), Chris Wickham opens the first section, "Discovering the Early Medieval Economy," with an excellent summary of his argument that early medieval exchange economies were driven by elites who possessed excess wealth for use in trade. Joachim Henning follows with a discussion of iron shackle finds from the Roman Empire through the Carolingian period to provide a detailed look at slavery and its implications for the Early Medieval economy. He suggests that an increase in slavery under the Carolingians indicates an "accidental rebirth of Rome that was imposed on a formerly flourishing peasant society" (52). The late Riccardo Francovich examines the archaeology of medieval Tuscany and tells us that hilltop fortifications were built on the sites of previously established villages; evidence that populations were not as dispersed throughout the countryside as had previously been argued. Michael McCormick gives us a detailed look at new methods of historical investigation utilizing modern scientific methods such as parasitology, paleobiology, and biomolecular archaeology, including DNA and skeletal isotope analyses.

In section 2, "Sounding Medieval Holiness," Guy Philippart and Michel Trigalet provide an overview of their extensive hagiographical project—developing a database which will encompass about 10,000 hagiographical works, 1500 authors and 3320 saints, covering 200–1500 AD. Arnold Angenendt follows with an examination of multiple early medieval texts, wills, and bequests to religious institutions to trace the evolution of sacrifice to the Church from a spiritual act—searching for redemption through "intellectual and spiritual self surrender" (132)—to that of offering very real, value-laden gifts in return for a benefit to one's soul.

The third section, "Representation and Reality in the Artistry of Early Medieval Literature" contains three extremely insightful contributions. Paul Edward Dutton discusses contemporary attitudes toward unusual weather in general and bloody rain in particular and provides modern weather information to bolster the possibility that such accounts, at least in the case of bloody rain, are often reliable. However the true value of this article lies in its examination of how attitudes towards unusual weather evolved from the acceptance of supernatural causality early in this period to, by the twelfth century, medieval intellectuals offering scientific (though faulty) weather-related explanations. In analyzing the Historia Wambae regis, Joaquín Martínez Pizarro provides an in-depth analysis of the literary conventions regarding the relationship of religious leaders to secular authorities. Jan Ziolkowski provides a detailed examination of the Waltharius. Through an analysis of the material culture, particularly arms and armor, mentioned in the poem, she believes we can reach a much closer approximation of the date of authorship.

In section four, "Practices of Power in an Early Medieval Empire" Janet Nelson provides us with a study of the Indiculus obsidum Saxonum Moguntiam deducendorum or "List of Saxon Hostages to be Brought to Mainz" and expands from this to a discussion of how hostages and oath-taking indicated Charlemagne's increasing emphasis on influencing proper behavior, in the first case through coerced abduction, and in the second by requiring subjects to swear their obligation to the emperor in a statement witnessed by God. Jennifer Davis examines Carolingian judicial systems to find that Charlemagne developed a structure with multiple layers, overlapping responsibilities and a form of redundancy such that, while the judicial system may have been awkward, it also provided a framework that allowed for a great deal of flexibility. Davis believes future studies will likely find similar patterns in other aspects of Carolingian government. Matthew Innes utilizes four diverse examples of source documents to illustrate the complexity of property rights under the Carolingians and how property rights and the responsibilities associated with those rights were integrated into Carolingian government.

The final section, "The Intellectuality of Early Medieval Art," provides us with two excellent essays. Mayke de Jong opens with a discussion of Carolingian architecture and its role in public displays of power and rituals of access by examining solaria, particularly the solarium at Aachen and how it was utilized both as a visible representation of Carolingian power and authority and a ritual point of access to the person of the king. Herbert L. Kessler provides a detailed look into Western European medieval religious art from the later eighth through the tenth centuries, the dispute over whether depictions of Christ glorified matter over spirituality, and how artists enhanced the spirituality of these depictions to emphasize the mystical. This topic is not of itself new, however Kessler's perspective is detailed, in-depth and informative.

This is an excellent work. The essays are uniformly good and several, in particular Henning, Nelson, Davis and Kessler, are notable for the depth through which they explore a topic in 15 or 20 pages. The introductions by McCormick and the summaries provide an excellent framework for discussion. No single book can cover all aspects of medieval history however this effort encompasses much, including religion, power structures, literary texts, and the economy. If there is any criticism, it is of the geographic focus. While the late Riccardo Francovich takes us to the Tuscan Hills and Pizarro to Visigothic Hispania, the essays are heavily weighted toward Gaul, particularly the Carolingians. Granted, this is where the sources are, however more balance might be useful.

Do these essays truly point toward "new directions" in methodology? The answer to this question is less clear. The detailed examination of texts has long been a mainstay—perhaps the mainstay—of medieval studies. Many of these essays, such as those by Pizarro, Angenendt, Ziolkowski, Nelson and Innes, continue this tradition while Herbert Kessler's excellent contribution examines Carolingian religious art in the light of eastern Iconoclasm—certainly not new directions. They may reach new, exciting conclusions, yet the methodology is based on traditional models. How new is new? Wickham's focus on regional economies, Davis' search for new patterns by studying multiple texts, Henning's and Francovich's utilization of archaeology, and Mayke de Jong's study of the of Carolingian architecture used as a public display of power and ritual are methodologies that have been under-utilized, but are far from unknown. On the other hand, Paul Dutton's incorporation of weather and climatology with the analysis of accounts of bloody rain is truly insightful while McCormick's contribution and that of Philipart and Trigalet show some very fresh approaches.

However an overemphasis on this aspect of the book would detract from its greatest value. Where the authors excel is in their examination of their respective issues, the clarity with which they discuss their methodologies and, above all, the way they detail how they arrived at their conclusions. While it is not explicitly stated, one must believe that the editors stressed that in a book addressing new directions, these directions—AKA methodologies—must be clearly presented. The authors achieve this admirably. Whether their study methods are new or not, issues such as whether the growth of Carolingian power negatively impacted a flourishing peasant society; how much truth can be placed in accounts of bloody rain (and whether contemporaries themselves believed in mystical origins); and how, as in the Historia Wambae regis, a King's refusal of a bishop's request may actually indicate the primacy of the church, are all questions which will provoke discussion and merit further examination. One can argue with specific viewpoints of the various authors; however, there will be little confusion as to how they reached their conclusions and it cannot be disputed that they have provided well-written, insightful information which will enhance our knowledge of the early medieval period.

Reviewed by Curt Emanuel
Frankfort, Indiana

Finke, Laurie A., and Martin B. Shichtman. 2010. Cinematic Illuminations: The Middle Ages on Film. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. xi + 445 pages. ISBN 978–0–8018–9344–5 (hardcover); 978–0–8018–9345–2 (paper).

Recent years have seen burgeoning interest in medievalism, from historical explorations of how the Renaissance understood the period immediately preceding it to discussions of post-millennial treatments of both the medieval and the urge toward medievalism. Primarily concerned with the Middle Ages on film, as the subtitle suggests, Cinematic Illuminations nevertheless draws from and casts light upon a much broader range of topics. In their discussions of cinematic medievalism, Laurie Finke and Martin Shichtman examine an impressive array of films in the context of contemporary historical and political concerns, from the Holocaust and 9/11 to modern youth culture and its preoccupations. Though their expertise in medieval literature and history profoundly inform the work, their primary approach is that of film theorists. In this role, they elucidate the ways "contemporary popular culture uses the medieval past as a fantasy frame for making sense of our own world" (13).

While exploring the self-consciousness required of those who create the artificial world of medieval film, the authors are also crucially aware that critics' own objectivity as cultural observers must be compromised by the fact that they themselves inhabit the world they describe, that they can never achieve complete removal from their subject, and that the theoretical underpinnings of their arguments are in some ways every whit as artificial as the constructed worlds of medieval film. The end product is a compelling examination of how film culture—its conventions, iconography, production techniques, even financial considerations—has come to shape and to be shaped by our understanding of the Middle Ages. The text enquires into the nature of our desire for the medieval, demonstrating the shifting conceptions of the Middle Ages throughout film history and locating in the modern era the concerns that inform the creation of the cinematic medieval.

Cinematic Illuminations is divided into three parts. The first, "Theory and Methods of Cinematic Medievalism," explains the basic premises of the book and introduces the critical theories deployed or questioned in later chapters, including, but certainly not limited to, the historiography of Hayden White, Laura Mulvey's notions of the male gaze, the Lacanian psychoanalytic analyses of Slavoj Žižek. A particular strength in this section, as elsewhere, is the authors' ability to explain the kernel of the theory or of the scene so clearly that an unfamiliar reader has sufficient information to easily follow arguments that are often as intricate as they are elegant. The four chapters in section two focus on "The Politics of Cinematic Medievalism," with politics including, but extending well beyond, the rule of individuals and governments (medieval and modern), the political implications of hagiography (focusing on Joan of Arc), and modern conceptions of the Crusades, from both eastern and western perspectives. Section three, "Cinematic Medievalism and the Anxieties of Modernity," examines how films about the Middle Ages reflect other obsessions of the modern world, especially social dislocation and discontent.

The film that receives the most play in the book—or that at least appears in discussions of the most diverse topics—must surely be Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The authors use this film as a convenient cipher key in their discussion of many elements of cinematic medievalism, deploying it in the manner of Umberto Eco's "cult film," as a "sort of syllabus, a living example of living textuality" (1985, 4). Such a work, according to Eco, "must provide a completely furnished world, so that its fans can quote characters and episodes as if they were part of the beliefs of a sect, a private world of their own, a world about which one can play puzzle games and trivia contests, and whose adepts recognize each other through a common competence" (Eco 1985, 3). Given the likely audiences of Cinematic Illuminations—students, medievalists, film critics, and enthusiasts—this assumption of a shared vernacular allows the authors to illustrate subtle points about more self-consciously serious films through the exaggerated technique of the Pythons' film. For example, Finke and Shichtman's discussion of the attitudes toward history portrayed on screen are introduced and first elucidated in their dissection of the scene in Holy Grail where the Very Famous Historian is murdered by a rider on horseback, ostensibly a figure from the history he is relating when his throat is brutally cut. From the deft description, even readers who have not seen Holy Grail can easily imagine this moment in the film. The authors' reliance on the shorthand provided by that particular film in their discussions of so many others may be unconscious, but it works exceptionally well; like the adepts Eco describes, readers are made to feel very much a part of the club, and knowledgeable ones, at that.

This volume is the culmination of several years' work, with portions of chapters presented in national and international venues. The time taken in such a process allows authors to develop and revise their ideas extensively, to gain valuable insights upon reflection and through conversation with others. Unfortunately, authors of such long- and well-considered volumes sometimes find themselves reading distorted versions of their ideas before their own work sees print. Though disagreeing with the conclusions reached, the authors of Cinematic Illuminations graciously cite such previous publications, leaving discerning readers to evaluate the arguments on their respective merits.

A slight defect in the book lies in the press's formatting of the photographs. Of the twenty images, two are absurdly small and therefore difficult to see clearly; at least two others are awkwardly cropped; and the most jarring extends through the top margin to the very edge of the page. Such cosmetic shortcomings, however, do not ultimately compromise an extraordinary achievement, a text that seamlessly blends discussion of medieval literature and history with considerations of modern and postmodern preoccupations and desires, to the extent that readers may wonder why they didn't reach the same conclusions. As my graduate students, who read one of the chapters prior to publication, admiringly complained of the authors: "They make it look so easy!"

One of the most refreshing aspects of this book is that Finke and Shichtman combine encyclopedic knowledge of and masterful control over their material—including but not limited to film studies, medieval literature and history, and popular culture—with nuanced analysis, deft prose, and a palpable enjoyment of the topic. The authors are clearly having a grand time and invite readers to join in.

Works Cited

Eco, Umberto. 1985. Casablanca: cult movies and intertextual collage. SubStance 47:3–12.  [Back]

Reviewed by Mary K. Ramsey
Southeastern Louisiana University

Scragg, Donald, ed. 2008. Edgar, King of the English, 959–975: new interpretations. [Publications of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies 8]. Woodbridge: Boydell. xviii + 274 pp. ISBN 978–1–84383–399–4.

This handsome volume forms a welcome addition to the historiography of the reign of one of Anglo-Saxon England's most important and enigmatic rulers. Scholarship on Edgar since the late seventies and early eighties has generated a great volume of material that however lacks an articulating approach, and the studies gathered here, which originated in the MANCASS conference of 2005, answer this requirement to a great extent. They seem to share, indeed, a consensus about the achievements of past scholarship and the current important debates that gives a very firm foundation for debate. This impression is doubtless mostly due to the fact that more than a third of the book was written after the conference, with the other papers in hand, although they too have apparently been considerably rewritten; the uniformity of focus is therefore less surprising than it seems.

Chief among the new contributions are a full eighty pages contributed by Simon Keynes, sixty of them being a new synthesis of the political history of Edgar's reign. This is masterly and densely referenced (though more citation still might have been accommodated), and gives a strong impression of being a chapter from a larger political survey that one wishes Keynes would write. His well-justified unwillingness to attempt a conventional narrative of a reign with so few sources, and those so late and partisan (a limitation brought out excellently by Chris Lewis in his paper, also an addition to the originals), however means that it forms a second-level thematic and discursive study rather than an entry-level orientational one such as it might have been. For a basic idea of who Edgar was and what happened in his reign one would still have to start with, for example, Eric John's contribution to the 1982 textbook The Anglo-Saxons. With that or similar in hand, Keynes's restatements are of immense importance, but they cannot be read without previous knowledge. Invaluable without such experience however is his other contribution, a new conspectus of the charters from Edgar's reign, with fully up-to-date Sawyer-style summary references and descriptions. Since so much of the work that follows relies on these documents, having them thus available even in regestum, and with current printing references, is hugely helpful, though it must be noted that the authenticity and worth of individual charters was one area where authorial consensus was apparently not achievable.

With Keynes's quarter of the book thus digested, the following meal comes in smaller courses: three essays on Edgar's succession and his early support supplied by Shashi Jayakumar, Chris Lewis, and Frederick Biggs; four covering particular questions from his sole reign by Barbara Yorke (the other post lectum addition), Julia Crick, Lesley Abrams, and Hugh Pagan; and finally four essays all addressing the monastic and ecclesiastical reform of Edgar's reign and its culture, by Julia Barrow, Catherine Karkov, Alexander Rumble, and Mercedes Salvador-Bello. While these authors all seem to share, as said, agreement on what has been done, meaning that certain particular works crop up in footnotes again and again, their own views, which frequently differ, are not fully confronted. For example, Biggs makes the unusual suggestion that the division of England between Eadwig and Edgar was the last in a long tradition of Anglo-Saxon joint kingship, but this is less questioned than ignored by other contributors touching the issue. Similarly, Barrow's paper may be the most important of all in its simple achievement of pushing, almost beyond argument, the date of the bulk of the changes considered as part of the reform back to the 960s, rather than close to Edgar's coronation in 973 as they are conventionally dated; but the other papers proceed with the old chronology nonetheless.

Coinage forms another case where greater consultation might have been expected. So much reference is made to the twenty-year-old work Coinage in Tenth-Century England by Blunt, Stewart, and Lyon that it is listed among the volume's abbreviations, but subsequent numismatic work that disrupts the schemas of Michael Dolley about Edgar's management of the coinage, on which that work substantially rests, is thus ignored. Hugh Pagan, who might have conveyed this scholarship to the volume's audience, instead gives a technical account of Edgar's earlier pre-reform coinages, more interesting to the collector than to the political historian. Another theme that seems to have been agreed upon, and thus not really discussed, is the question of Edgar's imperium and how it was envisaged by contemporaries: Crick's paper addresses the use of the word Albion in the charters (and has to save several from Keynes's judgment to do so) but Edgar's relations with the other kings of Britain and the true import of the meeting at Chester in 973 is—possibly because the issue was discussed in an earlier article by Barrow—not really present in Crick's paper or the others. Yet this is one of the things that is famous about Edgar, and should have been covered.

These general comments should not detract from the numerous interesting and intriguing points raised by the essays in what was, after all, never intended to be a synthetic volume. This reviewer would particularly note: Lesley Abrams's study of the engagement of not just elites but ordinary people in the Danelaw in support of Edgar, and what this allows us to say about that area's demographic composition and identity at this early stage; Chris Lewis's inspired use of a single charter in its local context to make crucial points about Edgar's action in his brother's half of Mercia before his succession there, suggesting that much more needs to be thought into the politics and administration of the division than has been; Barrow's irresistible shift of the chronology of reform; and Yorke's welcome attempt to make something of the scant sources for 'The Women in Edgar's Life', though both here and in Jayakumar's analysis of the division-period faction politics, as well as elsewhere, the name of Pauline Stafford is surprisingly, and perhaps dangerously, rare in the footnotes; her full-family approach to the reign, though thirty years old, arguably still makes more sense than viewing male and female politics in separation. Both Jayakumar's and Biggs's papers will also have to be considered by anyone working on the early part of the reign in the foreseeable future, and Karkov's artistic and Salvador-Bello's literary contributions remind the reader in the closing stages of the volume that there do exist more sources and alternative ways of exploring the reign for those for whom charters are not the only fruit.

In summary, this volume has been much needed, and brings together a great deal of work in such a way that in certain fields and debates on the reign of Edgar it will now be possible to advance onto new ground, some of which is broken by these essays, almost all of which are good, engaging and stimulating. This is achieved despite the areas that the volume does not cover now lag behind, leaving a rather uneven and disfigured picture of a reign that will remain a historiographical problem for a while longer yet.

Reviewed by Jonathan Jarrett
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Short, William R. 2009. Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing. 190 pp. ISBN 1594160767.

They were the Norsemen, the people known as "heathens" to those of medieval Catholic Europe, but to us of modern day, they are more commonly known as "Vikings." It is these people, the Vikings, and the history of their warrior culture that William R. Short sets out to discover in his book Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques.

In Viking society, men were not only warriors; they were farmers and blacksmiths and carpenters and traders. History depicts them as savages intent on burning, looting, and raping villages, but Short dispels many of these common myths, arguing that Viking society was not much different from other cultures at that time. Many people wanted nothing more than to find suitable, fertile land to settle down and raise a family. It is not for their domestic culture or their artistry or their craftsmanship, however, that the Vikings are remembered; it is for their ships and their far-reaching raids and their fearless spirit in the face of battle that has defined their civilization. While Short touches on some of these myths that eternalize the modern view of Viking culture, his main focus is still on the importance of weapons in the society. After first providing an accurate overview of Viking history and culture, Short then proceeds to discuss the historical sources available for research and examines in detail the various offensive and defensive weapons used in combat.

But what made the Norsemen so formidable? Why did so many fear the sight of Viking ships appearing out of the morning mist, sails unfurled and snapping in the wind, the rows of shields lining the gunwales? In Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques, Short uses a host of archaeological evidence, medieval combat treatises, contemporary illuminations, forensic science, and writings from the sagas of that period—namely the Sagas of Icelanders—to uncover the types of weapons the Vikings used and the battle strategies they employed to intimidate their opponents.

Short systematically examines the use of shields, helmets, mail, axes, spears, saxes, and swords, taking an entire chapter on each to explain how they were applied in battle, and even at home. For example, an implement such as an axe had other practical purposes aside from wielding it as a weapon to crack open an opponent's skull. Nearly every man owned one and used it around the farm as a household tool. The chapter on swords is especially interesting, as Short details the process involved in forging such a weapon. Photographs of actual and replica weapons, as well as illustrations, are used extensively throughout the book to visually aid the reader.

After detailing the weapons and armor, Short examines sword and shield techniques employed by the Vikings. Using his research from the sagas in addition to medieval combat manuals, Short walks the reader step-by-step through various guard and attack positions. A shield not only served as the primary defense for the combatant, it also functioned as a devastating offensive weapon when in the hands of a skilled fighter. Sequential photos of these various guard and attack positions illustrate the lethal effect of a proper sword and shield combination.

Short concludes with the end of the Viking age at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. King Harold Godwinsson of England defeated the Norwegian king, Harald Hardrada, bringing to a close the era of major Viking invasions of Europe. As more and more Vikings converted to Christianity, their thirst for combat and raiding steadily declined, and with this shift in religious culture, the countries of Scandinavia were gradually absorbed by the rest of Catholic Europe. After three hundred years, the Vikings had managed to reach as far as Jerusalem in the east and the shores of North America in the west, imprinting their culture on whomever they contacted and leaving behind a warrior legacy—rightly or wrongly—of ships and swords and shields.

A book for scholars as well as enthusiasts, Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques is concise yet thorough, focusing mostly on the weapons and skills used during one-on-one combat situations, not on large scale battle strategies and the organization of armies. Still, it is important for historians to learn how Vikings fought individually in order to understand how they fought together as a unit. Overall, Short delivers an impressive volume of information about Viking warfare, pieced together from the ruins of a once mighty empire.

Reviewed by Steven Till
Independent Scholar

Suzuki, Seiichi. 2008. Anglo-Saxon Button Brooches: Typology, Genealogy, Chronology. Anglo-Saxon Studies 10. Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press. xxxi + 418 pages + 234 plates. 9781843833628.

Seiichi Suzuki presents a comprehensive study of the Anglo-Saxon button brooch, addressing the typology of design elements, the relative genealogical relationships between classes of the brooches, and the chronological relationships with other types of brooches. The focus of the study, the button brooch, is a small type of disc brooch found primarily in southern England. Its primary characteristic is the presence of a human mask, full-face or in profile, which fills the central field of ornament. In this book, Suzuki builds upon a corpus of button brooches first compiled and published by Richard Avent and Vera I. Evison in 1982, adding to it ninety new finds, many of which have been discovered by metal-detector users and recorded under the UK's Portable Antiquities Scheme. Suzuki's aim is to build upon and refine the previously published corpus, and he succeeds by rigorously and thoroughly analyzing formal design elements and the chronological and cognitive development of these elements.

In the book's first two chapters, Suzuki lays out the overall design organization of button brooches, including general geographical distributions, and redefines the formal design attributes used in constructing the typology. He proposes a set of descriptive parameters regarding distinct components of the central mask motif: the head, eyebrows, eyes, eyerings, nose, cheeks, moustache, mouth, and punchmark decoration (15). Using this approach, Suzuki utilizes a recursive partitioning method to construct a classification tree of the original button brooch corpus. By using this method, he is also able to identify the prototypical button brooch groups.

In chapter three, Suzuki incorporates the new button brooch finds into his model as a way to both test his recursive partitioning method and to classify the new finds. In addition to the distinct components of the mask motif, here the author incorporates brooch diameter, inner diameter, rim height, and rim angle to his analysis. The addition of new data results in some brooches being reclassified. Suzuki's new classification scheme results in twenty-two classes, with the first six being the major classes. Having firmly established the classes, Suzuki follows with an analysis of distribution, which reveals that class A1 is centralized in East Kent, and each successive class become decentralized from the area, suggesting that East Kent was the original place of button brooch innovation. As a test, Suzuki looked at pairs of button brooches to see if they were of the same class; this was indeed the case in the majority of instances. Suzuki suggests the current typology is likely similar to the "cognitive reality" of people thinking about button brooch distinction in the past (337).

The development of these brooches is covered in chapter four. Suzuki uses the term "genealogy" to describe the relative chronological and derivational relationships between groups and classes of brooches. While Suzuki recognizes the inherent weakness in using a genetic model for objects of material culture, mainly that multiple and varied sources may result in the similarities or differences seen in "family resemblances" among brooches, he maintains that the specialized craftsmanship required to produce these objects necessitated a thorough familiarity with previous brooches and also a master-apprentice system where knowledge was passed down to younger craftsmen. This issue is given considerable space in the book, and Suzuki provides compelling evidence of two prototypical design lines originating in East Kent: the Lyminge and Howletts families of class A1, from which the majority of other classes derive.

While Suzuki's reanalysis of the button brooch corpus, and his resultant typology and relative chronological genealogy are thorough and thoughtfully designed, the study's greatest strength is Suzuki's contextual analysis of the origins of the button brooch. Suzuki's fifth chapter considers the larger contextual and cognitive aspects of the button brooch by comparing them to other jewellery types of the period as well as associated grave goods. Specifically, he draws comparisons between button brooches and the masks that appear on the Jutlandic group of relief brooches. Suzuki even names a specific relief brooch—the Galsted brooch—as the primary source of inspiration for button brooches and suggests a tentative date of 480 AD for their initial date of production.

Suzuki suggests that the transformation of the cognitive focal point of the relief brooch, the roundel, into a small, circular button brooch was a metonymic process—replacing the part for the whole. This process would have been both influenced and constrained by the existing metal work in southeastern Britain, namely quoit brooches and bracteates, both of which have circular design fields. The full-face mask motif, he argues, filled a cognitive niche that was not present in the bracteates, which in Kent usually included profile human masks and zoomorphic elements. Here Suzuki introduces the idea of a "Kentish Master" craftsman who settled in Kent from Jutland, and who used his knowledge of the form and ideological connotations of the existing Jutlandic relief brooches, bracteates, and quoit brooches to produce a new brooch form, in essence to ". . . construct a new identity for his patrons as well as for himself" (341). Suzuki concludes his work by discussing the development of the button brooch in areas outside of Kent, and critiques previous chronologies of the brooch, establishing an end date for them in the middle of the sixth century.

Suzuki includes plates of all known and available button brooches. Although these plates are not to scale, they are a valuable reference. It should be noted that Suzuki does not include any photographs or drawings of bracteates. While readers of this book will surely be familiar with bracteates, it would have been thoughtful to include at least one example for comparative purposes.

Suzuki's work is a valuable resource for those studying the social uses of material culture in early Anglo-Saxon England.

Reviewed by Heather M. Flowers
Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota