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Barry Cunliffe

Author of The Ancient Celts

103+ Works 4,555 Members 50 Reviews 5 Favorited

About the Author

Barry Cunliffe, a professor of European archaeology at the University of Oxford, is the author of several books on the Romans and on Celtic and Iron Age Europe. He lives in Oxford, England. (Publisher Fact Sheets) Sir Barrington Windsor "Barry" Cunliffe is a British archaeologist and academic. He show more was Professor of European Archaeology at the University of Oxford. Cunliffe was born on December 10, 1939. He became a professor at an early age and became involved in the excavation of the Fishbourne Roman Palace in Sussex. Cunliffe was knighted on June 17, 2006. Some of his publications include: Fishbourne: A Roman Palace and Its Garden; The Celtic World; Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples, 8000 BC to AD 1500; The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek: The Man Who Discovered Britain; and Britain Begins. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Series

Works by Barry Cunliffe

The Ancient Celts (1997) 645 copies
The Oxford Illustrated Prehistory of Europe (1994) — Editor — 381 copies
The Celtic World (1990) 225 copies
Britain Begins (2012) 153 copies
Rome and Her Empire (1657) 96 copies
Origins (1987) 48 copies
Roman Bath Discovered (1971) 35 copies
The City of Bath (1986) 33 copies
Rome and the Barbarians (1975) 17 copies
Danebury Hillfort (2003) 14 copies
Hengistbury Head (1978) 10 copies
The Regni (1973) 6 copies
Heywood Sumner's Wessex (1985) 6 copies
Science and Stonehenge (1997) 5 copies
Cradle of England (1972) 5 copies
The making of the English (1973) 3 copies
The Romans: Aquae Sulis (1971) 2 copies
fishbourne 1961-4 (1965) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Conquest of Gaul (0044) — Contributor, some editions — 4,315 copies
The Celts (1971) — Introduction, some editions — 1,084 copies
The Early Germans (1992) — General Editor — 135 copies
The Normans (2000) — Editor — 57 copies
North East and East Kent (1969) — Introduction contributor — 42 copies
Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (1967) — Contributor — 38 copies
North Lancashire (The Buildings of England) (1969) — Introduction contributor — 36 copies
The Cambridge Companion to Historical Archaeology (2006) — Contributor — 33 copies
South Lancashire (1969) — Introduction contributor — 33 copies
A Companion to Roman Britain (2003) — Contributor — 31 copies

Tagged

ancient (125) ancient history (421) Ancient Rome (163) anthropology (67) antiquity (102) archaeology (469) Britain (135) British history (55) Caesar (121) Celtic (213) Celtic history (69) Celts (282) classics (224) England (75) Europe (169) European History (166) Folio Society (96) France (65) Gaul (114) history (1,789) Ireland (86) Iron Age (49) Julius Caesar (101) Latin (192) Latin literature (72) literature (73) military (46) military history (136) non-fiction (491) Penguin Classics (49) prehistory (158) reference (44) Roman (131) Roman Empire (65) Roman History (227) Rome (237) to-read (292) translation (52) travel (45) war (117)

Common Knowledge

Legal name
Cunliffe, Barrington Windsor
Birthdate
1939-12-10
Gender
male
Nationality
UK
Birthplace
Portsmouth, England, UK
Places of residence
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK
Education
University of Cambridge
Portsmouth Northern Grammar School
Occupations
archaeologist
writer
Professor of Archaeology
Organizations
Society of Antiquaries of London (Fellow)
English Heritage
Learned Society of Wales (founding fellow)
British Academy (Fellow)
British Museum
Museum of London (show all 9)
Council for British Archaeology
University of Southampton
University of Bristol
Awards and honors
Order of the British Empire (Commander)
Knight Bachelor (2006)
Wolfson History Prize (2002)
Short biography
Sir Barrington Windsor Cunliffe, CBE, FBA, FSA (born 10 December 1939) — known as Barry Cunliffe — is a British archaeologist and academic. He was Professor of European Archaeology at the University of Oxford, a position held from 1972 to 2007.

Members

Reviews

I've been fascinated for a while about the role of the Assyrians in world history and wondered what sort of interactions they had with the peoples to their north.Hence my interest in this book on the Scythians. Actually, there doesn't seem to be much written about the Scythians and Cunliffe, more or less, explains why. Yes Herodotus gave us quite a detailed description of the Scythians who lived around the western zone of the steppes but he was pretty much ignorant of those groups far to the east and as Cunliffe explains: An archaeologist, viewing the wealth of evidence deriving largely from burials, cannot fail to be impressed by the broad cultural similarities stretching across the steppe from the Sayan Mountains of Siberia to the Lower Danube valley. It is possible to glimpse sudden transcontinental movements and far-flung connectivities counterbalanced by distinct regional developments and to contain the whole within a broad chronological framework. This great continuum of mobile horse-riding communities dominating the steppe from the ninth to the third century may share a Scythian-Siberian culture, but to fully appreciate its nuances one must remember that it was made up of many different groups with different names, only some of which, like Sakã and Scythian, are recorded in the historical sources. Fascinating and valuable though Herodotus' description of the Scythians and related nomads is, it is, at best, a snapshot, blurred in part, of a moment in time. He was observing people in a period of rapid change as the original nomad influx of the Archaic period gave way to more settled societies coming to terms with the Greek presence around the northern Pontic coast.

The steppe corridor is a remarkable phenomenon. It is the largest expanse of temperate grassland in the world, stretching in an almost continuous swathe from Manchuria in the east to the Great Hungarian Plain in the west a distance of 8,000 km. It mostly lies between the latitudes of 40° and 50°N. The temperature range within the zone is warm enough to allow grass and shrubs to grow but is too dry to favour tree growth....... The steppe gradient: as one travels from the east to the west the climate changes from cold and dry to warm and damp. It was a reality well understood by those who inhabited these regions and provided an ever-present incentive to migrate. A community living in the cold high steppe of Mongolia subjected to cycles of intense cold had three options to improve its life: to move south into China, to move south-west into India, or to move due west towards Europe. All three options were taken at different times throughout history but the first and second meant crossing into different ecological zones. By choosing to move westwards along the steppe corridor the migrants had the great advantage of staying within an environment with which they were familiar, and one that facilitated fast movement. It was for this reason that the history of Eurasia was dominated by constant flows of people from east to west along the steppe and why so many of them, from the Yamnaya culture of the early third millennium BC to the Mongols of the thirteenth century AD, ended their travels at the most westerly extremity of the steppe zone: the Great Hungarian Plain.

I was especially interested in the reported incursions of the Scythians into the Levant and reaching as far as Egypt but unfortunately, Cunliffe has very little to say about this, merely the following: "Throughout the middle decades of the seventh century, while Assyria was still strong, it is likely that the Scythians maintained peaceful relations with their horse-riding neighbours, the Medes and Mannaeans, and with the Assyrians, but the situation was inherently unstable. With the founding of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty in 626 and the rapid rise of Babylonian power, the Assyrian empire began to fragment. This provided the opportunity for the Scythians, sometimes working in concert with the Medes, to raid widely throughout the old Assyrian domain, feeding off the carcass of the decaying empire. There is some evidence that they were "bought off" by Egypt. Herodotus' version of events, drawn from tales that would have been circulating for nearly two centuries before he encountered them, has a ring of truth to it. The break-up of the Assyrian empire provided the opportunity for young Scythians to leave their homeland somewhere around Lake Urmia, between the Zagros Mountains and the Caspian Sea, and to range widely across the remnants of empire, some bands returning home several years later to a less than friendly reception".

In terms of history, Cunliffe recounts a recurring theme: Comparatively minor changes of climate in an ecozone like the steppe, bringing about only slight or short-term changes, can have a disproportionate effect on the lives of pastoral nomads...... An example of an event which affected Europe and much of the western steppe was the Piora Oscillation, a period of extremely cold winters which began about 4200 BC and lasted until about
3800 BC. One of the effects of this climatic downturn was to bring to an end the system of sedentary agriculture which generated tells.

The brief period of two centuries, from the mid ninth to the mid seventh century, saw a dramatic transformation of the steppe society. At the beginning a patchwork of different communities, culturally rooted in their traditional territories, characterized the vast steppe corridor..... By the end of the period the archaeological evidence suggests that bands of predatory horsemen were ranging widely over considerable areas.

The simplest explanation for these new traditions is that bands of nomadic horsemen from eastern Kazakhstan or the Altai-Sayan region spread westwards across the steppe during the ninth and eighth centuries, some of them arriving on the Pontic steppe and establishing their authority over the local population........ If this scenario is correct, it means that during the ninth and eighth century movements of warrior nomads from the mountain region of eastern Central Asia to the west took place episodically. The driving forces were, no doubt, varied: population growth, the lure of better pastures in the west, and the ambition of these aspiring to power would all have contributed.

The arrival of the nomadic horse riders on the Pontic steppe in the ninth-eighth century and their eventual penetration of the Great Hungarian Plain is part of an age-old story. It had happened before in the twenty-eighth century bc with the westerly movement of the Yamnaya culture (above, pp. 67-9) and it was soon to happen again in the seventh and sixth centuries when the Scythians from Central Asia burst into the Pontic steppe ousting the Kimmerians (if we are to accept the simple narrative provided by Herodotus). But it was not to end there. Shortly after came the Sarmatians, the Alans, and the Huns, to be followed eventually by the Mongols. In each case they moved west into the Carpathian Basin where the puszta of the Great Hungarian Plain represented the westernmost remnant of their familiar steppe; beyond lay the forests, mountains, and agricultural lands which offered little attraction to those whose lifestyle depended on the horse.

One of the earliest incoming groups of Scythians settled in the north Caucasus with a concentration in the valley of the River Kuban. From here warrior bands crossed the mountains in the late eighth and seventh centuries to become involved in the conflicts being fought out between the Kingdom of Urartu and the Assyrians.

The Middle period (c.600-400 BC) also saw considerable changes to Scythian society on the steppe as the nomads began to become more sedentary. More than one hundred settlements are known from this period along the River Dnieper, including large complex trading sites like Kamenskoe.

The importance of the north Pontic colonies to the Greek world changed dramatically in the middle of the fifth century when the advance of the Persians into Egypt cut off the grain supplies upon which the Greek city-states had depended..... From now on the high-quality grain produced on the arable lands of the Kerch Peninsula was loaded onto convoys of ships and sent south to feed the citizens of Athens..... The Greek cities on the Black Sea coast provided the trading interface between the Aegean and the steppe worlds, but other trading and manufacturing centres developed inland, usually on river routes where regional exchanges could take place, Greek merchants may well have taken up residence in these enclaves.

The book is a mixture of hard scholarship......notably in relation to the exploration of tombs and the artefacts found in them .....and speculation about "what WOULD have happened" which I find generally convincing but it's still just speculation. He covers in great detail things like burial customs (presumably, mainly for the elite), practices for milking mares, or sheep and goats, warfare and the instruments of war: religion and art. In regard to war, the weapon for which the Scythians were famous throughout the ancient world was the bow and arrow. Since the bows were fired from horseback they were short, seldom more than 0.8 m in length, the strength of the shot relying on the compression of the composite structure rather than upon its length. ......Stringing a bow required strength and dexterity. Even greater strength was needed to draw the string against the compressed forces locked into the shaft. The range of such a bow was considerable. A Greek grave monument found at Olbia records that Anaxagoras, son of Dimagoras, shot an arrow over a distance of 282 orgyai. This converts to more than half a kilometre.

It was sometime at the beginning of the first millennium BC that flows began of people from the east, from the area that is now eastern Kazakhstan, southern Sibe-ia, and Mongolia movements that were to continue in waves over more than two thousand years. Climate is likely to have been a prime mover, along with population growth.

This book explores the story of the nomadic societies from the ninth century BC, when the earliest movements to the west began, until the second century BC, when new forces emerging in the east brought pressure to bear on the inhabitants of Central Asia, thereby creating a further spate of westerly migrations. The earliest predatory nomads to impinge upon the Pontic -Caspian steppe between the ninth and seventh centuries вс brought with them a culture closely similar to that which had developed in the Altai-Sayan region. While it is likely that the flow of incomers was spread, perhaps continuously, over these two centuries, such documentary evidence as there is identifies two separate peoples: first the Kimmerians, then the Scythians. The archaeological record, however, shows that there was little significant difference in their material culture that cannot otherwise be ascribed to gradual change or to the influence of the indigenous folk culture on that of the incomers.

Early in the second century BC the growing power of the Han dynasty in China began to destabilize the various nomadic tribes that lay on its northern border. The most powerful were the Xiongnu of the Gobi region.. Facing the rising power of the Xiongnu, two indigenous peo-ples, the Yuezhi and the Wusun were forced to migrate, there being no option but to move westwards, This inevitably had knock-on effects throughout Central Asia..... The arrival of the Yuezhi and the Wusun in territory long occupied by the nomad Saka caused widespread disruption, driving many Sakä southwards into western Bactria and through the Hindu Kush.

The Alans: The Last Spectacular Thrust The origin of the Alans, like that of other nomadic hordes, is obscure but there is some evidence to suggest that they emerged from the confederacy of the Aorsi. That, at least, is what the Chinese annals imply when the say that the Aorsi were renamed Allan'ai..... The beginning of the end for the roman empire came in AD 401 when Alans and Vandals crossed the Danube and drove deep into the heart of the empire. A few years later, in AD 406, Alans, in company with Vandals and Suevi, crossed the frozen Rhine near Mainz and began a devastating, two-year-long rampage through Gaul before crossing the Pyrenees and settling in western Iberia. Ten years later, in AD 418, they were ousted by the Visigoths, working to the orders of the Roman emperor, but found a temporary home in Galicia in the north-west corner of the Iberian peninsular, where they merged as one people with the Vandals....... The Alans who fled to the Caucasus fared better. Settling first in the comparative isolation of the foothills and then extending deep into the central Caucasian high-lands, they were still known as Alans as late as the thirteenth century

Certainly the book covers a huge sweep of important but overlooked history and has some lovely maps...and unlike many books of this genre, most of the place names mentioned in the text can be located on the maps which is a big plus for me.
Oh, I did find Figure 4.2 rather confusing and I wonder ion the labels or horizontal scales have been reversed. But a minor quibble. Happy to award it five stars
… (more)
 
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booktsunami | 1 other review | Feb 5, 2024 |
Informative, yet repetitive. Could have been half the length for the content.
 
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sauvignon | 3 other reviews | Jan 22, 2024 |
At least for someone who possesses but a passing knowledge of these subjects, this brief volume seems to have done a great job at giving me a sense of who the Celtic people(s) were and are. Of course, the length of the book necessitates superficiality, but Cunliffe manages to cover the different aspects that one would care about---social structures, languages, arts---without getting carried away with simply listing the results of archaeological excavations; a sufficient amount of overarching summary succeeds in assuring me why I ought to care about these archaeological finds. And as always, I very much appreciate the curated list of further readings.… (more)
 
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mirryi | 8 other reviews | Aug 15, 2023 |
This has been reprinted from Antiquity, vol. 39, 1965
 
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jon1lambert | Sep 25, 2022 |

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Statistics

Works
103
Also by
12
Members
4,555
Popularity
#5,520
Rating
3.9
Reviews
50
ISBNs
207
Languages
8
Favorited
5

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