Prehistoria de la Navegación: origen y desarrollo de la arquitectura naval primigenia BAR International Series S-1952 by Víctor M. Guerrero Ayuso xii + 352 pp., illustrated throughout with figures, maps, tables, drawings and photographs Archaeopress for BAR, Gordon House, 276 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7ED, 2009, £54 (sbk), ISBN 978-1407304359 El catálogo de las naves de Occidente: embarcaciones de la Península Ibérica, Marruecos y archipiélagos aledaños hasta el principado de Augusto BAR International Series S-2462 by Jorge García Cardiel 245 pp., 177 b&w figures, 15 maps, illustrated glossary Archaeopress for BAR (as above), 2013, £38 (sbk), ISBN 978-1407310701
Article first published online: 10 FEB 2014
© 2014 The Authors. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology © 2014 The Nautical Archaeology Society
International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
Volume 43, Issue 1, pages 211–212, March 2014
How to Cite
Parker, A. J. (2014), Prehistoria de la Navegación: origen y desarrollo de la arquitectura naval primigenia BAR International Series S-1952 by Víctor M. Guerrero Ayuso xii + 352 pp., illustrated throughout with figures, maps, tables, drawings and photographs Archaeopress for BAR, Gordon House, 276 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7ED, 2009, £54 (sbk), ISBN 978-1407304359 El catálogo de las naves de Occidente: embarcaciones de la Península Ibérica, Marruecos y archipiélagos aledaños hasta el principado de Augusto BAR International Series S-2462 by Jorge García Cardiel 245 pp., 177 b&w figures, 15 maps, illustrated glossary Archaeopress for BAR (as above), 2013, £38 (sbk), ISBN 978-1407310701 . International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 43: 211–212. doi: 10.1111/1095-9270.12050_8
- Issue published online: 10 FEB 2014
- Article first published online: 10 FEB 2014
These two substantial volumes in Spanish are well written and produced, and show evidence of extensive scholarship by the authors; though they are concerned with overlapping subjects, they are in fact rather different, though each has its own virtues.
‘The Prehistory of Navigation’ by Victor Guerrero is, as the author explains, the fruit of a long and industrious study of the subject. The book is well structured, clearly written, fully documented, and complemented by an impressive assemblage of illustrations. Guerrero makes no concession to non-hispanophones, but does include an excellent, comprehensive nautical glossary with English, French and Italian equivalents which is a great help to international understanding. The author and the publisher between them have succeeded in avoiding the muddy reproductions which often afflict British Archaeological Reports; the illustrations are also well-organized and fully correlated, so anyone interested should be able to track down a particular topic.
Guerrero is, as one would expect in the 21st century, a confirmed anti-diffusionist; on the other hand, he is at heart a prehistorian and archaeologist rather than a nautical historian or historical triumphalist. It is interesting to compare this book, its narratives anchored by radiocarbon dates, with the heroic efforts of Landström, Johnstone or Greenhill half a century ago. Guerrero is evidently not a habitué of ISBSA, nor does he cite the work of Seán McGrail more than occasionally—and most readers, will, in this reviewer's opinion, find this a weakness; on the other hand, he has an impressive record of fieldwork, teaching and research, and there are insights in this book on which others can and should build.
After an introductory chapter, Guerrero deals with: navigation on rafts; boats with a monoxyle hull; hulls of papyrus and reeds; basket-boats and skin-boats; bark canoes; and the first plank boats (mostly Egyptian and Mesopotamian). The evidence is, of course, mostly inferential—rock-engravings and paintings, ceramic and other models, and ethnographic comparisons. Although the author marshals his material carefully, ultimately this reviewer feels a lack of the analysis, the systematic approach, so well developed by McGrail. The feeling is of a well-organized scrapbook, but not a work in which hypotheses or even reconstructions bring a point to each section. One must also say that the author has a very limited definition of ‘prehistory’, and (for example) pays little attention to the plentiful evidence for skin-boats in NW Europe, or to the many known and carefully recorded prehistoric logboats from many regions.
That said, the hispanophonic reader will find a great deal of interest here, and this reviewer spotted few errors. The very full ethnographic sections are an excellent source of specimens for the student, though certainly (as far as the UK is concerned) they highlight the lack of an easily accessible collection of the boats which here appear in photos from around the world. Full of good sense, and with a fine bibliography, this volume is a worthwhile contribution to the literature of nautical archaeology.
The second book to be reviewed here is ‘The Catalogue of Western Ships’ by Jorge García Cardiel. His remit is the Iberian Peninsula, together with the NW African coast and the Canary Islands, until the reign of Augustus (the turn of the Era). The author's innovative intention is to combine iconography, objects and historical references in a unified catalogue: it is unclear (at least to this reviewer) how this has contributed to our understanding of prehistoric (and early historic) maritime activity.
The volume is evidently the product of much hard work; it has a well-presented bibliography, some helpful maps, and plenty of illustrations. Unfortunately, neither the artwork nor the reproduction of many of the illustrations is very good, and furthermore there is no cross-reference in the catalogue entries to the figure numbers, and the order in which the catalogue entries are arranged is not clear. Although the author gives a full list of published references under each catalogue entry, it seems that he has followed his own volition, rather than the arguments of others, in assessing questions of date or function. Thus, to take just one example, under the heading ‘Mazarrón 1’ he lists an object, long since cut into pieces and disposed of, which he follows a publication of 1967 in identifying as the lead stock and some wooden fragments of what he claims to be the earliest-known composite anchor. The original publication identified markings on the supposed stock as Punic, of the 9th century BC, and García accepts this dating, even though at least one later publication has questioned the date and reading of the epigraphy, and the reconstruction drawing of the fragmented, lost anchor-stock bears little resemblance to other well-documented lead stocks from the Mediterranean and elsewhere. In fact, the general development of composite anchors in the Mediterranean region is now well understood, and much stronger evidence is needed to accept the very early date assigned by the author to this supposed anchor. This is just one example of how the author's reading and field experience are lacking, for all his energetic collection and careful arrangement of his subject-matter.
Of course, much of the book is concerned, not with artefacts from sites (whether on land or under water), but with iconography; there are some well-known images of boats (or supposed boats) on coins and pottery, as well as plentiful drawings of rock-engravings. Some of the last-named images, especially from the Canary Islands, are unfamiliar (at least to this reader), but there is a disappointing lack of argument over their date—let alone their interpretation.
Overall, this catalogue is an impressive collection of material by a young scholar, but nautical archaeologists will find that he shows inadequate knowledge of real-life archaeological field conditions, and only a partial acquaintance with non-Spanish publications and comparanda. Perhaps, given the right opportunities, García will at some future date develop his interesting approach into a powerful analysis of early seamanship in this varied and important region. Surprisingly for recent Spanish scholarship, both the works reviewed here are free of jargon or methodological posing—commendable, indeed, though (as has been remarked above) both authors might benefit from attempting a more analytical treatment of their subject-matter.