This World Book Day, learn more about the world around us by delving into our past. Giselle Kiraly, Archaeologist at Wessex Archaeology has recommended six books *including one upcoming summer read* to get stuck into. Learn about Viking beads, Neanderthal technology, and war veteran recovery, and you might even see Wessex Archaeology's name pop up on a page or two! 

1. Our Hidden Gem - A Month in the Country, J.L Carr

This short, fictional novel tells the story of two men coming to grips with English life after wartime. Through the power of archaeology and history, they slowly start to heal their wounds, both physical and mental.

This extremely important part of heritage is real, it works, and it heals so many, with J.L. Carr’s book painting a picture of how much it truly can help.

To learn more about what Wessex Archaeology does to improve wellbeing through heritage and archaeology, read about The Ripple Effect, led by Heritage Inclusion Specialist Leigh Chalmers.

Image of 'A month in the country' taken in a field

2. Our Viking 'Must Read' - River Kings, Cat Jarman 

Follow the journey of a Viking ‘Carnelian’ bead as it travels through time from India to the British Isles. Utilising her bioarchaeological and fieldwork backgrounds, Dr Cat Jarman reveals the stories of the Vikings, exploring how far they really did travel.

Scientific and understandable, Cat brings the story of the Vikings to life and the reader will finish the book with an entirely new knowledge of this famous group of historic people.

Want more? See Dr Cat Jarman speak with Wessex Archaeology experts on Digging for Britain, now on BBC iplayer.

Image of River Kings infront of a fireplace

3. Our Wildcard - A Short History of the World According to Sheep, Sally Coulthard

Slightly off the typical archaeology bookshelf, A Short History of the World According to Sheep is a hidden gem and a must read. When did cheese become popular? Why is wool so important? Did sheep really help us win wars?

From Mesopotamia to medieval England, Sally Coulthard explains how these animals have fed us, clothed us, and even changed our language. This book is a brilliant new way to look at one of England’s favourite animals.

A Short History of the World According to Sheep book with flowers and vase

4. Our 'Make you Think' Title - Kindred, Rebecca Wragg Skyes

Were Neanderthals big, brutish, people who lived in caves and on icy plains? Or were they curious, clever, and extremely adaptable… dare we say, technologically innovative?

Dr Rebecca Wragg Sykes explains 300,000 years of history about Neanderthals, making the reader rethink everything they thought they knew, and busting myths about an ancestor we share DNA with.

Kindred book with flowers and vase

5. Our Favourite Osteoarchaeology Book - Buried, Alice Roberts

In Buried, Professor Alice Roberts tells the stories of how Ancient Britons buried their dead, from Roman cremation burials to jewellery filled Anglo-Saxon burials.

Utilising both story-telling and cutting edge scientific discoveries, Alice Roberts weaves a tale that will leave you with fascinating facts about the people who lived and died in the first millennium in Britain. If that isn’t enough, Crypt, Alice Roberts’ third and final book in this installment is coming summer 2023.

Keep an eye out for Wessex Archaeology and Time Team’s own Phil Harding in the pages of Buried.

Buried, next to flowers and a mug


6. Our one to Watch out For - Broken Pots, Mending Lives, Richard Osgood

If you liked A Month in The Country you might like Broken Pots, Mending Lives.

In this book, Richard Osgood MBE tells the stories of veterans who have made incredible archaeological discoveries while recovering from the traumas of military conflict. Through broken pots and glinting jewellery, archaeology can be restorative.

From Anglo-Saxon cemeteries to convict burial grounds, to Spitfire crash sites and huts from the Second World War, Richard Osgood demonstrates how useful and important archaeology can be.

Operation Nightingale works with many archaeology units around the country and you may just find stories of Wessex Archaeology in this book!

Flatlay stack of book

Special thanks to Giselle Kiraly for helping us create this list of popular books and hidden gems in archaeology and history. We hope you enjoy! 

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