ABSTRACT

I have in front of me as I write, the first volume of Excavations in Cranborne Chase by Augustus Pitt Rivers. Published in 1887, its 254 gilt-edged and lavishly illustrated pages weigh in at around four pounds, and the other three volumes are of comparable heft. That it was privately printed adds an air of indulgence to its scholarly intentions. Just beside it on the desk is Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy by Edward Harris. Published almost a hundred years later, this 136-page book could be slipped into a jacket pocket. First visual impressions suggest a world of difference between these two projects, as do the 1970s versus late Victorian styles of writing. But those impressions would be deceiving, for both in their own way are documentary exercises with visual expression at their core, projecting speculation downwards and through material substance.