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Iron Age girl

Cover of Ghost Wall
A review of Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Imagine an Iron Age reenactment that takes place in a boggy northern England wood as part of a university archaeology experience course. Now imagine that you are a teenager attending this field experience with your father and mother and you are there as the Iron Age workers, not the students. The students sleep in waterproof tents, are sneaking off to the pub, eating candy, skinny dipping, etc. while you are up with the sun, gathering roots and nuts, hunting rabbits, and tending to the fire at all times. The immersion week culminates with a simulated sacrificial ceremony. Doesn't sound especially pleasant, does it? 

Seventeen-year-old Silvie narrates this quiet novella that explores what it was like to live at a time when humans were worked to the bone and sacrificed to the bogs for mysterious reasons. Itchy tunics and burdock stew were nothing compared to finding yourself with a noose of human hair around neck and wrists while being led to your death. 

Moss provides a fascinating, detailed look at the past and how modern day scholars put together the pieces without a complete picture to work with. Reenactments require a tremendous amount of work and faith and it's easy for those involved to get wrapped up in the drama of the period. This leads to some disturbing conclusions in Ghost Wall that made me grateful for the day and age we currently live in.

June 4, 2019