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The Cambridge Illustrated History of Archaeology (Cambridge Illustrated Histories) Paperback – June 13, 1999
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Archaeology as a discipline has a history as colorful as the subject it studies--the artifacts of the human past. Who hasn't heard of businessman-turned-flamboyant excavator Heinrich Schliemann, who unearthed (and looted) Troy's gold? Author Bahn leads a team of a dozen scholars down that parallel track of eccentric personalities and the things they dug up, resulting in a compact volume with a worldwide embrace, evenly balanced between sites famous and obscure. For its Eurocentric focus, however, Bahn makes no apology, arguing that the "archaeology of archaeology" essentially developed in Europe, at first, while the Renaissance gathered steam, in curiosity about Roman ruins and megalithic monuments like Stonehenge. Simple antiquarian collecting gradually gave way to more scientific systems of analysis, and the chapters, organized chronologically, recount the field's increasing sophistication in, for example, dating methods such as the carbon 14 technique. Two hundred illustrations abound, arresting the attention of any passing browser. An asset in any library. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'... a truly international history of archaeology ... The Illustrated History is refreshing in that it presents an international view of archaeological discovery and sometimes of changing ideas about the past.' Brian Fagan, American Antiquity
'... a global approach ...' Estelle Lazer, The Weekend Review
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However, I am going to be churlish and gripe. What about China? The terracotta army? (three quarters of page 322). Come on, everybody's granduncle knows about the terracotta army. Staggering finds are popping up all over China, and all Cambridge gives us is the terracotta army.
What kind of finds? Okay, a peculiarity of Chinese archaeology is that there are very few early religious sites, so let me tell you about three of them: from the neolithic Hungshan culture of nothern China, a temple with statues of nude goddesses; from the neolithic Liangzhu culture of central China, altars with thousands of incredible pieces of jade, engraved with images that must be gods; from Sichuan in the southwest, the mysterious Sanxingtui sacrificial pits, with the astonishing seven foot tall bronze statue of (?) a shaman, and astounding bronze masks=-=- and don't forget that I just said religious sites are not common. With all this activity in Chinese archaeology, they show us the terracotta army AGAIN!
but other than that, it's a great book. You'll enjoy it!
I think the book is most helpful for a person, whether student or general reader, who wants to get some background on what archaeology is about, what some of the big achievements have been, some of the fiascos, and where the field stood about 1990-95. The last chapter speculating on current issues and the future is the weakest. It just raises some political correctness subjects such as women's issues and sore points such as the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum.
I wish they had raised more technically important issues and laid out a better sense of the real frontier rather than listing subjects that seem like they are trying to make the subject relevant. But these are only a few pages in an otherwise fine text.
The volume is wonderfully illustrated with drawings and photographs that enhance the story told in the text.
There is a chronology from 1500, a page of texts for further reading, a page of acknowledgements, and an index.
The history of the study of antiquities covers 500 years, from the Renaissance when "Antiquarians" and others mostly destroyed sites in an effort to recover "treasures" through the 20th Century when scientific archeology really began. I personally would have preferred a focus entirely on the 20th Century since much of what passed for the study of archeology before sites were systematically controlled and excavated is virtually useless except as an illustration of what not to do.
The last 20 years in Archeology have been very exciting, but this book provides only a very slender overview of recent work. The text is probably best suited for as an introduction to the topic for high school or even junior high school students in some cases. I bought the book for my 12-year old granddaughter who is entering 7th grade.
This history includes many biographical sketches of the male explorers who have studied mankind's artifactual evolution -- Sir Flinders Petrie who excavated in the Near East, Howard Carter who found Tutankhamen, Scliemann who found Troy, and V. Gordon Chile who went looking for the Aryans and coined the terms "Neolithic Revolution" and "Urban Revolution". The book suggests the latter's ethnocentric positions were not politically correct, but that he "repositioned" himself in later years.
I searched the photographs of Sir Max Mallowan and his workers and site visitors for Dame Agatha Christie, but she was no where to be found although Leonard and Katherine Wooley and Eric Barrows are pictured. Many famous people have taken an interest in "archeology" including Goethe, Darwin, and Lawrence of Arabia.