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Eyewitness to Discovery: First-Person Accounts of More Than Fifty of the World's Greatest Archaeological Discoveries Paperback – February 11, 1999

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"An ambitious book....Some of these accounts are as thrilling as a detective story...one or two are full of a strange, astonished poetry...others are full of gold."--The Economist

"Brian Fagan is one of the most successful popularizers of archaeology, and has a reputation for being both interesting and accurate....[these] stories are still fresh and lively today....But there is more than mere entertainment here, and Fagan sets out to educate as well as to amuse."--Nature

About the Author

About the Editor:
Brian M. Fagan is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of The Adventure of Archaeology and The Rape of the Nile, and is a Contributing Editor for Archaeology magazine.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195126513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195126518
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,916,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Archeology is a science in which much work and sweat can be expended for so little return. It's a gambler's profession in which the best guess is taken from the scant bits of evidence mixed with intuition and blind faith. If you're right, the rewards can be magnificent: an untouched tomb of an Egyptian Pharaoh, the bones of someone who died millions of years ago, perhaps the discovery of a heretofore unknown civilization.
"Eyewitness to Discovery" is a wide, but not very deep, compilation of 55 archeological discoveries, edited by anthropology professor Brian Fagan. It's an anthology which prizes breadth over depth. Each account averages only four or five pages, giving a only a tantalizing taste of the complete story, and hopefully driving the curious to the bibliography to seek out those works. This schema allows Fagan to cover the major moments in the field, while drawing attention to lesser-known finds: a Paleo-Indian bison kill in Colorado, the ruins of an ancient large city in Zimbabwe, an African cemetery found in Manhattan that provoked a clash between the groups eager to reclaim their heritage, and the developers with profit margins to maintain.
The classic tales are here as well, and they serve to remind us of just how well the explorers and scientists of a previous generation wrote of their finds.
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Format: Paperback
Opening this book is like viewing a box of Valentine's Day confections. With so many options, you may savour some lightly while devouring others outright. You are, after all, dealing with the grand reach of human existence in this collection. Closing the final page, you realise that you've consumed a rich variety of samplings of our past. Fagan has selected over fifty striking accounts of archaelogical enterprise for you. The tastes run from the romantic to the dedicated scientific. Whatever your tastes in reading about our past, there's bound to be something to please. Certainly, there are no disappointments. As with that selection of chocolates, do you rush to your favourite immediately or "save the best 'til last"?

Fagan organises his selections into three major themes - human origins, "great discoveries" and the development of archaeology as a true science. After a fine introduction to his material and a diagram to keep you oriented in time and place, he presents his subjects. With a descriptive introduction to the writers, he takes you from early humans to historical archaeology. It's disputable, of course, but Raymond Dart's article on the Taung Baby is likely the best of the first section. Certainly, no find had greater significance than Dart's realisation that this young, tiny, but ancient creature pushed the beginnings of humanity deeper in the past than anyone had imagined. The story of "establishment" archaeologists resisting Dart's assertions needs frequent retelling - if only to prevent recurrance.

In "The Great Discoveries" Fagan shows how archaeology slowly, hesitantly moved from a rich man's [and sometimes woman's] hobby to begin to take its place as a serious science.
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By A Customer on December 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Gold-laden pharaohs, grinning skeletons, long-forgotten civilizations mantled in swirling mists: the world of archaeology evokes adventure and romance." Eyewitness to Discovery is a great find in itself with over fifty selections of great discoveries. After starting with 'The Discovery of Human Origins' Fagan takes us on a world-wide tour from the Near East to Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, finishing with how archaeology becomes a science. My favorites: Assyrian Palaces at Nimrud; Nubian kings of Kerma; Royal Cemetary at Ur; Horsemen of Pazyryk; Terracotta Army of China; Lords of Sipan....too many to list! Every armchair archaeologist should have this book.
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