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Monday, December 22, 2014

The History of Archeology: An Introduction Edited by Paul Bahn

The History of Archeology:
An Introduction Edited by Paul Bahn
published February 10th, 2014
Routledge Press

  The History of Archeology: An Introduction is a succinct college textbook meant to give an undergraduate a brief introduction to the personalities and issues in world archeology. Broadly speaking, there are three main periods of archeology- the pre scientific heroic/amateur period, where excavations were undertaken in the pursuit of glorious, striking artifacts that were typically exported from their area of discovery to western museums and private collections.  This period started, basically, in the late 19th century and continued into the mid 20th century.
The second period was the spread of archeology as an academic discipline leading up to advances in radiocarbon dating of objects that destroyed the central archeological task of deciding when objects they found in the ground were actually used.

    The third period, roughly dating from the 60s, is a reaction to many of the "assumptions" of scientific archeology by scholars familiar with critical theory, leading to a cross-pollination between archeology and other disciplines, like climate studies and systems theory, to create a more "theoretical" archeology that looked beyond digging up villages and figuring out when people lived there.

   After a couple chapters detailing the origins of the first period of Archeology, The History of Archeology: An Introduction is composed of a series of chapters discussing archeology in each separate part of the world, with a distinct emphasis towards notable local archeologists and an explanation of their issues and concerns.   Each chapter concludes with a brief "Bringing It Up To Date" which mentions contemporary issues for each geographical area, and a chapter ending bibliography.

  Personally, I found the bibliography disappointing, with many of the listed sources being untranslated books from the chapter subject location.  I understand why the authors would do that, but it limits the ability of English language students to actually follow up on many of these subjects.  Several of the authors explicitly point out the works for a given area that HAVE been translated into English, which would seem to make this the exception rather than the rule.

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