Archaeology Recommended Reading

Here’s some recommended reading from our Bulletin Editor Ryan Wheeler!

1) Books by David Hurst Thomas, including his textbook Archaeology. You wouldn’t think that a textbook would be at the top of my reading list, but this is a terrific book. Each chapter includes all of these great quotes. This book demonstrated to me as a college senior that archaeology was for smart people. Also, his book Skull Wars on the Kennewick Man (the Ancient One) is a superb look into the complex relationship between tribes and archaeologists.

2) Loren Eiseley’s The Night Country. Eiseley was an archaeologist and paleoanthropologist at UPenn and this is his semi-autobiographical memoir. It is so beautifully written, and funny, and gives some great insights into 20th century archaeology by a master of the profession.

3) Encounter with an Angry God by Carobeth Laird. This book is about her life with archaeologist and ethnographer John Peabody Harrington, who was brilliant and maybe more than a little crazy. I found this in the stacks as a grad student and couldn’t put it down.

4) In Small Things Forgotten by James Deetz. In many ways this is the book that defined the field of historical archaeology.

5) What This Awl Means by Janet Spector. This is one of the first and remains one of the most creative and engaging books in the field of feminist archaeology.

6) The Early Mesoamerican Village by Kent Flannery. The major selling points of this book are that it is well written, highly readable, and that between the chapters there are these fictional interludes featuring The Great Synthesizer, The Skeptical Graduate Student, and The Real Mesoamerican Archaeologist. Archaeological writing at its best!

7)  The Science of Archaeology? Richard ‘Scotty’ MacNeish’s autobiographical musing on the future of archaeology.

8) Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries by Kenneth Feder. This book covers all the kooky ideas about North American archaeology, and why people believe them. It’s lots of fun, well written, and you can’t help learning along the way.

9) Gods, Graves, and Scholars by C.W. Ceram. This was published in 1949, but tells the stories of many of the great archaeological discoveries up to the mid-20th century. Heinrich Schliemann at Troy, Howard Carter and King Tut, etc. You sorta have to read this if you are an archaeologist.

10) The Bog People by Peter Glob. Iron Age mummies from European bogs. Some crazy preservation that you only get in wet sites (anaerobic conditions). If you read this, you will want more on wet-site archaeology!

11) Lucy: the Beginnings of Humankind by Donald Johanson. I carried this book around with me for a year in high school, reading and re-reading it. Dated now, with so many new discoveries, but really well written, and it gives a sense of the scholarly battles that still rage over human origins. Pair with Lee Berger’s more recent Almost Human and you get a pretty good sense of the complexities of paleoanthropology.

12) Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage by Bill Rathje. This is a fun book and recounts the work that Rathje and his University of Arizona students did on modern refuse disposal habits and how this could be applied to archaeological sites. Rathje was a big proponent of Behavioral Archaeology, so you get some of that theory as well.

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