: Uncovering the past: a history of archaeology (9780195089219) : William H. Stiebing Jr. : Books
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Uncovering The Past: A History Of Archaeology

by William H. Stiebing Jr.
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publishing date: 08/12/1994
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780195089219
  • ISBN: 0195089219


When one hears the words "archaeology" or "archaeologist," often what comes to mind is an image of a romantic figure: Indiana Jones exploring exotic places in search of treasure and adventure. Indeed, novels, movies, and many popular accounts of archaeological discoveries have made this concept widespread. Tales of abandoned cities, ruined temples, primeval monuments, or mysterious ancient tombs tend to kindle the urge for adventure, exploration, or treasure hunting that seems to lie beneath the surface of even the most timid and conventional individuals. Today, however, archaeologists seek knowledge rather than objects that are intrinsically valuable. Their ultimate goal is to sweep aside the mists in which time has enveloped the past, helping us to understand vanished peoples and cultures.

In Uncovering the Past, William H. Stiebing, Jr. offers an absorbing nontechnical history of archaeology, tracing the study of ancient material culture from its beginnings in the Renaissance through its development into the sophisticated modern discipline we know today. The first study to focus on archaeology as a discipline, Stiebing has organized this concise history into the four stages of archaeological development. The first two stages (1450-1860 and 1860-1925), known as the "heroic age," focus on the exploits of colorful, dynamic excavators who have made their mark on history and our imaginations. We read accounts of Giovanni Belzoni and the removal of the seven-ton colossus of Ramesses II, which was dragged by wooden platform and transported by boat from Egypt to London; we witness the cleryman John Peters's skirmish with Arab tribesmen, who surrounded his excavation site and finally pillaged and burned his camp; and Heinrich Schliemann's quest to prove the authenticity of Homer's Iliad by searching for ancient Troy along the Turkish coast. And we watch as archaeology comes of age as an academic discipline, employing stratigraphical excavation techniques, typographical sequence dating, and stratigraphically based pottery chronology--laying the foundation for universal archaeological activity. The third phase (1925-1960) marked the era of "Modern Archaeology," a time when, using the now generally accepted stratigraphical method of excavation, scholars were able to synthesize data to define individual cultures and trace their development through time. This period saw a greater use of scientific instruments and procedures to locate, date, and interpret remains, such as aerial photography, metal detectors, and most importantly, carbon-14 dating and tree-ring chronology. Lastly, Stiebing discusses the fourth phase of development (1960-present) which introduced a greater desire and need for a more complete understanding of ancient cultures, including their ecology, and attempts to explain why certain cultural phenomena occurred. He goes on to examine the greater emphasis on a cultural revolutionary approach, coupled with technological advances in robotics and computers over the last decade and a half and their commonplace role in modern archaeology.

With over eighty photographs, illustrations, and maps, this vivid history is an outstanding introduction to the intriguing field of archaeology, chronicling the development of this former pastime of dilettantes into a rigorous science.

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  • An excellent starting point.
    From Amazon

    Finally! A readable, fun archaeology book!

    As a university student of anthropology and archaeology with of course certain peculiar specializations and interests all my own, I often found myself lacking in a truly readable account of archaeology and its history in the general sense, though various lectures had tried to assemble such a survey (without success). 'Uncovering the Past' provides this account admirably, covers achaeological development over the entire globe, including western Europe, the ancient Near East, Egyptology, Aegean archaeology, the Far East, Africa and the Americas and Mesoamerica.

    If you're interested in archaeology at all, whether at the academic level or purely for your own personal entertainment, I think this book provides an excellent starting point without all of the tedium that arises when one attempts to see the 'big picture' or acquire some sense of the general historical foundations of the field by treading through endless detailed site publications from various time periods or even summary accounts of any geographical region.

    To put it another way: sit down and spend an afternoon reading it cover to cover, you'll enjoy it!

  • A perfect overview and starting point!
    From Amazon

    This book was understandable since it lacked scientific jargon. It was still in depth and expository without containing too many confusing statements that so many other archeological books heavily rely upon. The text was arranged in an organized way and covered a very wide topic area. This book was interesting from beginning to end and the various pictures added the pugnancy of the book's texts tremendously. My ONLY criticism of this book is the mention of biblical topics somewhat frequently and the over use of the word 'antiquites'! Yet, it gave a flavor of different ancient worlds and explained archeology quite nicely. Overall it was a very good read.

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