So this week I read a book about archaeology titled “Staub Steine Scherben” from a colleague working at the German Archaeological Institute. It is a book about what Archaeology is, what it means and how it can help us. I generally like books like these as they offer a glimpse into our profession not biased by Hollywood. It is a book that covers everything, well it rather touches everything…
What is the book about?
So the book, only published in German so far, is about the profession of Archaeology and its meaning to modern day society. It roughly features three chapters (before excavation, during excavation, and after excavation) with an introduction and epilogue. The book starts by defining Archaeology and why we do it. It then starts to explain certain methods like surveys, remote sensing, excavation techniques, probing, dating, … It covers nearly everything.
I would argue that the book is a love letter to Archaeology. It explains with which methods we as archaeologists work to uncover the past. The book covers why Archaeology is important and how this relatively small academic field can have huge societal impact. It also explains how painstakingly archaeologists need to work to find the information they seek, something that gets overlooked in modern media permanently.
What did I like?
So the first thing that I like is that this book gives an overview on archaeological practices. From surveying to excavation and processing, I think nearly everything is mentioned here. The authors dips here and there also into Digital and Computational Archaeology, but not in-depth as this book is about practical archaeology.
I also liked his epilogue that offers reasons on why Archaeology is actually something great (although general perception usually sees it as a luxury rather than a necessity). In his last chapters Notroff starts to explain the wider implications Archaeology has. I think it is worthwhile to listen (well to read). I also liked reading about a project I am involved in (GlAssur) and a friend – we seem to share – who is into experimental Archaeology and researches old recipes of ancient beer…
What did I not I like?
Not very much. I would argue that due to the sheer volume of methods mentioned, the author never gets into detail. Then again, this book is not for archaeologists. It is for people with an interest in Archaeology (which should not exclude each other…). I also think that the part that I liked, the epilogue, should have been more prominent in the book as I personally think this is the important part. All in all however, this book is a great book for people that like archaeology or parents that never understood what the heck we are actually doing day in and day out.
Jens Notroff is an archaeologist, illustrator, and science communicator, and works at the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin.