New Book Chronicle

Article excerpt

What do archaeologists do to earn their keep? A lot, and they write a lot, sometimes well, more often without much regard for their readers. A selection of what they do (or propose to do) in the field, advice on how to do it, and some examples of fieldwork, occupies the first part of June's New Book Chronicle.

Doing archaeology

HERBERT D.G. MASCHNER & CHRISTOPHER CHIPPINDALE (ed.). Handbook of Archaeological Methods. 2 volumes, viii+ 1470 pages, figures, tables. 2005. Lanham (MD): AltaMira; 0-7591-0078-0 hardback $149.95 & 99 [pounds sterling].

THOMAS F. KING. Doing Archaeology: A Cultural Resource Manager's Perspective. 168 pages, 22 figures. 2005. Walnut Creek (CA): Left Coast Press; 1-59874-003-2 paperback $21.95, 1-59784-002-4 hardback $59.

JERRY O'SULLIVAN & MICHAEL STANLEY (ed.). Recent Archaeological Discoveries on National Road Schemes 2004: Proceedings- of a Seminar for the Public, Dublin, September 2004 (Archaeology and the National Authority Monograph Series 2). x+170 pages, 114 b&w & colour illustrations, tables. 2005. Dublin: National Roads Authority; 0-9545955-1-3 paperback.

TODD W. BOSTWICK. Byron Cummings: Dean of Southwest Archaeology. xiv+352 pages, 35 illustrations, 10 tables. 2006. Tucson (AZ): University of Arizona Press; 978-0-8165-2477-8 hardback $55.

CHARLOTTE TRUMPLER (ed.), photographs by GEORG GERSTER. The Past from Above. (first English edition of Flug in die Vergangenheit publ. 2003 by Schirmer/Mosel, Munich). 416 pages, 516 colour plates. 2006. London: Frances Lincoln; 0-7112-2478-1 hardback 50 [pounds sterling].

TIMOTHY DARVILL (ed.). Stonehenge World Heritage site: an archaeological research framework. xiv+178 pages, 100 b&w & colour illustrations, 18 pull-out maps, 4 tables. 2005. London & Bournemouth: English Heritage/Bournemouth University; hardback.

TIMOTHY DARVILL. Billown Neolithic Landscape Project, Isle of Man. Eighth Report: 2003 (Bournemouth University School of Conservation Science Research Report 12). 64 pages, 33 illustrations. 2004. Bournemouth & Douglas: Bournemouth University School of Conservation Science/Manx National Heritage; 1-85899-216-8 paperback.

Never judge a hook by its cover, nor ideally until you have read the last word. Guilty on both counts, 1 offer the notes on the first book in June's selection with apologies. Nevertheless, it was an inauspicious start: a scruffy excavation shot adorns, twice, the cover of the Handbook of Archaeological Method, the two-volume companion to the Handbook of Archaeological Theory (cited as by Bentley, Maschner & Chippendale (sic!) 2005; probably Maschner & Bentley 2006, but AltaMira does not yet list it on its website). How are 'the methods necessary to put theory into practice' presented to 'advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students'? Will they, as one of the editors (MASCHNER, p. 29) hopes, 'find this an important and necessary reference work'? At 99 [pounds sterling], it would have to be. Maschner's introduction did not lift nay spirits: 'There is perhaps no more romanticized area of research than maritime archaeology' (p. 9), and 'Perhaps no area of research has been more historically romanticized than regional analysis' (p. 17). What? Spirits stayed low when I got to the chapter on excavation by Michael A. Glassow. Even accepting the author's (self) imposed limits, it is object-centred, US-centric, largely eschews recent advances, is inadequately cross-referenced and has a patchy bibliography. It also has the singular characteristic of possessing no illustrations, so perhaps the photograph on the cover had a purpose after all. However, the first part of the handbook appears unrepresentative of the whole; indeed there are many excellent chapters by the 43 contributors and I would urge students to go to the library and read, for example, the clear and comprehensive survey on remote sensing by Kenneth Kvamme, or the stimulating simulation and model-building chapter by James McGlade. …