It is something like a quarter of a century since I first undertook to write this book. I now know less than I did then, and will probably in the following pages more often recommend what not to do than what to do. That is perhaps as it should be. It cannot be affirmed too often that bad scholarship in the field generally involves the fruitless and final obliteration of evidence, and bad scholarship is still all too prevalent there. On the positive side, I have described certain methods and principles which, on the basis of trial and much error, I have found less harmful than others that have been employed. Many of the selected methods and principles are derived from those of the greatest of all archaeological excavators, General Pitt Rivers. Others I have learned from colleagues and from the workmen whom I have employed in various parts of the world. A few may be of my own devising. They are offered, not as laws, but as the notes and reminiscences of a lengthy and varied archaeological experience. For the most part I have refrained from discussing aspects of field-archaeology of which I myself have no considerable first-hand knowledge. The repeated use of the first personal pronoun is a reminder to the reader that some at least of the limitations of this essay are appreciated by the author.
If there be a connecting theme in the following pages, it is this: an insistence that the archaeologist is digging up, not things, but people. Unless the bits and pieces with which he deals be alive to him, unless he have himself the common touch, he had better seek out other disciplines for his exercise. Of this more will be said in the first and last chapters, but I would make it clear at once that here is an earthy book, inapt to clerkly hands. Not for an instant, of course, is it pretended that the spade is mightier than the pen; they are twin instruments; but, in this matter of digging, the controlling mind must have in a developed degree that robust three-dimensional quality which is less immediately essential to some other inquiries. In a simple direct sense, archaeology is a science that must be lived, must be 'seasoned with humanity'. Dead archaeology is the driest dust that blows.
The substance of this book constituted the Rhind Lectures for 1951. In its preparation I must isolate two acknowledgements: to Miss Kathleen Kenyon, my colleague and merciless critic for many years, and to Miss Theodora Newbould who has relentlessly urged me from chapter . . .