The History of Archaeology
Paul Bahn (ed.)
This welcome book is essential reading for archaeology students, with 13 contributors exploring the discipline’s development in different countries. Bahn opens with a chapter on pre-modern views of the past, while Colin Renfrew concludes with comments on the future of archaeology.
For those with some familiarity with archaeology in Britain or Europe, the chapters on the Far East, Africa, Russia, and Latin America offer interesting, sometimes surprising comparisons. The development of a Latin American Social Archaeology during the 1970s, closely linked with political reactions against US imperialism, is a reminder that some archaeological practices and interpretations are not politically neutral.
The importance of this book is that it underlines the fact that interpretations of archaeological data are not objective. If that makes students of archaeology a little more circumspect about the next textbook they read — so much the better! Students really need to know something about the archaeologists behind a project — for instance, who taught them and where — before they can evaluate the conclusions those archaeologists present.
Review by Dr John Manle