Lives in RuinsPosted: January 12, 2015
Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble
Harper (November 11, 2014), 293 pages
Kindle Edition $8.89, Amazon Hardcover $17.27
eBook borrowed from the Santa Clara County Library System
I have long been familiar with the field of archaeology. I was, after all, a classics major in college, studying the languages, history, culture, and art & archeology of Greece and Rome. In the 1980’s I subscribed the Biblical Archaeology Review (sometimes called the National Enquirer of Biblical archaeology), and again more recently in the iPad edition.
Lives in Ruins is all about archaeology and archaeologists. It not by any means an academic exercise. Not only does Johnson visit and interview archaeologists, she actually goes to work in the field. The book opens with her paying the standard fee, just like any other student, to work on a dig in the Caribbean. Right out of the gate Johnson reminded me that there is a lot more to archaeology than that of the Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern worlds. This site was focused in the remains of the slave trade in the eighteenth century.
Johnson pays a lot of attention to the archaeology of the American Revolution in the eastern United States. And she does give classical archaeology its due. She spends a week working on a dig on a small island on the coast of Cyprus.
Lives in Ruins, however, is more about the archaeologists than the archaeology. She writes about people dedicated to their work, often living on a shoestring, intent upon moving their investigations forward, even at the expense of financial security.
It is a fascinating world, and Johnson does a masterful job of portraying it.