Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble


Today’s nonfiction post is on Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson. It is 272 including notes and it is published by HarperCollins. The cover is sand with a hammer, a skull, and necklace on it. The intended reader is someone who likes good nonfiction and is interested in archaeology. There is no sex, no language, and no violence in this book; ages 10 and up can read this with pleasure. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

Review- Pompeii, Machu Picchu, the Valley of the Kings, the Parthenon- the names of these legendary archaeological sites conjure up romance and mystery. The news is full of archaeology: treasures found ( British king under parking lot) and treasure lost ( looters, bulldozers, natural disaster, and war). Archaeological research tantalizes us with possibilities (are modern humans really part Neanderthal?). Where are the archaeologists behind these stories? What kind of work do they actually do, and why does it matter?
Marilyn Johnson’s Lives in Ruins is an absorbing and entertaining look at the lives of contemporary archaeologists, chases them through the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and even Machu Picchu, and excavates their lives. Her subjects share stories we rarely read in history books, about slaves and Ice Age hunters, ordinary soldiers of the American Revolution, children of the first century, Chinese woman warriors, sunken fleets, and mummies.
What drives these archaeologists is not the money (meager) or the jobs (scarce) or the working conditions (dangerous), but their passion for the stories that would otherwise be buried and lost.

Review- I really enjoyed reading this book and I am going to be reading Johnson’s other books. It is very well written with excellent foot and end notes. The people we meet are interesting and the story of modern archaeology itself is moving and tragic. The archaeologists that Johnson interviews are both interesting and moving. They are in a profession that has never had enough of anything. Never enough money, never enough time, and never enough respect. By respect I mean this- Archaeologists just do not have the space they need to work and they do not have the people they need to really get some work done. Johnson does capture my dream of being an Archaeologist that I had as a child. I wanted to climb the mountains to Machu Picchu and we get to see it through her eyes. Johnson does a great job. I recommend this book with pleasure.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I was given this book by HarperCollins in exchange for my honest review.