When one hears the words "archaeology" or "archaeologist," often what comes to mind is an image of a romantic figure: Indiana Jones exploring exotic places in search of treasure and adventure. Indeed, novels, movies, and many popular accounts of archaeological discoveries have made this concept widespread. Tales of abandoned cities, ruined temples, primeval monuments, or mysterious ancient tombs tend to kindle the urge for adventure, exploration, or treasure hunting that seems to lie beneath the surface of even the most timid and conventional individuals. Today, however, archaeologists seek knowledge rather than objects that are intrinsically valuable. Their ultimate goal is to sweep aside the mists in which time has enveloped the past, helping us to understand vanished peoples and cultures.
In Uncovering the Past, William H. Stiebing, Jr. offers an absorbing nontechnical history of archaeology, tracing the study of ancient material culture from its beginnings in the Renaissance through its development into the sophisticated modern discipline we know today. The first study to focus on archaeology as a discipline, Stiebing has organized this concise history into the four stages of archaeological development. The first two stages (1450-1860 and 1860-1925), known as the "heroic age," focus on the exploits of colorful, dynamic excavators who have made their mark on history and our imaginations. We read accounts of Giovanni Belzoni and the removal of the seven-ton colossus of Ramesses II, which was dragged by wooden platform and transported by boat from Egypt to London; we witness the clergyman John Peters's skirmish with Arab tribesmen, who surrounded his excavation site and finally pillaged and burned his camp; and Heinrich Schliemann's quest to prove the authenticity of Homer's Iliad by searching for ancient Troy along the Turkish coast. And we watch as archaeology comes of age as an academic discipline, employing stratigraphical excavation techniques, typographical sequence dating, and stratigraphically based pottery chronology--laying the foundation for universal archaeological activity. The third phase (1925-1960) marked the era of "Modern Archaeology," a time when, using the now generally accepted stratigraphical method of excavation, scholars were able to synthesize data to define individual cultures and trace their development through time. This period saw a greater use of scientific instruments and procedures to locate, date, and interpret remains, such as aerial photography, metal detectors, and most importantly, carbon-14 dating and tree-ring chronology. Lastly, Stiebing discusses the fourth phase of development (1960-present) which introduced a greater desire and need for a more complete understanding of ancient cultures, including their ecology, and attempts to explain why certain cultural phenomena occurred. He goes on to examine the greater emphasis on a cultural revolutionary approach, coupled with technological advances in robotics and computers over the last decade and a half and their commonplace role in modern archaeology.
With over eighty photographs, illustrations, and maps, this vivid history is an outstanding introduction to the intriguing field of archaeology, chronicling the development of this former pastime of dilettantes into a rigorous science.
"This is an excellent survey of the history of archaeology. The excitement of the early discoveries comes through."--Professor Kathleen Fuller, Johnson County Community College
"A compelling, systematic depiction of the evolution of the field."--Science News
"This is a great book for supplement to the often boring intro text. it gives an enjoyable history of the field. it is well-written and user friendly to young students. I am very impressed."--Sharon Steadman, Hamilton College
"This is a wonderful book for a survey history of archaeology course. It is written at a level for undergraduate's to enjoy, and it is fairly comprehensive of the subject."--Matthew R. Goodrum, Indiana University
"Steibing's concise, wonderfully vivid, engrossing history conveys a sense of archaeology as a great collective adventure by which humanity retrieves its past."--Publishers Weekly
"His fast-paced narrative sustains archaeology's aura of romance and adventure while also revealing its more methodical and scholarly aspects....A well-organized and thorougly enjoyable history of one of the more alluring sciences."--Booklist
"Profusely illustrated....The chief advantage of this volume is its usefulness as an overview for students of the comparatively new discipline of archaeology."--Library Journal
"There has never been a general history written about the field of archaeology that is both comprehensive and accessible to the general reader. Uncovering the Past fills this niche admirably....Stiebing gives lively accounts....Will entertain, inform and delight the reader."--Natural Science Book Club
"Well written. Meets a need not fulfilled for a general intro. course."--Dr. Bruce Cresson, Boston University
"A good . . . history of the field and major discoveries."--John J. Shea, State University of New York at Stony Brook
"Well written."--Andrews, New College of University of Southern Florida
"Provides the best, most readable survey on the history of archaeology. . . . succeeds in covering a great deal of information that . . . students will find engaging."--Christopher R. DeCorse, Syracuse University
"Highly informative and useful summary of the great pioneers who created the science of archaeology. Bravo!"--Dr. David Soren, University of Arizona
"Nice coverage of early archaeology in Mediterranean."--J. Henderson, Cornell University
"Very readable and covers a wide range of material."--D. Varisco, Hofstra University