Boy with the Bronze Axe , Kathleen Fidler (1968)
Read this back in the 70s and wanted to be the boy. It made me see how the evidence of the past could be evolved into a narrative. With facts acting as anchors to interpretation.
Come, Tell Me How You Live, Agatha Christie Mallowan (1946)
Opened my eyes to the new world I was inhabiting , the Near East, which was as rich in characters, spices and modern experience as it was in the deep past. At last got to stay in the Pera Palace in Istanbul in the 90s. Kind of wanted them to walk down the stairs. Learned to see the world differently.
3,000 Decorative Patterns of the Ancient World, Flinders Petrie (1911)
This seminal book, led me to the genius of classification and data sorting in a pre-digital world. It also showed how because one group at one time used a particular pattern, it did not mean correlation of meaning or contact. Very handy for combating pseudo-archaeology.
Picts, Anna Ritchie (1989)
Opening up my own country’s past, which had until then been couched in terms of “mysterious” and “unknown”, and showed that investigation and collection of available data could transform a culture. The information is there – if you look.
Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice, Colin Renfrew & Paul Bahn (1991)
The reason I have this here is because I had it, and although it is the most complete, wide-ranging archaeological textbook in the world to date – I never read it. Recently in 2009 I found it there, still in my bookshelf, I
have still to read it.
Archaeology: An Introduction, Kevin Greene (1983)
Genuine, honest and useful, with loads to learn about the discovery and excavation of sites, the study of human remains and animal bones, radiocarbon dating, museums and ‘heritage’ displays, and reveals the methods used by archaeologists. In effect it is the inspiration of the BAJR Guide. Indeed one guide is largely thanks to Kevin’s generous nature.
Bluffer’s Guide to Archaeology, Paul G. Bahn (1995)
Snappy little book containing facts, jargon, and inside information, but is a one trick pony. Still like it though.
Any Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (1851 – present)
The volumes of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland are a treasure house of everything that is ever happened in Scotland for over 160 years. Now digitised and searchable, it is one of my favourite books and digital resources.
The Ascent of Man, Dr Jacob Bronowksi (1973)
Although not strictly archaeology, this was a book that taught you how to think, to question and evolve thought. It showed how our own species created our society via our inexorable ability to understand and control nature.
The Lands of Ancient Lothian: Interpreting the Archaeology of the A1, Olivia Lelong & Gavin MacGregor (2008)
The upgrading of part of the A1 road in south-east Scotland prompted the excavation of eleven archaeological sites. These spanned a period of 5,000 years from the early fourth millennium BC to the early fifth century AD. This book showed that an academically solid and data filled book need not follow the dry mores of similar publications. Here the approach was to tell a chronological narrative in a richly textured mix of writing and images. If I ever write a book – this is how it should look.
David Connolly is the founder of the British Archaeological Jobs and Resources (BAJR) website and runs, along with archaeologist Maggie Struckmeier, the Past Horizons website, a web portal specialising in the reporting of archaeological news and projects from around the globe.