Kate Devlin

I am procrastinating from cleaning and marking and this seemed a lovely way to do it. Actually, I actively want to be stranded on a desert island with a ton of books.

Anyway, I’ve opened the steamer trunk while humming “Can you dig it?”, so here we go…

First out of the trunk is Glyn Daniel’s “The Hungry Archaeologist in France“. I was given a copy of this during my undergraduate degree and I absolutely loved the idea of a “gossiping guide to caves and graves” (as he called it) with personal recommendations for restaurants thrown in too. In 2001 I put Chapter 6 to good use when I went to do some work laser scanning in Rouffingnac. Four days of duck confit and wine. Bliss.

Megaw and Simpson’s “Introduction to British Prehistory” is next. Prof Simpson was a lecturer of mine when I was at QUB. He was the one who told me I’d got my degree on results day, so I have happy memories of that. This was the book that changed my whole perspective on the past when, as a first year undergraduate, I saw that Neolithic people were using stone dressers in Skara Brae that wouldn’t look out of place in a design magazine today.

Mike Parker Pearson’s “The Archaeology of Death and Burial” is in that trunk! Wonderful, fascinating book! Incredibly engaging. Also the book my daughter bought me as a Christmas present the year she was born (she may have had help with that).

Matthew Johnson’s “Archaeological Theory” is also definitely in there. When faced with theory, it’s great to find a text that’s accessible, readable and gentle when it comes to the nuances of hermeneutics and the like. Also, I’m going to love any book about archaeology that begins “Archaeology can be very boring, distressing and physically uncomfortable”.

J. P. Mallory, and T. E. McNeill, “The Archaeology of Ulster“. Another nostalgia choice: two of my former lecturers at QUB. I loved every minute of my undergrad studies, including Mallory’s military-style digs at Navan where laughing was frowned upon and kneeling – not sitting – was the barked order of the day, and McNeills assertions that the Vikings were “the football hooligans of Europe” and thus did not merit an entire module’s worth of teaching.

Murray and Logue (Eds) “Battles, boats and bones“. This is a book about excavations and discoveries in N. Ireland from 1987-2008. I worked on a couple of those sites back in my digging days, and I recognise plenty of people in a lot of the other sites, so that’s another one for the nostalgia pile. It’s getting a bit high, that pile, but desert islands demand nostalgia.

Alan Sorrell’s “Reconstructing the Past“. That’s what I do, except I do it with a computer. This book is a selection of Sorrell’s sketches and paintings along with a description of the sites. My copy has “Happy birthday Shirley, 1983” scribbled on the front. I think I got more out of this book than Shirley did.

Ralph Merrifield’s “The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic“. Picked it up in a charity shop. Loved it. All sorts of things on bellarmine witch-bottles and mummified cats. What’s not to like?

E.H. Gombrich’s “The Story of Art” is going to be in the steamer trunk too. It’s the world’s best selling art book, the cover informs me. It isn’t strictly archaeological but it does open with rock art and spans time from the palaeolithic onwards. It seeks to explain what drives people to create and to leave their mark, which is pretty much what we try to do as well. Also, it has lots of nice pictures to look at when the views of sand and palm trees get too monotonous.

For my tenth book I was tempted to opt for Jean M. Auel’s dynastic and ridiculous (but entertaining) Earth’s Children series, but then I remembered a much better source of archaeological fiction, and so I’m opting for Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. Amelia, along with husband Radcliffe Emerson and son Ramses, is a wonderful, comic, feisty, feminist adventurer with an amazing and inflated sense of self-confidence. I could quite happily sit on the sand and read my way through all 19 of the books. Elizabeth Peters died last year but her wit and humour lives on in Amelia.

(Can I have some paper in the steamer trunk too? I have my own archaeological book to finish. I should probably have chosen all the texts I’ll need for that instead. Ah well.)

Dr Kate Devlin is a Lecturer in the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is a qualified computer scientist and archaeologist and is passionate about combining both in her research, focusing on digital cultural heritage.

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