Craig Horton

The Human Past, edited by Chris Scarre

I have fond memories related to this, as it was my first ever archaeology textbook at university. Well, actually, it was my first ever archaeology textbook. Before university I hadn’t even considered archaeology as something that people actually studied, and initially I had intended to do a degree in geography. I chose an archaeology class as one of my 1st year courses ‘outside of my degree’, but I was quite sceptical. Three lectures later, I was furiously scribbling down notes from the pages of ‘The Human Past’, and completely caught up in an academic romance with my new favourite subject. We’re still going strong, and I’m due to graduate soon with a joint archaeology-geography degree!

Great Adventures in Archaeology, edited by Robert Silverberg

This is an entertaining collection of part-biographies, part-excerpts of original documents that my sister very kindly gave to me. Robert Silverberg, who in the foreword describes himself as “of the ranks of the armchair archaeologists”, takes a look at the lives and careers of Belzoni, Petrie, Carter, Layard, Hilprecht, Koldewey, Woolley, Stephens, Thompson, and notably for me, Heinrich Schliemann. I remember studying Schliemann during 2nd year of university and being both intrigued and slightly perturbed by his obsession to find Troy (which ultimately led him to dig straight through it) and the well-known instance in which Schliemann dressed his wife (a 17-year old Sophia) in jewellery from the excavations. It serves as a constant reminder of how much the discipline of archaeology has changed since those ‘antiquarian’ days, and also of how male-dominated the field was then (and, some would argue, still is…).

Ancient North America, by Brian Fagan

A rare beast, this one. Truly accessible textbooks are hard to come by, so Brian Fagan’s came as a delightful surprise, particularly considering how hefty a book it is. ‘Ancient North America’ is also a keeper because I intend to move to California after graduation, making it a very useful reference source!

The BBC German Vocabulary, by L. Hamilton

This book is possibly my favourite ever find from a 2nd-hand book sale. First published in 1947, it represents the work of L. Hamilton, who acted as BBC German Language Intelligence Supervisor during the Second World War. A wonderful, quirky piece of history, this book might also come in useful if I run into any German-speaking rescuers or fellow castaways. For example, we can sit on the Landungsbrücke (jetty) and watch the Kimm (horizon) for any passing Seenotflugzeug (sea rescue aircraft).

Reaper Man, by Terry Pratchett

I have long been a fan of Terry Pratchett, and this particular Discworld novel has something so re-readable about it. Reaper Man is filled with Pratchett’s unique observations and quirky humour, and his description of Death’s hall clock always tickles me: “It swings with a faint whum-whum noise, gently slicing thin rashers of interval from the bacon of eternity.” The book also revolves around the themes of life and death, and the place of the individual within this time-space construct; all of which I feel are very relevant to archaeology.

Field Archaeology: An Introduction by Peter Drewett and A Practical Guide to Recording Archaeological Sites, by RCAHMS

These two books were my first major introduction to the practical aspects of archaeology, which came as a refreshing change from all the archaeological theory that I had previously been cramming in. The ‘hands-on’ experience of archaeology is something that a lot of the professional archaeologists who I have spoken to have highlighted as being one of the original reasons why they fell in love with archaeology, and I think the same can be said for me. Heck, if I’m going to be marooned on an island, I’m going to do some archaeology! It can be my project and keep me sane, or at least, stop me from talking to a volleyball like Tom Hanks ended up doing.

The present state of Russia, Vol II by Friedrich Weber

Another collection of texts, this time a 1968 compilation of the travel journals kept by 18th Century explorers travelling through the wide expanse of Russia. I stumbled upon this gem in the university library while researching the Khanty-Mansi people of Siberia, and John Bernard Muller’s account of them (referred to as ‘Oftiacks’) caught my attention:

“Thofe People being utter Strangers to all Arts and Sciences, even Reading and Writing, and living in a downright State of Nature…”

Muller gives a detailed, albeit biased and condescending, description of the ‘Oftiacks’ that turned out to be quite useful for my assignment. After a few weeks alone on an island, I too might be described as “living in a downright State of Nature…”

Rubbish Theory by Michael Thompson

I read this as background material for my dissertation on the valuation of archaeology (monetary and otherwise). It has, surprisingly, quite an amusing introduction, and I am now reminded of it every time that I blow my nose. (Apologies, if you haven’t read Rubbish Theory, that last statement will make absolutely no sense.) The theory of rubbish itself makes for an interesting idea, and I could quite happily spend some time laying on the sand and pondering the implications of it for archaeological excavation and conservation.

The first archaeology essay that I submitted for my degree

I have saved the most obscure until last. I would want this on the island for two reasons. Number one, reading through it reminds me just how much I have developed over the past four years. Number two, on a cold desert island evening, it would make for excellent kindling.

 

 

Craig Horton is a 4th Year BSc (Joint Honours) Archaeology-Geography student at the University of Aberdeen

 

Advertisements

Suzi Richer

The books are in the chronological order that I read them, after all this is archaeology!

The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin
I feel ashamed to admit to both of the first two books! As a young teenager I was lucky enough to spend some time in Israel and visited sites like Cesarea and Masada, when this book came out I devoured it. It was an accessible (if somewhat obscure!) link between the people who had lived in the landscape I’d visited and the present day.

The Mayan Prophecies: Unlocking the Secrets of a Lost Civilisation by Adrian Gilbert and Maurice Cotterell
In a similar vein to the Bible Code, the Mayan Prophecies followed next; it was another chance to explore the inexplicable. However, this book first sparked my interest in Mesoamerican archaeology and I went on to write my assessed essay for A-level archaeology in Mayan symbolism.

Archaeological Theory: an Introduction by Matthew Johnson
I really enjoyed learning (and later teaching) archaeological theory, and this is such a great intro to the subject that it would be a shame to leave it behind. It would be a reminder that there’s more than one way to interpret the world.

The Future of the Past: Archaeology in the 21st Century by Eberhard Zangger
This was probably one of the first books that introduced me to geoarchaeology in the Mediterranean. More to the point it was accessible and enjoyable – it’s a popular science book rather than an academic text. It was suggested reading for a second year undergraduate course in Mediterranean landscape archaeology; looking back, it was probably one of the first seeds for my PhD, both in terms of subject area and contact my with PhD supervisor-to-be.

Tree Cultures: The Place of Trees, and Trees in their Place by Owain Jones and Paul Cloke
Not strictly an archaeology book, but one that I read early on in my PhD. It opened-up the idea that the environment, trees in particular, can be more than just a backdrop to people’s lives. The next step was to ask how we might see this in the past, it wasn’t something I managed to answer, but I’m glad I tried.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse
The reproduction volume of this eighteenth century cook book led to my interest in historic food. Adapting one of her recipes even landed me on ITV’s Britain’s Best Dish in 2010. Historic food is one of my many interest now, but my fiancée has an historic food company, The Copper Pot, so Hannah still gets an outing every now and again even though she’s buried on a bookcase with many other historic recipe books.

Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie
A great book, it’s on my list because it’s light-heated and entertaining, but mainly because of her insightful tip: never travel without a down pillow. After spending two sleepless weeks camping at altitude in Nepal, the idea of wrapping my down jacket in a fleece suddenly struck me. My own make shift down pillow. Bliss.

My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Néel
So again, this isn’t technically archaeology so much as ethnography/travel. It was recommend to me by Hayley Saul, director of HEART, while we were doing fieldwork in a culturally Tibetan area of the Nepali Himalayas. It makes you realise how raw life is in an extreme environment. It’s also inspirational – if you put your mind to it, anything’s possible – great to have on a desert island.

Pollen et spores d’Europe et d’Afrique du Nord by Maurice Reille
I’m assuming that my desert island is close to Europe or North Africa and that a microscope has washed up on the beach. This book, with its fantastic images, will come in handy for identifying unfamiliar pollen grains from sediments close to the archaeological site on the island!

Medieval Food Traditions in Northern Europe edited by Sabine Karg
This book will forever remind me of two (eventful) weeks in the Baltic last year on a family cruise with my future parents-in-law. After spending the first night at anchor in the English Channel while a temporary fix was made to a broken steering pump, the ship changed course and headed to Copenhagen ahead of schedule to get it fixed. I’m very glad it did. Not only does Copenhagen have a fantastic archaeology museum but I forked out to buy this book. It turned out to be an archaeo-botanical guide to the route of the cruise, giving me a whole new outlook for the shore visits. This was especially so for Tallinn, where in the middle of our Medieval lunch Nick proposed. I said ‘yes’ and then promptly continued to explain the archaeobotanical evidence for our lunch…

 

Suzi Richer is an environmental archaeologist, specialising in pollen analysis. Currently working for Worcestershire Archaeology, she provides a specialist pollen service for internal work and for external clients.