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.