FIVE BOOKS

We asked established archaeologists and authors to offer their thoughts on the five books (archaeological or otherwise) that they felt that graduates should read. Last issue we heard from John Barrett, Matthew Johnson and Andrew Fleming. This issue, the contributions come from:

Illustration by Quentin Drew


Roberta Gilchrist's Five Books


I intended to choose five very different, unconnected books. Once listed, I can see that they share the themes of landscape, space or gender that particularly interest me. All of the five are thought-provoking, and several have made a special impact on me. I recommend them variously for their insights, lessons or simple elegance.

The first is Richard Bradley's Altering the Earth: The Origins of Monuments in Britain and Continental Europe. (The Rhind Lectures 1991-2. Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh 1993). For me, Bradley remains the most important and original archaeological writer, seamlessly drawing together archaeology, landscapes and cultural metaphors to convey a sense of meaning and excitement about the past. Any of his books are excellent studies in archaeological interpretation, demonstrating that it is possible to combine creativity with careful analysis of evidence.

Essential reading for any student of later medieval archaeology is my second choice: Barbara Hanawalt's The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England (Oxford University Press, 1986). Hanawalt is a medieval historian, but her imaginative use of documentary evidence gives a vivid and material picture of life and death in the medieval village. She uses details from coroners' rolls to show where men, women and children died accidental deaths, and what they were doing at the time of death. Her work provides the social and spatial canvass that is sadly lacking in the archaeology of medieval England. Her own perception of medieval archaeology is telling in this respect: "all those empty landscapes..." (Hanawalt, pers com).

My third choice could only be Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History (ed. Gilbert Herdt, Zone Books, New York, 1996). I have chosen this in response to popular demand from my own students, who consider sexuality to be the hottest topic in gender archaeology. This excellent group of case studies explores the cultural construction of sexuality and the factors that create different values of sexuality, ranging from the well-cited Native American 'Berdache' and Byzantine eunuchs to the lesser-known Hijras of India.

For anyone interested in the topic of gender, an important starting point would be one of Henrietta Moore's many works. Moore is an anthropologist who studied originally with Ian Hodder. Her work on gender and feminist anthropology has been widely influential in archaeology. I have chosen in particular Moore's A Passion for Difference. (Polity Press, Cambridge, 1994). In this volume she presents a series of essays, including an important reconsideration of the social definition of gender. She, amongst other feminist scholars, calls for a re-examination of the relationship between gender and the body in relation to categories of sexual difference.

Finally, for sheer enjoyment, I have chosen a feminist writer whose works are not widely enough known. Sylvia Townsend Warner was a writer, poet and artist, closely linked with Dorset and East Anglia. Some of her writing possesses a special resonance: a sensitivity for landscapes, an intuitive approach to the past and an ironic appreciation of her own life and times. Her volume of letters is memorable for her evocation of the heavy East Anglian sky, relieved frequently by church towers that seem to loom censoriously! (Sylvia Townsend Warner's Letters, edited by William Maxwell, London, Chatto and Windus, 1982).


Roberta Gilchrist is Reader in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Reading, and Consultant Archaeologist to Norwich Cathedral. She has written widely on the topics of gender and church archaeology, and her book Gender and Material Culture. The Archaeology of Religious Women has just been published in paperback (Routledge).

Roberta Gilchrist 1997

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Charles Orser's Five Books


Being asked to select just five books graduate students must read is a devilishly clever assignment. But after thinking about it a great deal, I have chosen the following books, based on my interest in creating a global historical archaeology in a transdisciplinary environment:

1. The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization, and Cultural Change 950-1350 by Robert Bartlett (1993). Historian Bartlett demonstrates, even using some archaeological information, that the roots of the modern world clearly lie in earlier times.

2. Europe and the People Without History by Eric Wolf (1982). Despite the critics, this is still a classic by one of this century's greatest anthropological thinkers. Read after Bartlett, it provides a profound account of the history of our world today.

3. Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said (1993). This book provides a wealth of thought-provoking ideas to be mulled by anyone interested in the nature of the post-1492 world and its relationship to the attitudes and biases present in the world now.

4. The Past is a Foreign Country by David Lowenthal (1985). This well-known book, along with Said's, challenges us to think about the impact today of the things we study in the past. This book asks us to think about heritage presentation and production, topics of major significance to contemporary archaeologists.

5. A History of Archaeological Thought by Bruce Trigger (1989). I've included this superb classic because every archaeologist should know something about the history and theoretical roots of their discipline. But this book is much more than a simple history of archaeology; it is a theoretical treatise on the entire discipline.


Charles E. Orser, Jr., is Professor of Anthropology at Illinois State University. His recent books are Historical Archaeology (with Brian Fagan, 1995), A Historical Archaeology of the Modern World (1996), and Images of the Recent Past: readings in historical archaeology (1996). He is also the founding editor of a new journal published by Plenum Press, the International Journal of Historical Archaeology.

Charles E. Orser, Jr. 1997

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Randy McGuire's Five Books


Picking out five books that every archaeology graduate student should read is quite a daunting task; it would actually be far easier to generate a list of 100 books rather than only five. Even as I was typing this list, I was plagued with doubts as to why I had included these five volumes and not some others. Like the archaeologists before me who have undertaken this task for assemblage, I found myself drawn to several titles that are not works of archaeology. This is perhaps because I feel that most students are more likely to neglect non-archaeological books than works in our field. By the same token, I found myself drawn to older works that might have dropped from the horizon of current students. Finally, I found that some of my favourites, such as Eric Wolf's Europe and the People Without History, and Stephen Gould's books (especially Wonderful Life), had already been listed by earlier contributors to this exercise. I decided therefore to not repeat any titles previously put forward, but produce a fresh list. So, here it goes:

Karl Marx. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. 1852. It probably will surprise no one who knows my work that I start my list with a work by Marx. (As we all know, the problem with leftists is that they only read leftist literature. Of course, the problem with conservatives is that they do not read.) The classic work by Marx, which every literate person should read, is Capital, but The 18th Brumaire is the finest example of Marx's own analysis of history. As such, it provides a model for understanding his approach and the insights that it can bring to our study of history. The 18th Brumaire also presents us with the fundamental paradox of cultural change that we as archaeologists must address that is, that people make history, but not just as they please; they do so under circumstances and conditions that are inherited from the past.

V. Gordon Childe. Man Makes Himself. 1936. Childe was one of the first archaeologists to take Marx's paradox seriously. Man Makes Himself is terribly out of date in terms of substance and has been subjected to many overly simplistic readings. It is, however, probably the most influential work of archaeology, both within our field and in general, of the twentieth century. Childe's theory and insights are also considerably deeper and more useful than a simple reading reveals. This book remains for me a fundamental work in archaeology worth reading again and again.

Robert McC. Adams. The Evolution of Urban Society. 1966. This book built upon Childe's contributions and is probably the best example of comparative analysis in archaeology. Again, much of the substance of the work is out of date, but for me the method, theory, and perspective of the book remain insightful and useful for contemporary archaeology.

Vine Deloria. Custer Died For Your Sins. 1969. Deloria's critique of anthropologists may be more relevant to US students than British students but I think that all of us need to listen when the other talks back. As an undergraduate student, this book caused me to seriously question my goal of becoming an archaeologist. The doubt that it placed in my mind has never gone away and has been one of the most powerful influences on my own career.

Finally, for something completely different, with the realisation that we tend to take ourselves and what we do far too seriously: Donald Ogden Stewart. Aunt Polly's Story of Mankind. 1923. Stewart wrote this satirical novel where Aunt Polly tells her nieces and nephews the story of mankind in the 1920s. Stewart's better known work was A Parody of History, but I find Aunt Polly much more fun for archaeologists since it starts with human evolution and works its way up to Aunt Polly and Uncle Frederick. It is a biting critique of the Eurocentrism of cultural evolutionism, of dominant histories, and of the US bourgeoisie in the early part of the century. As our century draws to a close I find more and more in it that applies to the America I live in today.


Randall McGuire is Professor of Anthropology at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York. For the last ten years he has worked with Elisa Villalpando of the Centro de INAH Sonora doing field research on the Trincheras Tradition of northern Sonora, Mexico. He has just initiated a project with Dean Saitta and Phil Duke on the Colorado Coal Strike of 1913- 1914. He is the author of A Marxist Archaeology (1992), and Death, Society, & Ideology in a Hohokam Community (1992). His recent articles include The Craft of Archaeology (with Michael Shanks) in American Antiquity, 1996 61(1):75-88.

Randall McGuire 1997

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