Best Archaeology Books to Take With You This Summer

Relaxing by reading archaeology on the beach

Books for the beach or books for the trench? Holiday read or cutting edge theory?
With less than two weeks until we’re off to dig at Leiston Abbey,
wherever you’re going,
here’s the lowdown on the best archaeology books to take with you this summer.

Romance: The Lovers of Pound Hill, by Mavis Cheek

When archaeologist Molly Bonner arrives in the village of Lufferton Boney, her posh boots and alluring looks create quite a stir. But she has just one aim: to discover the truth behind Gnome – the giant (and slightly obscene) fertility symbol carved into the face of Pound Hill. The villagers may not know exactly what she’s up to, but if one thing is certain, her presence will alter their lives and loves for good.

SciFi: The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

Following the colonization of Mars by humans fleeing from an atomically devastated Earth, this collection of short stories chronicles the ensuing conflict between the native Martians and the new colonists. The first person off the ship is, of course… an archaeologist.

Humour: Motel of the Mysteries, by David Macaulay

Written in 1979, it tells the story of a future archaeologist who discovers an American motel, mistakenly interpreting its contents as a funerary and temple complex. From toilet bowl altars to sacred ‘do not disturb’ seals to protect the dead, this critique of why archaeologists get it wrong is also a comedy of misinterpretation and in-jokes that will have you in stitches.

Children’s: A Bone From A Dry Sea, by Peter Dickinson

Dickinson tells the tale of two girls whose lives, though born more than two million years apart, are linked. Our present day heroine, is spending the summer with her taphonomist father. Through the discovery of a perforated dolphin bone, we hear the story of Li, the young hominid who made it. Excusing some slightly dodgy evolutionary theory, this book does have a decidedly feminist slant as both girls face up to the domineering males of their time.

Current Affairs: Contemporary Archaeologies – Excavating Now, by Holtorf & Piccini

Covering everything from the history of car manufacturing to the ‘privatisation of experience’, this book brings together a heap of original case-studies including theme parks, Antarctic expedition bases, rocket engine test sites, tiger enclosures, Nevada peace camps and a stretch of gutter in Bristol. It explores not just the archaeology of the modern world, but also the roots of archaeology and its repertoire of questions, methodologies and popular appeals in the modern world. Great for historians and historiographers alike.

Politics: Archaeology as Political Action, by Randhall H. McGuire

On a slightly more serious note, how can archaeology contribute to a more humane world? McGuire builds on the history of archaeological and Marxist dialectical theory to show that archaeology is an inherently political activity. This book is a must read for anyone concerned with the processes of social change, with profound implications for archaeological interpretation, community collaboration and political intervention.

Crime: The Three Evangelists, by Fred Vargas

Of course, we couldn’t leave you without our pick of archaeological murder mysteries, could we? Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia? Mike Ripley’s Angel Underground? Labyrinth by Kate Mosse? Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth? All great, but this time we’re recommending The Three Evangelists, by Fred Vargas. It’s written by an archaeologist, but as to what it’s all about, we’ll leave you guessing…

And the one we’re all waiting for: The Lifers Club, by Francis Pryor

Not long ’til we’re back on the circuit with Alan Cadbury! The next installment in the adventures of the hard-living Fenland archaeologist and his small team of contract archaeologists is due out soon. We can hardly wait. If you’re coming to site, bring us a copy please please please?

Want to uncover some real archaeological mysteries? Support our dig or join us at Leiston Abbey.
The one question is, how are we going to fit all these great archaeology books into our bags?


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Written by Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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