By Bjørnar Olsen, Michael Shanks, Timothy Webmoor, & Christopher Witmore
University of California Press, 34.95, 266 pages
Archaeology: The Discipline of Things by Bjørnar Olsen, Michael Shanks, Timothy Webmoor, and Christopher Witmore is a collaborative effort between four archaeologists united in their “unease,” with the state of archaeology in their object-oriented past. Archaeology is literally defined as the “science of old things.” Part of their anxiety stems from interdisciplinary rivalry with anthropologists, who holds them in contempt, and equates their fieldwork to “manual labor and the working class.” Furthermore, there is society’s perception of archaeologists, “a reactionary heritage of a mindless antiquarianism that survived in the dusty storerooms of museums,” and as a discipline… “divorced from human toil and social relationships.” The book also discusses what it means to be human and how humans relate to things of the past.
What this book does for the reader is give them a history of the making of the archaeologist, as well as provide a contemporary and comprehensive guide on the function of archaeology, such as research design, survey/excavation strategies, actual field work, finds process, and analysis. Although this book may be intangible to the layman, who might find the academic discussions tedious and dry, it is perfect for students and professionals in the fields of anthropology and archaeology.
Reviewed by Sheila Erwin