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Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists & the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble


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  • Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists & the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble 
    Title: Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists & the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble
    Author: JOHNSON MARILYN
    Format: HARDCOVER
    Publication date: 01/11/2014
    Imprint: ECCO
    Price: $16.99
    Publishing status: Active

    In the witty hands of Marilyn Johnson ( THE DEAD BEAT, THIS BOOK IS OVERDUE), the efforts of archaeologists to reclaim history from the muck and mire of empty lots, swamps, mounds, volcanic islands, and jungles is a vastly entertaining read that celebrates archaeological geekery and leaves us with a profound appreciation for the largely unsung work of the real life Indiana Joneses. For those who grew up wanting to be archaeologists and those who feel the pull of landscapes locked in time (Pompeii, Machu Picchu, the Parthenon), the profession of archaeology has a romantic aura and a battered, jeep-driven glamor. But though we romanticize archaeology in our culture, actual archaeologists are elusive creatures, hard to spot in civilization and even harder to pin down in the wild. Their work is impossibly slow and performed under brutal conditions. But in their piles of rot and rubble are a world of stories, from the lurid headlines about the body of the defeated British king found under a parking lot to the tale of a pinky bone that redefined human lineage. "We tell the stories of the losers of history," says one archaeologist. In chapter after chapter of this book, a story you thought you knew gets upended in the face of the evidence that the slow, patient, obsessed practitioners of the art and science of archaeology have pieced together. With a quirky eye and a deep appreciation for those who work offstage at demanding, multi-layered tasks- and for very little pay- the author has ferreted out the remarkably diverse stories of archaeologists who specialize in the history of slaves, in the humans of the Ice Age, in the classical era of Greece and Rome, in underwater excavations, in military bases, in threatened ruins worldwide, and in mummies. At the heart of this investigation is the story of a contract archaeologist whose work assessing land for development was derailed when he discovered a Revolutionary War cemetery; though the land it is on is still being sold for development as a strip mall, the archaeologist has become the graves' advocate and guardian. There is news in the book as well, as readers will witness an historic alliance between military bombers and archaeologists, to protect ancient treasures and ruins in war-torn countries. With excursions into the lore of Indiana Jones and Clan of the Cave Bear, and field trips to sugar plantations, mounds, Mediterranean islands, and iconic Incan ruins, and liberally sprinkled with both local beer and artisanal brews re-engineered from the remains of amphora found in King Midas's tomb, this book will excite those inclined to adventure and ruins, give comfort to readers looking for our place in time, and provide amusement and a fresh take on the world for non-fiction readers who appreciate the humor and intrepid journalism of Sarah Vowell, Mary Roach, and Bill Bryson.

    ISBN: 9780062127181
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