From Stonehenge to Samarkand: An Anthology of Archaeological Travel Writing

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Ever since Roman tourists scratched graffiti on the pyramids and temples of Egypt over two thousand years ago, people have traveled far and wide seeking the great wonders of antiquity. In From Stonehenge to Samarkand, noted archaeologist and popular writer Brian Fagan offers an engaging historical account of our enduring love of ancient architecture—the irresistible impulse to visit strange lands in search of lost cities and forgotten monuments.
Here is a marvelous history of archaeological tourism, with generous excerpts from the writings of the tourists themselves. Readers will find Herodotus describing the construction of Babylon; Edward Gibbon receiving inspiration for his seminal work while wandering through the ruins of the Forum in Rome; Gustave Flaubert watching the sunrise from atop the Pyramid of Cheops. We visit Easter Island with Pierre Loti, Machu Picchu with Hiram Bingham, Central Africa with David Livingstone. Fagan describes the early antiquarians, consumed with a passionate and omnivorous curiosity, pondering the mysteries of Stonehenge, but he also considers some of the less reputable figures, such as the Earl of Elgin, who sold large parts of the Parthenon to the British Museum. Finally, he discusses the changing nature of archaeological tourism, from the early romantic wanderings of the solitary figure, communing with the departed spirits of Druids or Mayans, to the cruise-ship excursions of modern times, where masses of tourists are hustled through ruins, barely aware of their surroundings.

From the Holy Land to the Silk Road, the Yucatán to Angkor Wat, Fagan follows in the footsteps of the great archaeological travelers to retrieve their first written impressions in a book that will delight anyone fascinated with the landmarks of ancient civilization.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It's fascinating to the contemporary reader for, among other reasons, a look backwards at current hot spots of the world such as Baghdad....The collection is an admirably well-produced survey of the personalities and accomplishments of those pioneering people eager to recapture past relics of human history."—The Washington Times

"Fagan's own excellent writing is prevalent, introducing places and ruminating on the people and quotations that he offers...This celebration of archaeological travel to wondrous sites and the writing that keeps the past alive should appeal to a wide public library and undergraduate audience."—Library Journal

"Brian Fagan...perhaps our foremost living archaeological writer, consistently takes subjects that you didn't know to be interested in and renders them compelling....[his] newest book is an armchair tour of the armchair tours penned by the intrepid who ventured into antique cultures before there were throw-away cameras or guides waving pennants."—Santa Barbara News-Press

"Brian Fagan is a prolific author, who always manages to write in a way that is a pleasure to read, while remaining grounded in a thorough mastery of the subject matter. His latest book, From Stonhenge to Samarkand, is no exception."—Johan Reinhard, National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence and author of The Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes

"With deft narrative skill and imaginative flair, [Fagan] peels away the layers of capture all the delirious excitement of rediscovering the lost empires of the past."—Tony Perrottet, author of Pagan Holiday and The Naked Olympics

"Stitched together with Fagan's knowledgeable, often wry commentary, this book contains centuries of good writing about humankind's romantic, confused, and always enthralling encounter with its own past."—Charles C. Mann, author of 1491: New Revelations of the America's Before Columbus

Publishers Weekly
The archeology gets in the way of the writing in this uneven collection. People have been going to stare at ruins for a long time; anthropologist Fagan (The Oxford Companion to Archaeology) excerpts Herodotus and 21st-century travel writer Tom Bissell but concentrates on the great age of European exploration from the 16th to the mid-20th centuries. These pieces have a certain pattern: excitement over the discovery of a fabled ruin; dutiful pacing off of dimensions; awe at the monumental scale mixed with lugubrious reflection on the ephemerality of the works of man; rapturous atmospherics. Fagan has a nostalgic taste for the solitary explorer communing in romantic solitude with the shades of lost civilizations, and his wraparound historiographical essay bemoans the modern transformation of archeological sites into easily accessible but carefully managed tourist traps where "crowds have broken the spell." Unfortunately, this aesthetic, requiring the evocation of lonely, static tableaux, is often difficult for a writer to make interesting.. The few really compelling pieces, including trips to Egypt by Mark Twain and Paul Theroux, are masterfully descriptive of landscapes and edifices. Photos. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Never again in this modern day of tourism will a traveler have the freedom and the solitude to experience sites as did travelers in the past. Stating that "good archaeological travel writing is an interesting mix of the prosaic and the romantic, the scientific and the evocative," Fagan (anthropology, emeritus, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World) here writes about writings by travelers from Herodotus in the fifth century B.C.E. to a Peace Corps worker in the late 20th century, all who visited archaeological sites and wrote about their experiences. In short, this is not strictly an anthology: Fagan's own excellent writing is prevalent, introducing places and ruminating on the people and quotations that he offers; he aptly calls the book "a vicarious archaeological journey." He ranges over many 19th-century archaeological travelers, including Claudius James Rich at Babylon and with Robert Ker Porter at Persepolis, Amelia B. Edwards traveling up the Nile, John Lloyd Stephens visiting the Maya, Hiram Bingham at Machu Picchu, and William Henry Jackson in the American Southwest. Fagan also traces the adventures of other types of travelers, such as 18th-century antiquarians and young men on the proverbial Grand Tour to Naples, Rome, Pompeii, and Herculaneum to gain experience and cultivate taste. He also covers the development of travel as a commodity. This celebration of archaeological travel to wondrous sites and the writing that keeps the past alive should appeal to a wide public library and undergraduate audience.-Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195160918
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/30/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Fagan is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and one of the world's leading archaeological writers and an internationally recognized authority on world prehistory. His many books include The Rape of the Nile, Chaco Canyon, The Long Summer, and The Little Ice Age.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Beginnings 1
Ch. 2 The antiquarians 17
Ch. 3 The grand tour 33
Ch. 4 Greece bespoiled 49
Ch. 5 Pharaohs and pyramids 61
Ch. 6 From Babylon to Persepolis 75
Ch. 7 Palmyra and Petra 93
Ch. 8 Tourists along the Nile 111
Ch. 9 Maya and Inca 129
Ch. 10 The world of the Pueblos 157
Ch. 11 To desert and steppe 181
Ch. 12 Individualists 197
Ch. 13 Travel as commodity 223
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