Uncovering the past: A History of Archaeology

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1993 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 315 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade. New, excellent conidition. Dust jacket is ... perfect, no marks or curling. Inside pages are clean and tight. Read more Show Less

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Uncovering the Past is an absorbing history of archaeology that traces the study of ancient material culture from its beginnings as a hobby for Renaissance scholars to the sophisticated modern discipline we know today. Professor William Stiebing devotes the first part of his chronicle to the exploits of the colorful, dynamic excavators of archaeology's "Heroic Age." One may wonder whether the adventures of Indiana Jones are really far-fetched after reading Steibing's account of Giovanni Belzoni's removal of the seven-ton colossus of Ramesses II, which was dragged by wooden platform and transported by boat from Egypt to London; or of clergyman John Peters' skirmish with Arab tribesmen, who surrounded his excavation site and finally pillaged and burned his camp; or of Heinrich Schliemann's quest to prove the authenticity of Homer's Iliad by searching for ancient Troy in Turkey.

The second part of the book shifts the focus to modern archaeology, describing how new methodologies and techniques such as area surveys, statistics, carbon-14 dating, and computer visualization are turning the former pastime of dillettnates into a rigorous science.

Uncovering the Past is an excellent introduction to archaeology, both for those who enjoy its romance and those who seek an accurate survey of its history and current status.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Stiebing's concise, wonderfully vivid, engrossing history conveys a sense of archeology as a great collective adventure by which humanity retrieves its past. Heinrich Schliemann's excavation of the Troy of Homer's Iliad, Arthur Evans's reconstruction of Minoan Crete, John Stephens's discovery of Mayan pyramids in Mexico and Austen Layard's remarkably swift location of Assyrian palaces are a few of the many phenomenal exploits recounted in a narrative that emphasizes advances in archeological techniques and methods. Stiebing, a professor of archeology at the University of New Orleans, reviews the mystery of immense prehistoric mounds in the Ohio Valley. His chronicle also encompasses India's carved cave temples at Ellora, advanced medieval cities of sub-Saharan Africa, finds in China, Indonesia and Cambodia, and underwater archeology. Stiebing dispassionately reviews the controversy surrounding the ``new archeology,'' which uses computers and statistics in its quest to discover the laws of cultural dynamics. Illustrated. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Profusely illustrated and with the usual chronology and reading suggestions appended, this volume is useful chiefly as an overview for students of the comparatively new discipline of archaeology. Steibing (history, Univ. of New Orleans) organizes his work into four evolutionary phases that extend through the ``heroic age'' of archaeology (1450-1925), discussed from a geographical/cultural perspective, to the close of World War I up to the present, which ushers in the beginnings of systemization and scientific method as a review of the various new methodologies. While many volumes exist on the finds of specific sites or on a specific excavation technique, this study focuses on the development of archaeology as a discipline, tracing the milestones in the evolution of systematic excavation. Do not expect here the wealth of titillating, arcane cultural details common to archaeological works. As such, it is more of a Cook's Tour and not very meaty, but it will serve.-- Jo-Ann D. Suleiman. SANAD Support Technologies, Rockville, Md.
Donna Seaman
Professor Stiebing was frustrated by the lack of a satisfactory overview of the origins and evolution of archaeology, so he wrote one himself. His fast-paced narrative sustains archaeology's aura of romance and adventure while also revealing its more methodical and scholarly aspects. Stiebing describes the gradual shift from treasure hunting to the pursuit of knowledge, from impetuous and careless digging to painstaking and systematic excavation. As he relates tales of discovery and breakthroughs, the serendipitous nature of archaeology, as well as the genius and passion of its practitioners during the "heroic age," emerge as key elements of its development. Stiebing takes us to now famous sites in Egypt, the Near East, Greece, Italy, and the Yucatan and introduces us to the visionary individuals who deciphered hieroglyphics and cuneiform, unearthed the tombs of kings and layers upon layers of ancient cities, and rediscovered entire civilizations, not to mention that they navigated the treacherous waters of international politics and universal greed. Technology kept pace with archaeology's ever more sophisticated requirements; computers, ground-penetrating radar, and robotic underwater cameras are now as intrinsic to the effort as shovels and brushes. A well-organized and thoroughly enjoyable history of one of the more alluring sciences.
Steibing (history, U. of New Orleans) combines chronological and thematic approaches in this well-written history of the discipline. Intended as a college level text, but engaging enough for the general reader. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780879757649
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/1993
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 315
  • Lexile: 1270L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.41 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

Maps 11
Figures 13
Preface 19
Introduction 21
Pt. I Archaeology's "Heroic Age" 27
Phase I - Exploration, Antiquarianism and Early Excavation circa 1450-1860
Phase II - Archaeology Comes of Age circa 1860-1925
1 The Discovery of Prehistory 29
I The Six-Thousand-Year History of the Earth 29
II Recognition of Ice Age Art 49
2 Retrieving Egypt's Distant Past 55
I The Dawn of Egyptology 55
II Ending the Plundering 75
3 The Rediscovery of Near Eastern Civilizations 85
I Early Explorers in the Near East 85
II The Discovery of the Sumerians, the Flood, and the Hittites 109
4 The Growth of Aegean Archaeology 119
I Revival of Interest in Greek Monuments 119
II Schliemann Discovers Aegean Prehistory 124
5 Recovering the Remains of Ancient Italy 143
I The Gradual Destruction of Ancient Rome 143
II Careful Excavation Begins in Italy 159
6 Unearthing the New World's Past 167
I Discovery and Destruction of New World Civilizations 167
II The Coming of Order and Stratigraphic Excavation: North America 193
7 Archaeology in the Far East and Sub-Saharan Africa 199
I The Wonders of the Ancient East 199
II Far Eastern Archaeology Becomes More Systematic 213
8 Reclaiming Sunken History 227
I The Dawn of Underwater Exploration 227
II The Resurrection of the Vasa 239
Pt. II Modern Archaeology 249
9 Phase III: Systematizing and Organizing the Past 1925-1960 251
10 Phase IV: Toward a Scientific Archaeology 1960-Present 265
Appendix: Major Events and Discoveries in the History of Archaeology 281
Recommended Reading 289
Index 301
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