Russell (Kill the Cowboy: A Battle of Mythology in the New West, LJ 5/15/93) moves from personal observations of petroglyphs near her home in southwestern New Mexico to a consideration of various issues in American archaeology today, based on her travels to sites and interviews with specialists in the field. What is most appealing about her book is her ability to convey a sense of immediacy as well as awe at the presence of the past at historic sites: "Holding my sherd, I feel the substance of time, a place I can travel to while standing still. I heft its weight. This moment is a thousand years ago and a thousand years ago is this moment." Excellent, too, is Russell's presentation of the shift that has occurred with the 1990 passage of a law that gives Native Americans the right to reappropriate skeletal remains and sacred artifacts, the impact of more Native Americans entering archaeology as a profession, and the urgent need for archaeologists to work out a relationship with Native American leaders who are opposed to excavations of their cultural sites. Russell's work is thoughtful, beautifully written, and well documented. A good way for lay readers to become more informed.-Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
Reprint of a 1996 history of archaeology in America that takes the study of the nation's ancestors out of the museum and shows the immediate, human implications of forays into the past. Russell, author of , focuses on the idea that there are multiple ways of examining the past. She interviews an array of characters who have been instrumental in reshaping modern archaeology and speaks to those who continue to wrestle with the nature of the field today. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A leisurely, recondite crawl through various conundrums besetting today's archaeologists, elegantly handled by one of their own.
Russell (Kill the Cowboy, 1993, etc.) loves archaeology, "the tale of our first awkward relationship, the wrestling match of humans and the natural world," and when she stumbles across a sherd of Mogollon plainware, a fragment of Mimbres pottery, a 3,000-year-old piece of cordage, she feels the thrill of time travel, of making a distant connection. Then she replaces the relic where she found it; that little piece of history needs, she believes, to remain in situ, so that others in the future may feel the weight of its place and contextmuseums won't do, nor will the mantlepieces of deep-pocketed collectors. The notion of "context" pervades this book. What does it mean to take artifacts from their location? Who do they belong to? What do they lose by being separated from their site? And, as much of the book has to do with the remains of Native American cultures in the southwestern US, what are the specific questions of accountability archaeologists should consider when they dig up a grave site in that region? The remains of the people uncovered are, the Zunis believe, still sentient, still voyaging, seeking their next stage. The repatriation of native remains is only one of Russell's concerns. Her thoughts dance every which way: She explores the problems of "geofacts" and the foibles of quick diagnosis, the pleasures of cave archaeology and paleofecal specimens, ancient roadways and their heavenly orientation, the cultural and ideological baggage that archaeologists bring to their profession. All of this is presented with wonderful facility, a kind of dreamily dilettanish innocence, making these rather rarified concerns the stuff of everday life.
Agile, cerebral, ruminative, entirely satisfying.