My book was written without scholarly pretensions. My aim was to portray the dramatic qualities of archaeology, its human side. I was not afraid to digress now and then and to intrude my own personal reflections on the course of events. Nor have I shied away from prying into purely personal relationships. All this has produced a book that the expert may condemn as ‘unscientific.’
But I wanted the book to be that way.
C.W. Ceram’s book about archaeology was apparently *ahem* ground-breaking in the way that it brought the story of the archaeologists that made some of the greatest discoveries to the mass public. Or at least I take Ceram at his word that it did. I’m no stranger to “books of esoteric subjects made palatable to mass audiences” and I tend to like them a lot. But this one is an odd beast and it certainly wouldn’t have anything like mainstream success today. The prose is variable. Sometimes it’s written in a style that seems to be deliberately evoking the prose of the nineteenth century and it can get a little purple. At other times, it’s painfully dry and technical. Sometimes, it’s genuinely beautiful and engaging, but not nearly often enough. The book is divided up into sections by region; there’s a section on Egypt, one on Central America, etc. Some of these stories are familiar, like the story of Howard Carter and King Tut’s tomb; others are less familiar like the story of the Hittite Empire. The book didn’t ever really bore me, but it didn’t exactly excite me either. At over 500 pages, it’s certainly something of a slog by the time you’re nearing the end. And I bet just about everything in this book has been written about elsewhere in a more entertaining and engaging way. Probably read about it there. 2 stars.
tl;dr – supposedly mainstream book about archaeology is too long and often too dry and technical; there are some fun stories, but this is far from the best way to encounter those stories. 2 stars.