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

Marilyn Johnson. Harper, $25.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-212718-1
In this lively love letter to archaeologists, former Esquire editor Johnson (This Book is Overdue!) travels the world, getting her hands dirty as she studies archaeologists in their natural habitats. She joins field schools, attends conferences, and chats with the legendary and the up-and-coming practitioners of the discipline and displays infectious enthusiasm for the material. Johnson samples drinks prepared from recipes discovered in ancient tablets, braves bad weather and worse food, visits body farms, and hobnobs with the military all in an effort to examine and explore every aspect of archaeologist’s life. Her experiences are eye-opening, engaging, and occasionally frustrating, and she talks about the downsides of the occupation: “Those who persevere in the profession fight like cats to get these jobs and work like dogs to keep them. And for all their expertise, competence, breadth of experience, and even cockiness, they are continually humbled by their subject. For people who know so much, there is so much they can never know.” But, as Johnson states, it’s all about “trying to locate a spark of the human life that had once touched that spot there.” Many archaeologists credit Indiana Jones with sparking their passion, and Johnson may well inspire a new generation to take up this calling. Agent: Chris Calhoun, Chris Calhoun Agency. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/15/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
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