Essential open access reading for International Archaeology Day

Posted on October 21, 2023 by Margie Coughlin
It's International Archaeology Day! To celebrate, we've created a list of essential open access books that all archaeologists (and budding archaeologists!) should read.
Johnathan Gardner's A Contemporary Archaeology of London’s Mega Events explores the traces of London’s most significant modern ‘mega events’. Though only open for a few weeks or months, mega events permanently and disruptively reshape their host cities and societies: they demolish and rebuild whole districts, they draw in materials and participants from around the globe A Contemporary Archaeology of London’s Mega Events From the Great Exhibition to London 2012 Jonathan Gardnerand their organisers self-consciously seek to leave a ‘legacy’ that will endure for decades or more.
With London as his case study, Gardner argues that these spectacles must be seen as long-lived and persistent, rather than simply transient or short-term. Using a novel methodology drawn from the field of contemporary archaeology – the archaeology of the recent past and present-day – a broad range of comparative studies are used to explore the long-term history of each event. These include the contents and building materials of the Great Exhibition’s Crystal Palace and their extraordinary ‘afterlife’ at Sydenham, South London; how the Festival of Britain’s South Bank Exhibition employed displays of ancient history to construct a new post-war British identity; and how London 2012, as the latest of London’s mega events, dealt with competing visions of the past as archaeology, waste and heritage in its efforts to create a positive legacy for future generations.

This book offers significant new directions for the study of mega events in its comparison of how three mega events changed London over three centuries. Drawing on a varied selection of theoretical and methodological frameworks and a rich array of sources, it demonstrates the great potential of contemporary archaeology for re-examining recent processes of urban transformation.

Ancient Knowledge Networks  is a book about how knowledge travels, in minds and bodies as well as in writings. It explores the forms knowledge takes and the meanings it accrues, and how these meanings are shaped by the peoples who use it.

Addressing the relationships between political power, family ties, religious commitments and literate scholarship in the ancient Middle East of the first millennium BC, Eleanor Robson focuses on two regions where cuneiform script was the predominant writing medium: Assyria in the north of modern-day Syria Ancient Knowledge Networks A Social Geography of Cuneiform Scholarship in First-Millennium Assyria and Babylonia Eleanor Robsonand Iraq, and Babylonia to the south of modern-day Baghdad. She investigates how networks of knowledge enabled cuneiform intellectual culture to endure and adapt over the course of five world empires until its eventual demise in the mid-first century BC. In doing so, she also studies Assyriological and historical method, both now and over the past two centuries, asking how the field has shaped and been shaped by the academic concerns and fashions of the day. Above all, Ancient Knowledge Networks is an experiment in writing about ‘Mesopotamian science’, as it has often been known, using geographical and social approaches to bring new insights into the intellectual history of the world’s first empires.

Conflict, Heritage and World-Making in the Chaco documents and interprets the physical remains and afterlives of the Chaco War (1932–35) – known as South America’s first ‘modern’ armed conflict – in what is now present-day Paraguay. It focuses not only on archaeological remains as conventionally understood, but takes an ontological approach to heterogeneous assemblages of objects, texts, practices and landscapes shaped by industrial war and people’s past and present engagements with them. These assemblages could be understood to constitute a ‘dark heritage’, the debris of a failed modernity. Yet it is clear that they are not simply dead memorials to this bloody war, but have been, and Conflict, Heritage and World-Making in the Chaco War at the End of the Worlds? Esther Breithoffcontinue to be active in making, unmaking and remaking worlds – both for the participants and spectators of the war itself, as well as those who continue to occupy and live amongst the vast accretions of war matériel which persist in the present.

Framing the study as an exploration of modern, industrialised warfare as Anthropocene ‘hyperobject’ (Morton 2013), This book shows how the material culture and heritage of modern conflict fuse together objects, people and landscapes, connecting them physically and conceptually across vast, almost unimaginable distances and time periods. It offers a unique perspective on the heritage of conflict, the natural environment, practices of recycling, the concept of time, and the idea of the ‘Anthropocene’ itself, as seen through the lens of the material legacies of war, which remain firmly and stubbornly embedded in the present and which continue to actively shape the future.

The book makes a major contribution to key debates in anthropology, archaeology, environmental humanities, critical heritage and material culture studies on the significance of conflict in understanding the Anthropocene, and the roles played by its persistent heritages in assembling worlds.

In Kenya, cultural and natural heritage has a particular value. Its pre-historic heritage not only tells the story of man's origin and evolution but has also contributed to the understanding of the earth's history: fossils and artefacts spanning over 27 million years have been discovered and conserved by the National Museums of Kenya (NMK). Alongside this, the steady rise in the market value of African art has also affected Kenya. Demand for African tribal art has surpassed that for antiquities of Roman, Byzantine, and Egyptian origin, and in African countries currently experiencing conflicts, this activity invariably attracts looters, traffickers and criminal networks.

Conservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage in Kenya brings together essays by heritage experts from different backgrounds, including conservation, heritage

Conservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage in Kenya Edited by Anne-Marie Deisser and Mugwima Njuguna

management, museum studies, archaeology, environment and social sciences, architecture and landscape, geography, philosophy and economics to explore three key themes: the underlying ethics, practices and legal issues of heritage conservation; the exploration of architectural and urban heritage of Nairobi; and the natural heritage, landscapes and sacred sites in relation to local Kenyan communities and tourism. It thus provides an overview of conservation practices in Kenya from 2000 to 2015 and highlights the role of natural and cultural heritage as a key factor of social-economic development, and as a potential instrument for conflict resolution.

Finally, Key Concepts in Public Archaeology provides a broad overview of the key concepts in public archaeology, a research field that examines the relationship between archaeology and the public, in both theoretical and practical terms. While based on the long-standing programme of undergraduate and graduate teaching in public archaeology at UCL’s renowned Institute of Archaeology, the book also takes into account the growth of scholarship from around the world and seeks to clarify what exactly ‘public archaeology’ is by promoting an inclusive, socially and politically engaged vision of the discipline.

Written for students and practitioners, the individual chapters provide textbook-level introductions to the themes, theories and controversies that connect archaeology to wider society, from the trade in illicit antiquities to the use of digital media in public engagement, and point readers to the most relevant case studies and learning resources to aid their further study. This book was produced as part of JISC's Institution as e-Textbook Publisher project. Find out more here



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