|Publisher||Oxford University Press|
|Publication Date||February 11, 1999|
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Archaeology has an aura of romance and a long history of startling discoveries wrested from clinging soil. Indeed, patience and persistence can lead to spectacular finds, as they did for Howard Carter in November 1922. After seven years searching the Egyptian desert, Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, and in these vivid words he described what the tomb held in store: "At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold--everywhere the glint of gold."
In Eyewitness to Discovery, Brian M. Fagan gathers together fifty-five vivid accounts of the world's greatest archaeological discoveries, from the tomb of Tutankhamun and the Aegean Marbles to Otzi the Iceman and Macchu Picchu, told by the people who discovered them. The selections chronicle the development of the field, from the early 1700s when archaeology was little more than a lighthearted treasure hunt, to the late twentieth century when discoveries often come not only from spectacular excavations, but also from the screens of computers or from the analysis of pollen grains invisible to the naked eye. Fagan provides engaging, informative introductions to each selection, as well as an introduction to the volume, that lays out the history of archaeology.
But the heart of the book is the excitement of the discoveries themselves. We see how Arthur Evans found clues on Minoan seals in an Athens flea market that helped him discover the Palace of Knossos and a long forgotten early civilization; how Austen Henry Layard--one of the heroic archaeologists of the nineteenth century--discovered ancient Nineveh; and how General Napoléon Bonaparte's soldiers found the Rosetta Stone, one of the most important archaeological finds in history, in the Nile Delta in 1799. And we read how, in 1974, Don Johanson, while working in the center of the Afar desert in Ethiopia--a wasteland of bare rock, gravel, and sand--happened upon the oldest, most complete skeleton of any human ancestor that had ever been found: Lucy, approximately 3.5 million years old.
Archaeological discovery unveils the past and brings us face to face with the triumphs and tragedies of those who have gone before. This book is a celebration of archaeological discoveries, and the men and women who made them.