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The Oxford companion to archaeology /

Other Authors: Fagan, Brian M., Beck, Charlotte, 1948-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Oxford University Press, 1996
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Review by Choice Review

Nearly 700 signed, alphabetically arranged entries, multiparagraph to multipage, by more than 370 writers who are specialists or who teach in a related area, treat world regions, artifactual analysis, field methods, Western theory, and archaeology's history and future. Most include cross-references and end with bibliographies that cite recent materials. Formats vary from solo articles to nearly 60 umbrella collections on major topics that begin with overviews. The only graphics are small maps (which show few sites) and time lines at the end of the volume. Oxford might appear to update and expand on the general, well-illustrated Cambridge Encyclopedia of Archaeology (CH, Oct'80); it does in content, but words cannot fully replace illustrations of artifacts, architectural forms, and ancient artistic expression. Oxford attempts too much for the world's regions to be represented evenly. Well-known sites and cultures predominate, Austronesia and sub-Saharan Africa are better represented than in most reference works, while the "westernness" of archaeology itself is acknowledged. Canada, Pacific North America, northern Mexico, non-Mayan Central America, non-Andean South America, most of central Europe and western Asia, the Maghreb, and Saudi Arabia are treated only generally. Forty percent of the mostly brief biographies were written by the editor; they make up three percent of the entries. Historically important archaeologists are mentioned in passing throughout the volume. There are some errors; a troubling one dates the apogee of Aksum to the 11th century BCE, well before Christianity came to Ethiopia. Time line and index users will no doubt discover others. Since there is no table of contents, the index provides the principal access point. Most index terms simply repeat article title and heading words, except for some proper names. Some basics are omitted from the index; for example, rice, wheat, maize, cattle, sheep, goats. There are leads under "domestication," but that assumes prior knowledge. The situation is worse with regard to common metals; index entries are limited to "Bronze Age" and "Iron Age," with see also references to area and site names. Users must already know or suspect which areas or sites had bronze or iron in order to find them. Cambridge has ample listings under the plants, animals, and metals Oxford uses as examples. Novice users will benefit by consulting Oxford jointly with other works that have better indexing, maps, and illustrations, or more biographies (e.g., for maps and illustrations World Atlas of Archaeology, CH, Mar'86, and Past Worlds: The Times Atlas of Archaeology, CH, Mar'89; for illustrations, the brief, specialized Dictionary of Terms and Techniques in Archaeology, CH, Apr'81, or Collins Dictionary of Archaeology, CH, Mar'94; and for biographies of anthropological archaeologists born before 1920, International Dictionary of Anthropologists, CH, Apr'92). Although more accessible to readers with some background in archaeology, Oxford is unlike any reference work since 1980 in the depth and currency of its treatment. Highly recommended for academic, research, large public, or museum libraries, or for interested individuals with background in archaeology. K. M. Cleland; Swarthmore College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Fagan demonstrates that archaeology's advance from hobby to science was recorded by practitioners who could write well. In this collection, he features pieces notable for their vividness in expressing, above all, that moment of Eureka! Often he refers to his selections as "classics," which few fascinated with the subject will dispute: finding the Lucy hominid, Tutankhamen's tomb, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and more. Fagan's knowledgeable comments on the excerpts contrast Victorian approaches to archaeology, criticized as looting fests dressed up as picnics, with later systematic excavation methods, in which the goal was less to find the king's gold than to find clues revealing the life of the surrounding society. But this editor's touch is unabashedly popular; as impresario he has booked some of the more entertaining acts in the biz. A strong supporting title for active archaeology collections. --Gilbert Taylor

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Editor Fagan (Ancient Civilizations, Addison Wesley, 1996) is well known for his publications, which elucidate the development and character of archaeology. In this encyclopedic companion, Fagan has created an impressive work of approximately 700 entries. There is little to fault in its coverage of human fossils, historical sites, geographical areas, and the people, history, theory, and substance of archaeology. Some topics, however, lack a bibliography or receive skimpy coverage. A list of the entries, although lengthy, would have been helpful to the user, who must rely on the index to find a starting point. There are no references to the maps and tables from the relevant entries. Moreover, maps and tables are not numbered, and their order and purpose are not always apparent. Despite these minor faults, the work is authoritative, well written, and the only recent work of its kind. This companion fills a gap in the reference literature for archaeology and should be purchased for all reference collections.‘Joyce L. Ogburn, Old Dominion Univ. Lib., Norfolk, Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.