The archaeologist and the books


It never occured to me before just how many books about archaeology are written every year. And that if I want to stay involved in the speciality of studies of the ancient world, I should read at least half of them. My current path may be leading elsewhere, but it does not truly exclude a career in either archaeology or writing and therefore I should put some effort into keeping up to date with the field. Which brings me to the personal library of almost every archaeologist. And I’m not just talking books, although I will focus on that later, but also about the endless wave of papers, news, articles, and so on that archaeologists have to read to be able to gain knowledge about the newest data.

Now focussing on the books. When starting your archaeological library one should start with a certain expertise, although it is really tempting to just buy everything. When established what you will be (mainly) focussing on, there is the next problem: Do you really want to buy everything? When can you assume an opinion or a technique outdated? Do books and research from 1800 still matter? Or should one read every single book that has been written about the Illiad? These are questions that will determine the size of your library, and the hatred of others when they have to help you move if your house becomes too small. I myself have started with a couple of books that are considered to be modern pieces that cannot be missed. Fik Meijer, the Odyssey (of course), a couple of standard study books. I’ll be honoust, my personal library is now about one bookshelf, and it is mostly focused on history instead of archaeology but I believe that those two could go hand in hand especially when reading. When you are curious about northern-Europe, I will always recommend Michael Pye whether or not you are an historian or an archaeologist.

There is no way to build a ‘proper archaeological library’ as every reader has his/her own prefered system. Whether or not to keep the books seperate from other books on a different shelf or in a different bookcase, and whether or not to organise it with a system is completely up to you. Often archaeologist decorate the shelves with pictures from digs or small archaeological tokens or finds from museums or the field, but that also depends on the archaeologist in question. The most important thing is to read the books on the shelves and not just have them as trophies as keeping up to date with the field is hard enough as it is. And books just collecting dust has never helped anybody.

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