Cover image for Lives in ruins : archaeologists and the seductive lure of human rubble
Lives in ruins : archaeologists and the seductive lure of human rubble
Johnson, Marilyn, 1954- , author.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2014]
Physical Description:
x, 274 pages ; 24 cm
Examines "the lives of contemporary archaeologists as they sweat under the sun for clues to the puzzle of our past. Johnson digs and drinks alongside archaeologists, chases them through the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and even Machu Picchu, and excavates their lives. Her subjects share stories we rarely read in history books, about slaves and Ice Age hunters, ordinary soldiers of the American Revolution, children of the first century, Chinese woman warriors, sunken fleets, mummies. What drives these archaeologists is not the money (meager) or the jobs (scarce) or the working conditions (dangerous), but their passion for the stories that would otherwise be buried and lost"
Down and dirty : studying people who study people -- Boot camp. Field school : context is everything ; The survivalist's guide to archaeology : our ancestors were geniuses ; Extreme beverages : taking beer seriously ; Pig dragons : how to pick up an archaeologist ; My life is in ruins : jobs and other problems ; Road trip through time : our partner, heartbreak ; Underwater mysteries : slow archaeology, deep archaeology -- The classics. Explorers club : classics of the ancient world and Hollywood ; Field school redux : the earth-whisperers -- Archaeology and war. The bodies : who owns history? ; Evidence of harm : bearing witness ; Archaeology in a dangerous world : a historic alliance ; Avoidance targets : mission-- respect -- Heritage. Buckets of archaeologists : if archaeologists tried to save the world.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CC175 .J64 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
CC175 .J64 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
CC175 .J64 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Finding Life in Ruins

Jump into a battered Indiana Jones-style Jeep with the intrepid Marilyn Johnson and head down bone-rattling roads in search of those who dig up the past. Johnson, the author of two acclaimed books about quirky subcultures - The Dead Beat (about obituary writers) and This Book Is Overdue! (about librarians) - brings her irrepressible wit and curiosity to bear on yet another strange world, that of archaeologists. Who chooses to work in ruins? What's the allure of sifting through layers of dirt under a hot sun? Why do archaeologists care so passionately about what's dead and buried-and why should we?

Johnson tracks archaeologists around the globe from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean, from Newport, Rhode Island to Machu Picchu. She digs alongside experts on an eighteenth-century sugar plantation and in a first-century temple to Apollo.

She hunts for bodies with forensics archaeologists in the vast and creepy Pine Barrens of New Jersey, drinks beer with an archaeologist of ancient beverages, and makes stone tools like a caveman. By turns amusing and profound, Lives in Ruins and its wild cast of characters find new ways to consider what is worth salvaging from our past.

Archaeologists are driven by the love of history and the race to secure its evidence ahead of floods and bombs, looters and thieves, and before the bulldozers move in. Why spend your life in ruins? To uncover our hidden stories before they disappear.

Author Notes

Marilyn Johnson is a former editor and writer for Life, Esquire, and Outside magazines. She is the author of The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries, This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, and Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble. Both The Dead Beat and This Book Is Overdue! received Washington Irving Book Awards.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Johnson takes a compelling jaunt into the world of archaeology to distinguish the prized artifacts from the debris, highlighting the hard and often thankless work of archaeologists. Reader Huber does a fantastic job of capturing Johnson's witty, conversational prose, which both informs and entertains listeners. She adequately narrates the technical details and information with a balanced mixture of emphasis and pacing, and she embraces the author's quirky asides narrating with the perfect amount of confident sass and exuberance. She comes across as the authentic voice of the text. A Harper hardcover. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Johnson (This Book Is Overdue!) follows archaeologists into the field to discover why they work in a discipline that promises little monetary reward, no job stability, and dangerous working conditions. She interviews archaeologists who specialize in a wide variety of time periods, geographical locations, and areas of their field. She attends conferences, visits sites, and endures the hardships of excavation (including killer bee attacks, sites where no water is available, and contentious natives). She considers what archaeology is and why it is important, while discovering what drives the people who do the work. The narrative is as much about the author's experiences in the field as it is about the scientists she followed. Well read by Hillary Huber, this book will appeal to amateur archaeologists and generalists who want to know what the professionals do. VERDICT Recommended to anyone with an interest in archaeology. ["Well suited to anyone contemplating archaeology as a career, those curious about what the profession is like, lovers of history and science, and readers who enjoy and are grateful for the lure of prehistory and discovery as a mental process," read the starred review of the Harper hc, LJ 11/1/14.]-Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Providence (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Down and Dirty: Studying people who study peoplep. 1
Boot Camp
Field School: Context is everythingp. 15
The Survivalist's Guide to Archaeology: Our ancestors were geniusesp. 37
Extreme Beverages: Taking beer seriouslyp. 68
Pig Dragons: How to pick up an archaeologistp. 74
My Life Is In Ruins: Jobs and other problemsp. 85
Road Trip Through Time: Our partner, heartbreakp. 95
Underwater Mysteries: Slow archaeology, deep archaeologyp. 101
The Classics
Explorers Clubs: Classics of the ancient world and Hollywoodp. 123
Field School Redux: The earth-whisperersp. 134
Archaeology and War
The Bodies: Who owns history?p. 155
Evidence of Harm: Bearing witnessp. 175
Archaeology in a Dangerous World: A historic alliancep. 190
Avoidance Targets: Mission: respectp. 199
Buckets of Archaeologists: If archaeologists tried to save the worldp. 219
Acknowledgmentsp. 241
Select Bibliographyp. 245
Indexp. 259