The work of archaeologists has commanded worldwide attention and captivated the human imagination since the earliest days of exploration, with groundbreaking discoveries such as the treasures of ancient Egypt, the lost kingdoms of the Maya, and the fabled city of Troy. Archaeology brings us face-to-face with our distant ancestors, with treasures of the past, and with life as it was lived in long-ago civilizations.
Despite the fascinating and often romantic appeal of archaeology, many of us have little idea of what the field actually involves. What, exactly, do archaeologists do? What takes place on an archaeological dig? And how does the reality of the work differ from what we see in Indiana Jones movies?
Archaeology: An Introduction to the World's Greatest Sites, taught by renowned archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer Eric H. Cline, answers these questions and more in rich and provocative detail. These 24 thrilling lectures, produced in partnership with National Geographic, introduces you to over 20 of the most significant and enthralling archaeological sites on the planet, providing both in-depth looks at the sites themselves and an insider's view of the history, science, and technology of archaeology. Prepare yourself for a vivid and detailed exploration of archaeology's most magnificent discoveries in the company of an expert archaeologist with decades of experience in the field.
©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC
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"Archaeology Up Close and Personal"
Eric Cline seems like a fun guy as well as an expert archeologist. I agree with another reviewer who finds him "clunky but endearing." I've listened to several of his courses and liked them, especially "Archaeology and the Iliad," an oldie that I still find fascinating.
But probably because I have heard other Cline courses (as well as several Great Courses by Professor John Hale, who covers similar territory), this most recent presentation was a miss for me. It's obviously the soundtrack to a filmed version, opening with a riff on Indiana Jones (with the Professor entering as Harrison Ford before transforming into the much less glamorous scholar). A later lecture is on the archeologist's tools, the subject of a show-and-tell that we can only listen to. Since National Geographic is involved, I expect the filmed version has some pretty spectacular video--how can you go wrong with Petra and Machu Pichu?
I thought the best lecture was the one on Masada, where Dr. Cline (whose specialties include both Late Bronze Age civilizations and Biblical archaeology) spent several seasons. Modern politics, theology, archaeology, and the history of the Roman Empire intersect in a fascinating mystery of "what really happened" at Masada almost 2000 years ago.
This is probably a good and enlightening course if you are not all that familiar with the fabulous sites on the Cline Tour. But for me, it was a little like having dinner with an uncle you love but whose stories you've heard before. And these are indeed "family" stories; you'll hear plenty of personal anecdotes--will learn that the Professor has a fear of heights and how/where he and his wife became engaged. It's definitely an up-close and personal look at the life of an archaeologist, as well as a first-hand overview of many amazing sites that are increasingly threatened both by the inevitable ravages of time and by the destructive politics of humans and their never-ending wars.
"A wonderful survey for the enthusiast"
This series of lectures is a multi-faceted introduction to archaeology discussing archaeology's accomplishments, techniques, and even its own history.
As one would expect, foremost in the series is the survey of many archaeological sites in terms of their purose, who the inhabitants were, what artifacts were discovered, and the historical significance of the site. This alone is plenty interesting and could easily fill many documentaries, but these lectures also discuss the history of who discovered these sites and how they were excavated. Examining the personalities and techniques involved at some sites is sometimes just as interesting and important as what was discovered, because of the impact they had on the context in which these sites have been and can be understood.
Although not highlighted as part of the title, there are additionally lectures discussing the basics of what archaeology involves, including how archaeological sites are discovered, the process of funding and setup, how the focus and goals of changes through various phases of the excavation, the tools and techniques involved in excavation, and how artifacts can be dated. The information here is not overly technical, but instead a good balance of broad understanding with detail, since I'm sure the details could easily fill another series of equal length (though I would love to see such a series!).
As for the performance of the lectures, I found Professor Cline's delivery to be engaging and exceedingly clear, as well as uniquely personable as he provides ample anecdotes from his own career and first-hand knowledge of many of the sites he discusses.
Overall, the lectures are very approachable while having plenty of breadth and depth to be very interesting, even to a documentary junkie like myself. You would be hard pressed to find much of this content in documentaries, and certainly not in such a compact well-formed collection like this. Academically and professionally, I'm nowhere near an archaeologist or historian, but am just a curious learner who devours scientific and historical documentaries like Skittles. I truly found this course to be engaging and informative, and I only wish there was more of it.
"Nice One Eric"
This lecture series was exactly what I was hoping it would be. A good look at all the really famous archaeological sites: Pompeii, the Egyptian pyramids, Troy etc., plus an exploration of other interesting archaeological phenomena like ancient sunken ships and exceptionally well preserved bodies such as Otzi the Ice Man. With each site you get the stories of the people who excavated them, and a lot of Eric's personal anecdotes to illustrate and add texture.
There’s also information about how an excavation is planned, including the logistics of funding, how sites are located, what tools are used and so on. This might sound a bit dry but Eric has an infectious passion for his subject which makes you want to know all about it, even if his jokes are a bit crappy.
He also gives really good answers to questions like – ‘How do we date the finds?’ and ‘How are these items able to last so long in the ground?’ However, one question he asks but won't answer is ‘How much money can I get for my antique?’ People often contact him with this question - but the code of ethics prevents the promotion of commercial activity as this financial motive is the cause of the increasing amount of archaeological looting going on in the world today. It is so important to discourage this, so that these ancient relics can be properly preserved in their original context.
Eric won’t tell you how much your antique is worth – so don’t ask him.
I found this introduction to archeology quite delightful. The lecturer manages to convey his own enthusiasm to the listener very well, and the mix of historical snippets, explanations of methodology, personal experiences, and details of various fascinating sites and what they tell us, really spoke to me.
"Didn't think that archeology could be that cool"
The book includes a lot of cool historical facts and details about the major historical sights! The author tells it on an engaging and interesting way, adding his personal experience and a bit of humor to the mix.
All in all a great listen! :)
Informative, engaging, exciting! Great course! Thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip across some of the many historical sites of the world!
"Interesting course by engaging lecturer"
Thoroughly enjoyed this amble through archeology. Covers history of archeology, overview of basic techniques, and a sample of interesting and important digs from the early days of academic archeology to very recent discoveries.
"Enjoyable survey of how archeology is done and key sites"
I enjoyed these lectures. They are very accessible for a novice in the subject. I enjoyed hearing about places I had visited and could visualize the features described and hearing about new places I would like to visit. If you enjoy archeology documentaries, then you will enjoy this course.
Solid book, but could perhaps use a bit more spice when it comes to the cultures. I have visited several of the sights mentioned and they have a bit more of a back story regarding the everyday lives of the people involved which I thought was missing. But, a very good audiobook.
The author begins with two of the most interesting sites - Pompey/Herculaneum and somewhere in the Middle East (can't remember - but it was interesting), which was a good tactic on his part, for he has a few static chapters where he delves into the processes (and challenges, some political and cultural) of international archaeology.
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