Historical Archaeology (2nd Edition)

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9780131115613: Historical Archaeology (2nd Edition)

Significantly revised and expanded, the second edition of this popular book provides a short, readable introduction to historical archaeology. Stressing a global perspective, it shows that this subject has real importance to understanding the world in which we live today. This comprehensive book also includes a look at career prospects in the field for interested readers. The overall approach is descriptive and explanatory: it describes fundamental principles, the history of the field, and basic definitions; moves through methods and discusses topics such as time and space, historical artifacts, survey, and excavation; and then presents basic archaeological theories and research. For readers interested in historical archaeology, a rapidly expanding field that has been recently conducted on every continent in the world.

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Archaeology is an odd discipline. Most people have heard of it and think they know what it is, but the same people actually know very little about it. Archaeology is perhaps the most famous and yet least understood academic pursuit in existence! Movies depict us archaeologists either as bold adventurers or as absent-minded scholars digging in the shadow of lofty pyramids. We are seen cutting through dense jungles and poring over clay tablets. We get excited about ancient stone tools and faint drawings on cave walls. These images, though often quite fanciful, are not totally incorrect. Archaeologists do get excited about what we do; we love the past and we want to share our passion for it with all who will listen. Archaeology is an adventure, but it is also a sophisticated discipline that studies the entire spectrum of human history. We archaeologists investigate the full range of human life, from our origins to our modern-day urban landfills.

Archaeology, like most of today's complex areas of study, has a number of specializations. None of us can be expected to know everything about the entire sweep of human history. Some of us study ancient ways of life, while others of us concentrate on more recent history. This book explores the archaeology that focuses on modern history in all its fascinating regional, cultural, and ethnic diversity.

Historical archaeology, the archaeological study of recent history, has expanded dramatically in recent years. This book provides an introduction to this exciting field by covering its basic methods and concepts. The first three chapters describe fundamental principles, the history of the field, and basic definitions. From there we move to consider the methods of historical archeology, and explore such topics as time and space, historical artifacts, survey, and excavation. I present some basic archaeological theories and discuss some of the archaeological research that is being conducted across the globe. My focus is on the Dutch global empire. I also briefly examine the changing face of historical archaeology, by explaining cultural resource management. We end our trip through historical archaeology with a look at career prospects in the field and at ways students like you can help save the past from senseless destruction. Major references for further study are provided at the end of the book. A glossary is also presented as an easy guide to some of the archaeologists' more technical terms.

This second edition has been significantly revised and expanded. I have corrected the mistakes from the first edition and updated many of the examples. I have also expanded the references to include works of importance published since the first edition. One new addition is the inclusion of short vignettes, I call them "time travels," at the end of each chapter. These are entirely based on archeological and historical research conducted by professional historical archaeologists. They are intended to indicate the richness of today's historical archaeology. I have included those sites that I think are interesting or which have something especially enlightening to say. I could easily have chosen thirteen other sites, because the field today is so vast and varied. My hope is that these brief examples will encourage you to explore historical archaeology further.

No one book can hope to offer an exhaustive overview of today's historical archaeology. The field is simply expanding far too rapidly for that. My goal, therefore, is to offer this brief volume to give you insights into the fascinating world of historical archaeology. An exciting field of study awaits you and you are very welcome to join us!

Charles E. Orser, Jr.
Illinois State University

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