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Motel of the Mysteries
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Motel of the Mysteries

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  858 ratings  ·  139 reviews
It is the year 4022; all of the ancient country of Usa has been buried under many feet of detritus from a catastrophe that occurred back in 1985. Imagine, then, the excitement that Howard Carson, an amateur archeologist at best, experienced when in crossing the perimeter of an abandoned excavation site he felt the ground give way beneath him and found himself at the bottom ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published October 11th 1979 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1979)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,568)
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Sesana
I've read quite a few of David Macauley's books, mostly the ones like Castle: meticulously illustrated and highly researched nonfiction. Motel of the Mysteries is another thing entirely. Set nearly two millenia after the destruction of the U.S., (apparently by being buried under a junk mail explosion) it describes the excavation of a motel, as interpretted by archeologist Howard Carson. See what he did there? If so, you are the target audience.

It can be a pretty funny book, driven by Carson's w
...more
Nate D
Like many, I was long familiar with Macaulay's more direct and informative works -- I had a copy of Castle as a child -- but the one that stuck with me was this one, after a brief brush with it in a bookstore: a meticulously-drawn account of amateur anthropologist in the 4020s bungling the interpretation of our current (long lost) civilization. A strange satiric treatment of the distance of interpretation and our assurances in what we know of other cutures, perhaps, as a mysterious picture book ...more
Matthew
If you give children books as gifts (as I do) I suggest that at some point you give them this. It probably wasn't intended for children when written and illustrated, but you would be hard-pressed to associate any particular age of child as its ideal audience. I found this in second grade on my homeroom teacher's bookshelf. My reading of it aroused that special kind of terror children will get when encountering something especially unique and weird and slightly out of grasp of their full understa ...more
Converse

I think David Macaulay is better known for his non-fiction illustrated books, often aimed at children, that explain how things were made, but I loved this illustrated spoof of archaeology.


In 4022, archaeologists excavate a cheap motel buried in the 1985 disaster that covers North America with a solidified crust composed of junk mail, and solidified air pollution – and proceed to systematically misinterpret the site as an ancient mortuary, based upon the one room that contained a couple of skel

...more
Cheryl
Bad sociology and bad science make for weak humor. At least, it was meant to be humorous, wasn't it? It reads more like a parody of a satire to me. If there was any philosophical statement it was, erm, subtle...
Emilyn
I read a number of book related websites to stay up-to-date on what's being published and what is available at MPL. I recently read about Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay on one of those websites as an old favorite of a fellow librarian and decided to pick it up.

The year is 4022. The ancient civilization of Usa was buried under mounds of detritus in the year 1985. Amateur archeologist Howard Carson makes the discovery of a lifetime when he inadvertently falls into a tomb buried under the
...more
Kay
One of the pride and joys of my collection of illustrated books. I had it signed by David Macaulay at the National Book Festival a couple of years ago. Briefly, this book is a spoof on archeology, with specific reference to Howard Carter's discover of the tomb of King Tut. In the distant future (41st century), a cheap hotel room is discovered, still intact, and the archaeologists, full of wonder, examine the "treasures" - such as the "sanitized for your protection" paper slip on the toilet slip. ...more
Ram
This really could have been better. Great idea - far-future eccentric stumbles upon a 20th century no-tell motel and mistakes it for an essential, religious structure of a bygone civilization. Thus, the TV becomes the "sacred altar," because everything in a motel room faces the TV; the toilet seat is a sacred collar one must wear before shouting, down the hole, to the gods below; etc. But Macaulay wears out the thin premise quickly and doesn't know how to keep good satire away from mere stupid j ...more
Megan
I kept seeing this book mentioned everywhere for some reason, so I finally ILLed it. It’s a short, quick read, and concerns an amateur archaeologist from far in the future, who makes a major archaeological discovery in the ruins of the former nation called Usa and populated by “Yanks.”

Although it does seem to go a bit overboard, it’s still pretty cute and it definitely highlights a lot of concerns that archaeologists and other researchers have to consider when looking at artifacts from other cul
...more
Don
This book has one comedic idea - that future archaeologists, unaware of how our technology is used, will misinterpret their function and assume most items had a religious purpose. It's an absurdist anti-intellectual work that tries to be funny but failed for me. Mildly amusing in the first few pages but once you perceive the one idea it has it becomes predictable and tedious for the remainder.
Jan
This was a good quick read book. It has an interesting point of view. It looks back on our time from the distant future. It shows how many misconceptions there are in history. It makes you think about how many things we think we know that are not true. Very fun to read this book while reading the other book that I just reviewed about Egypt.
Granny
Mar 04, 2008 Granny rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: folks who like satire and enjoy a good laugh
Recommended to Granny by: a slightly warped friend
This book cracks me up! In fact, it produced endless moments of hilarity in the early 1980's, when my then teenaged sons and I would read passages aloud and just about roll on the floor! A great spoof and it bears up bravely upon re-reading years later.
Catherine
As an archaeologist myself, I found this book hilarious. A really great send up of the field, the story pokes fun at the early amateur archaeologists (with a rather pointed jab at Victorian Egyptologists). Although, the commentary on archaeological interpretation is still relevant to the field today. In archaeology, we joke that if you don't know what something is then it must sacred/ritualistic.

A really quick, fun read, especially when juxtaposed with the archaeology theory readings I've done f
...more
Emily
This doesn't get less funny with age--rather, more so!
Miriam

Pretty much a one-note joke, but fun.
Sabine
Feb 18, 2014 Sabine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: archaeologists, ancient civilizations, aliens, people of the future
Shelves: archaeology
If you've ever taken an archaeology class on Neolithic cultures (or Mesolithic, Paleolithic etc; you get the idea: no written history), you can kind of see where this book is going (a lot of the prehistory seems to be about "ritual activities"). The central point it seems to make is about interpretation and its reliability. Which sure is something archaeologists are generally aware of (or should be). The problem is just that you can't test your interpretations in experiments like in the hard sci ...more
Alissa Bach
Life as we know it ends in 1985 due to cataclysmic postal office catastrophe which, of course, happened way before the majority of junk mail (now called SPAM) delivery became electronic. More than 2,000 years later, a previously-buried structure (an old motel) is discovered--quite by accident. Its rooms are filled with mysterious treasures we (the people of today) view as commonplace. Read this book to see how 39th century people assume such items were used by people of 1985. Their interpertatio ...more
Rachel
"In 1985 a cataclysmic coincidence of previously unknown proportion extinguished virtually all forms of life on the North American continent." So begins this hilarious and thought-provoking book. Over three thousand years later, at an excavation in ancient Usa, an amazing discovery is made, and humankind finally gets a glimpse at--and begins to understand--the culture of the Yanks of Usa.

The ruins of a motel room are taken for a Yank burial chamber, and the amateur archaeologist who makes this g
...more
Monk
I can't remember when I got this book, but I was young. It was a stretch to get my folks to get me a copy as a kid - it wasn't really a 'historical' book that they felt would educate me any, but it did do something that stuck with me for all of the intervening years since reading it.

The story is that of an archaeologist who has uncovered a strange chamber in the North American continent in the far future. The 'burial chamber' is not what the archaeologist thinks it is however, as it is painfully
...more
Natlyn
Two thousand years after the fall of North American civilization, a motel is excavated by amateur archaeologists who determine it to be a burial site with all contents having some religious or ritual significance.

Macaulay is known for his architectural and "exploded view" drawings, but here his text creates the whimsical mood that carries the book. Clearly parodying the discovery of King Tut's tomb, the text follows amateur archaelogist Howard Carson's accidental discovery of a still-sealed tomb
...more
Jennifer
Sep 21, 2007 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Archeologists, Egyptologists, Grad Students
Shelves: humour
I attended the premiere of this book at the University of Pennsylvania many, many years ago due to my parent's donations to the local public television station. As I was in junior high school at the time, I failed to appreciate this work in all its subtle humour and glory, but having since studied anthropology and sociology at the University level, I realise how great this book really is.

The general plot line of this book is that due to a decrease in the charge to mail fourth-class (junk) mail,
...more
Tracey
For fun last night, I re-read Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay. (Didn't take long - it's only about 100 pages, at least half of which are illustrations.) Long before he was teaching us about The Way Things Work - Macaulay was subtly skewering pop culture.

A parody of the Egyptology of the late 19th/early 20th century, this short book posits that in 1985, North America was inundated with a flood of junk mail and condensed smog that buried the continent. Roughly two centuries later, excavat
...more
Jenn
May 31, 2014 Jenn added it
Wonderful short story that takes place in the future. An old motel is accidentally discovered by a gentleman running a marathon. He and a team excavate the site and are entranced by what they discover. Their conclusions are not what you expect.

This book gives a satirical look at the different conclusions archaeologists and anthropologists come up with regarding ancient dig sites and shows that what we think happened may not be the case at all.
Chris
I read this book when I was a kid and loved it; I re-read it now, and discovered that I still loved it.

A good-natured satire of archaeology, this juvenile sort-of picture book tells the story of an amateur explorer in the 41st century who accidentally discovers a "tomb" (a room in a motel) from the 20th century civilization known as "Usa". There are plenty of hilarious visuals for kids and adults alike (for instance, a picture of the discoverer wearing the "ceremonial head dress", which is actua
...more
Tricia
Have you ever wondered how archaeologists interpret what they find at a dig? Or have you ever wondered what future archaeologists would think of prominent features of our current landscape? If so, then this is the book for you. The premise is that North America was buried under piles of third-class mail in the 1980s. 2000 years in the future, someone stumbles upon a closed room and unearths a ceremonial burial chamber - or did they?

One thing that did bother me: since Europe survived this catacl
...more
Barbara
How will our civilization be remembered? Macaulay imagines that North America was crushed under a deluge of junk mail in 1985—predigital age—and rediscovered several millennia later. Howard Carson (à la Howard Carter, discoverer of King Tut’s tomb in 1922), an amateur who dabbled in a variety of endeavors, stumbles into what he assumes is a 20th century tomb complex that he dubs Motel of the Mysteries. We see the “sacred seal” (Do Not Disturb sign hung on the door knob), “altar” (TV), and “sacre ...more
Julie H.
This book is an extremely clever send up of exhibit catalogues, of the pretentiousness of (over)interpretation of archaeological and other culture's materials, and a thoroughly enjoyable read. The basic premise is that the world as we know it has been buried, Vesuvius-like, under a deluge of bulk mail. Fast forward to the year 4022 and enjoy the hilarious tongue-in-cheek interpretation of these discoveries. My personal favorite has got to be the "sacred collar and matching hairband" (reminiscent ...more
Ricky Luz
Excellent example of how artefacts can easily mislead the interpreter. wonderful archaeological satire.
Recommended by Anthro 235 - Archaeology of human remains.
Kris
Not sure why our library has this in the juvenile section - maybe because of its size, or because the author's other books are written for the grade school level.
Pat Padden
If you're familiar with the original photographs taken of Howard Carter at the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun, you'll just laugh and laugh and laugh.
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David Macaulay, born in 1946, was eleven when his parents moved from England to Bloomfield, New Jersey. He found himself having to adjust from an idyllic English childhood to life in a fast paced American city. During this time he began to draw seriously, and after graduating from high school he enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). After spending his fifth year at RISD in Rome on ...more
More about David Macaulay...
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