Tim Pendry's Reviews > Cambridge Encyclopedia of Archaeology

Cambridge Encyclopedia of Archaeology by Andrew Sherratt
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Although now over a quarter of a century out of date, this is a baseline master work, providing a summary of the state of archaeological knowledge as it was in the late 1970s/early 1980s (depending on the edition).

Andrew Sherratt's contributors cover the then-state of archaeology and dating technologies but the bulk of the book (over 50 region-specific articles) covers, chronologically, the archaeological record from the palaeolithic to the urbanisation of Eastern Europe.

Nor is the book weighted towards 'Western civilisation'. Equal weight is given to Africa, Asia and the Americas with chapters on the Arctic and Near-Arctic (2), Oceania and Australia (2) so that what we have here is a sort of global non-history to act as a corrective to a reliance on texts.

However, the age does tell in some areas rather than others. The sections on human palaeontology would now be seriously misleading and one suspects that, today, there would be significant shifts of interpretative emphasis throughout the book.

The only shame is that there does not seem to be a new edition since 1985 and yet archaeology (and human paleaontology) have continued to make new discoveries and interpretations. A new edition is sorely needed - until then, it stays on the shelf as a good reference point for further questions.
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