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Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession
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Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  838 ratings  ·  141 reviews
To whom does the past belong? Is the archeologist who discovers a lost tomb a sort of hero--or a villain? If someone steals a relic from a museum and returns it to the ruin it came from, is she a thief? Written in his trademark lyrical style, Craig Childs's riveting new book is a ghost story--an intense, impassioned investigation into the nature of the past and the things ...more
ebook, 155 pages
Published August 25th 2010 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2010)
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Diane
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book about archaeology, but I found it to be muddled and poorly written, and I quickly lost interest. I abandoned it after a few chapters. You may like it more.

Introductory Quotes
"This book is about the underbelly of archaeology, from both a personal and a global perspective. It is a firsthand exploration into the many reasons we loot. To loot is to freely take something that is not yours. There are night diggers pillaging tombs and rioters with bats and crowbars pourin
...more
Karin
Jul 05, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
You can't please everyone. In retrospect there was probably no way that I, a formally trained archaeologist, archaeological conservator, and museologist, would like this book. But I was thinking this would at least be a rational look at the underbelly of antiquities and the thrill and obsession that often accompanies it. That would be a book worth reading.
Childs is on the periphery of understanding. He's picked up some lessons during his travels and applies them across the board. Sometimes he ge
...more
Xarah
I found Childs' writing style very nice. It felt like he was engaging in a conversation. It was quite approachable and he was able to portray the issues in a clear light.

I don't agree with all of Childs' view points, however. While he talks about laws that protect cultural resources, he doesn't full grasp the reasoning behind it, especially when taking into account what an archaeologist does. We do not just go, dig in a site, and collect items for museums or repositories. We also search to under
...more
Abby
Dec 25, 2011 added it
In southwest archaeology circles, I've heard a range of opinions about this Craig Childs fellow. Most recently I heard from an archaeobotanist, "He's not a professional, but he's very sincere and he has a genuine desire to know about the past. When he talks to you, he has these little strips of paper that he takes notes on." Sounds like someone I'd get along with. I like the way he approaches the issue with care and complexity, taking into account the very real emotional side of archaeology. Tr ...more
JulieW
Feb 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Just to give context - there's nothing I'd rather do than hike in the desert southwest, searching the ground for something, anything, that connects me to the people who lived there a thousand years ago. So, I've definitely struggled with whether to pick up a sherd or leave it in place. The best thing about this book is that Mr. Childs didn't come up with a black and white answer as to who should own the touchable pieces of our past. Instead, he gave numerous examp ...more
Alana
Oct 26, 2010 rated it did not like it
I want to find this idiot, cover him to his neck in a shell midden and leave him exposed to the elements.

If there was a star for "Jesus Christ, I can't believe someone published this," I would have clicked on it.
Andrew
Oct 26, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As it turns out, the author’s title is unbelievably appropriate as it describes the essence of the entirety of the book – a personal reaction to the discovery of artifacts.

Childs sets out to describe the history behind humanity’s need to understand its past. He artfully crafts a story based in part on his own personal, and very diverse, travels about the globe. He tells of grand discoveries as often as simple broken pots. Childs successfully creates a sense that each item has a tale to tell and
...more
Bonnie
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Craig Childs is an expert in finding relics like potsherds, shrines, arrowheads, and tapestries. This book is about the underbelly of archaeology, from both a personal and a global perspective. It tries to explain why people loot treasures they find and also explain why that is wrong. Most of the action takes place in south central Arizona where a group of men took high school students from Los Angeles into the desert, The company they worked for paid seventy-five dollars a day. They taught basi ...more
Katherine
Sep 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: archaeology
Craig Childs is one of my favorite nature writers who has lately ventured into archaeological writing. This book is an interesting musing on who owns the past and what should be done with artifacts. His bottom line is we have collected enough, enjoy what we've collected and leave the rest where it is. Being part of the ground is part of it's history and part of our sense of place. He does bring up some interesting ideas and its very readable. More a series of essays than a book. Will be interest ...more
Milo
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Hard to put down. Perhaps because I live in the heart of the west that Childs has written about I am drawn to his work. The book explores with little bias all of the sides of antiquities and what we do with them. His presence on Facebook is, however, quite irritating. He acts like a person seeking daily recognition and yet his books speak for themselves.
Caroline
Mar 15, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is essentially one long personal rumination on the ethics of archaeology, of artefact preservation and collection, the role of museum curators, archaeologists, dealers and collectors in both preserving and destroying the archaeological record, depending on which side of the ethical fence you fall on. It's an interesting moral dilemma, one I'm not sure I've fully come to a conclusion on, even at the end of this book.

Childs argues that in removing artefacts from their locations we are lo
...more
Jo
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was fascinating and thought provoking, and an enjoyable read. Not too long, not too heavy, with a strong focus on the American Southwest where the author has extensive experience.

I had never really considered the ethics of archaeology and the collection and trading of artifacts and antiquities and how complex these issues really are. I thought I knew what's right and what's wrong, but I really hadn't given it adequate thought. The author has his own opinions, but speaks to people on every
...more
Kathy
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book on the history and ethics of professional and amateur archaeologist.
Don
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Childs entertaining, informative, provocative tales of archeological sites “plundered,” “looted,” and artifacts removed (or not), preserved, stored, sold, displayed in museums, held for private display. He portrays well the deeply felt emotions and the ethical positions taken by many who seek, find, collect, and even simply learn and enjoy from the work of those others. He “had me” from his introduction and my engagement continued through innumerable tales of artifac ...more
Sue
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To take? Or not to take. Like the dilemma that surrounds the Titanic. Was Indiana Jones justified to pilfer his objects only because his life was in jeopardy? It made great movies but in real life there are all kinds of laws that govern these things.

This was a lovely picture of a kiva on the cover, and we really enjoyed descending into the one (Coronado State Monument) near Albuquerque where they also proudly presented artifacts such as an authentic soldier helmet (and other paraphernalia) from
...more
Nancy
Sep 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
In this book, Craig Childs puts on his amateur archaeologist hat and takes the reader along as he explores the different sides of the archaeological ethics debate, "What should happen to artifacts from the past?" The oldest rule is "finders, keepers" which simply means that whoever finds the artifact can decide what to do with it. Childs has done a lot of research and personally visited with professional and amateur archaeologists, museum curators, officials responsible for enforcing various law ...more
Paul Kinzer
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a very well written story of one mans journey to find the answer to what should be done with archaeological artifacts. Through personal experience while hiking through the U.S. Southwest (and other places around the world) seeking ruins, and discussions with archaeologists, collectors, and looters, he finds a multi-faceted answer, quite at odds with itself. If you have an even passing interest in archaeology, you'll find this a fascinating read. Even though I was on a plane with little ...more
ej cullen
Jan 04, 2011 rated it liked it
New age archeology. (Look, but don't touch anything, just leave it there.) Noble sentiments, but with Childs' post- hippie philosophy, the only way you'll ever see any historical artifacts is if you spend your life in a Jeep, and, wherever you finally park, foraging with a toothpick and a paint brush. And even then, all you might find are some broken shards and an arrowhead (if you're lucky,) which artifacts you won't tell anyone about because they might dig them up. The book contains some inter ...more
William Graney
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Craig Childs is becoming one of my favorite authors.
Bonnie
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Craig Child's books are always a great read- insightful, thought-provoking and poetic in his bond with nature. In this particular book, he asks the question: who do archeological finds belong to? A political, a scientific and a moral question. Many degreed archeologists have uncovered the remnants of a prior civilization - and given/sold them to universities and museums. However, these museums are seldom in the country of their finding. Should these countries be given back their ancestory - the ...more
Jack Beimler
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
The subject of ethics in archaeology is fixed with stubbornness on both sides. I am trained in archaeology, so when I began this book I was expecting it to be wildly uninformed in the professional viewpoint. I was almost correct.

Just when the author appears to begin understanding the importance of context, he veers off into personal desires and "historicity". While Childs claims to know the importance of place, he continuously ignores its scientific benefits. The author seems to be fixed on the
...more
Alexis
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
If I weren't an archaeologist, I'd probably give this three stars. It's well paced and has broad geographic coverage, exploring sites around the world. Childs also makes an effort to approach the issue of artifacts (whether excavated or looted) from different (and often opposing) perspectives. But since I am an archaeologist, I can only give the book two stars at most. Childs is far too sympathetic to looters and antiquities collectors, while portraying archaeologists as greedy hoarders. He igno ...more
Bec
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting introduction to the ethics of archaeology. I love collecting fossils, I think it is so exciting to have stuff that is usually in a museum, I thought it amazing when I first found out you were actually allowed to own them. I live in Australia & not much archaeology is to be found lying around & a lot was destroyed (like stone huts) to continue the myth of terra nullis or it was taken by the British to their fancy museum overseas. There was actually an Aboriginal artifact ex ...more
Waverly Fitzgerald
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved everything about this book. Virtuoso writing--sentences that swerve and twist with the subjects they describe. A nuanced and multi-faceted view of archaeological artifacts--whether they belong in museums, in the hands of private collectors, left alone. Craig Childs has been finding fabulous artifacts in the Southwest desert he loves for years and it's clear his inclination is to leave them in situ. But in this book he interviews private collectors, museum curators, pot diggers, archaeolo ...more
Sarah
This takes an interesting look at Archaeology that I'd never really considered. While I don't think I necessarily agreed with all of his points here, I did agree with someone and it forced me to think on something I took for granted previously. I do always enjoy that in a book. I do wish we'd gotten more of a concrete answer to some of the questions he was posing. They are hard questions and they need asked but theories or ideas would have given some strength to the book that it lacked for me i ...more
Kim
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession (ebook) is a pleasure to read. You don't need to be an archaeologist to appreciate Childs's reflections on the discoveries (fully preserved or just remnants) -of pottery shards, baskets, a staff, arrows (to name a few) he has made over the years in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Mexico and...

more. 'Finders Keepers' ends on a comforting note best summed up in the author's own words: let go.
Michael
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this to be an interesting discussion about our relationship with the past as represented by artifacts of antiquity. Childs approaches the issue from a personal standpoint, but with input from various sides, including academics, smugglers, questionable antiquities dealers and fellow self-taught experts. His focus, based on personal experience, is on the American Southwest, but he takes a global view of the issue.
litost
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2018
I really like this book. It is about what does, and what should, happen to ancient artifacts. It is partly an ethics discussion, partly an exposé, but mostly a series of stories about artifacts Childs has come in contact with. My favourites are from his ramblings in the canyons of the American Southwest, an area he knows very well. I wish I was with him on those rambles.
Kendra Nichols
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's a very interesting point of view on taking artifacts from where they are originally from in an Archaeologist's perspective. there is so much a life in this book that just hooks you into finishing it. I really enjoy books like this and if you like flowing words that can make you see what the author sees then this may just be one that you would enjoy.
Norma J. Engelberg
Who knew archaeology was such a gray area? Childs argues on every side of the questions involved--who are the good guys, who are the bad guys, so cultural artifacts being to their descendants or to everyone, what is cultural heritage anyway? He answers all of these questions with other questions. I might have given this book 5 stars but he called my decorative chickens "tawdry." LOL.
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CRAIG CHILDS is a commentator for NPR's Morning Edition, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Men's Journal, Outside, The Sun, and Orion. He has won numerous awards including the 2011 Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, 2008 Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure, the 2007 Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award, and the 2003 Spirit of the West Award for his body of work.
“There are so many of us now that we threaten to devour the world with our touching, starting with the things we adore most. At the same time, we obviously yearn for contact, and I fear what would happen if we were cut off from a distinctive, on-the-ground relationship with the past.” 3 likes
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