Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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from the trenches
Books: 15 Years of Tombs and Test Pits Volume 61 Number 2, March/April 2008
by Sara Goudarzi


Few people experience a thrill like the one Zahi Hawass got when he climbed deep into the bedrock of the Valley of the Kings and peeked through a tiny hole into an undisturbed tomb chamber containing coffins and pottery jars hidden for more than 3,000 years. But armchair archaeologists everywhere can enjoy 15 years worth of the most important "a-ha!" moments in Discovery! Unearthing the New Treasures of Archaeology (Thames & Hudson Inc., $40). "More archaeological discoveries have been made in the past 15 years than since Victorian times," says archaeologist Brian Fagan, the book's editor. He attributes the boost to an increasing number of archaeologists and improving technology.

Most of the book is written by the discoverers themselves. Readers accompany Johan Reinhard and Constanza Ceruti as they climb to the summit of Llullaillaco, a volcano on the border of Chile and Argentina, and stare into the frozen face of a six-year-old Inca girl, who appears to be peacefully sleeping.

But not all of the discoveries take place on archaeological sites. The reconstruction of Neanderthal DNA and the discovery that a 9,000-year-old Chinese jar held the earliest-known alcoholic beverage ("Tapping into the Past and Dreading the Hangover," November/December 2007) show that some of the most important finds take place in the laboratory, long after the excavation trenches have been filled.

© 2008 by the Archaeological Institute of America