Hello, everyone, happy summer’s day! For the past couple of years, I’ve been on a big non-fiction kick – documentaries, novels, podcasts, etc., are chock full of interesting facts., and now that I’m approaching my twenties, I think it’s important to expand my knowledge of the universe.
I recently finished the novel, Lives in Ruins, by Marilyn Johnson, and thoroughly enjoyed it for both the intrepid characters and no-nonsense writing. The author explores the discipline of archaeology, interviewing and living with archaeologists from all over the world, who study everything from shipwrecks off the coast of America to how to save historically-significant ruins during wartime.
The book is divided into four main parts, titled “Boot Camp”, “The Classics”, “Archaeology and War”, and “Heritage”, all of which investigate not only the daily activities of several famous archaeologists (Joan Connelly! Laurie Rush!), but also why they do what they do. What could possess so many intelligent people to work in a field that is constantly underfunded and unappreciated? Why would anyone volunteer to spend their lives barely affording healthcare, plunging into war zones with military escorts and minimal phone reception, digging through the remains of African burial grounds, 9/11, and more?
The simple answer is passion, and, by the time you finish this novel, you’ll feel that spark of uncurbed enthusiasm as well.
Of course, I’m a bit biased – for those who don’t know, I’m an anthropology student, currently preparing to enter graduate school to study archaeology. So, for me, not only did this book excite (and slightly terrify) me at the thought of my future, but as an archaeologist-in-training, I loved catching glimpses of the stereotypes that are hilariously true, from our exasperated love of Indiana Jones to our preference for certain alcohols over others.
The realities of my chosen profession can be harsh and, at times, disheartening. You can’t save every artifact, you can’t fund every dig, and, sometimes, you can’t stop the parking lot from being built on top of sacred ground. Still, archaeologists continue to trudge forward, determined to preserve the history of our species, and to uncover the lost stories of the past. Archaeologists, at their core, are romantics, and Johnson’s honest portrayal of their passion stays with readers long after the final page is turned.
In the end, I give this book 5/5 stars. Highly recommended.