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Under The Microscope

EXPERIENCE ARCHAEOLOGY by Louise Zarmati and Aedeen Cremin; Cambridge University Press, 1998; 206 pp; $41.95

Reviewed by Dr Neville Gardner

This wide-ranging introduction to archaeology is written for secondary school students, with a few instructions aimed at teachers. It is well written for this level, with relevant analogies that students will identify with and relate to.

The main text is augmented by "Fact Files", "Case Studies" and "You be the Archaeologist" boxes which often pose questions and suggest activities. Instructions are even given on how to mummify a rat; somehow the "vegetarian" alternative of mummifying a zucchini does not have the same appeal!

It seems that just about every archaeological topic you can think of is mentioned, albeit briefly. Not just techniques old and new, but also ethics, heritage management and conservation.

In some ways I would have liked to see slightly more mention of environmental archaeology, but then specialists will often think that their own field should receive more coverage. For a book that is so up to date in many respects, it is curious that the chapter on twentieth century developments does not extend beyond Gordon Childe in the 1950s.

The book emphasises Australian archaeology, but the authors' experiences are also reflected in other examples from around the world, with the large exception of the Americas. This imbalance does not really matter, though it might help students to know that the New World is rich in archaeology.

I hesitate to complain, considering the reasonable price of the book, but a few of the photos are of such poor quality as to be virtually useless, and some line illustrations are crudely executed. However, these are minor points that only slightly detract from a very useful and accessible volume.

You don't have to be a school student to enjoy this book; I wish it had been available when I was starting my first archaeology degree. Experience Archaeology should appeal to anyone seeking an easy-to-understand but at times challenging introduction to what it is like to be an archaeologist.

Dr Neville Gardner is Senior Science Educator at The Science Centre & Manawatu Museum in Palmerston North.

Dr Neville Gardner is Senior Science Educator at The Science Centre and Manawatu Museum in Palmerston North.