A review by
Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star, 15 December 1963,
of six books:
IN THE DUST: Ancient Civilizations Brought to Light,
OF GOLD: A Journey in Search of the Mycenaeans,
New York: New
York Graphic Society, 19xx
TUTANKHAMEN: Life and Death of a Pharoah,
New York: New
York Graphic Society, 19xx
WORLD OF ARCHAEOLOGY,
by Marcel Brion.
WORLD OF THE PAST
Alfred A. Knopf, 19xx
VANISHED CIVILIZATIONS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD,
"Books on Archaeology, Art History Share Wave of Popularity This Year"
EMPIRES IN THE DUST: Ancient Civilizations Brought to Light.
By Robert Silverberg. (Chilton Books; $4.95. )
REALMS OF GOLD: A Journey in Search of the Mycenaeans.
By Leonard Cot. treIl. (New York Graphic Society; $5.95.)
TUTANKHAMEN: LIfe and Death of a Pharaoh.
By Christene Desroches-Noblecourt. (New York Graphic Society; $15.)
THE WORLD OF ARCHAEOLOGY.
By Marcel Brion. (2 volumes boxed; Macmillan; $15.)
THE WORLD OF THE PAST.
Edited by Jacquetta Hawkes. (2 volumes boxed; Knopf; $20.)
VANISHED CIVILIZATIONS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD.
Edited by Edward Bacon. (McGraw-Hill; $23.50.)
It would seem that the flood of writing on the Cold War is about to be overtaken
by two lesser and overlapping waves of books on archaeology and on art history.
A small selection of the former of these is listed above. In England, interest
in prehistory and archaeology is of long standing and has been catered to by
numerous local archaeological and antiquarian societies, with major discoveries
being announced to a wider public in the weekly issues of the "Illustrated
London News." But in the United States outside of New England and
Philadelphia, there was little interest until Life Magazine began to show
concern, a dozen years ago, as part of its series of well-written and
sumptuously illustrated articles on nature, religion, and art. A little earlier,
the Archaeological Institute of America had little success, either in attracting
audiences to its excellent, but poorly publicized, roving lecturers each winter
or in obtaining subscribers to its more popular monthly "Archaeology" (started
1948), which supplemented its more technical quarterly, "The American Journal of
Archaeology" (started 1885).
In the Magazines
Now the publishing world has burst into the market for
archaeology and art history revealed by Life. Naturally the quality of the
product varies greatly, from journalistic potboilers to rather technical
tomes. This range is not the same as the even wider gamut from very poor works
to excellent ones, because some of the volumes from the most authoritative
writers are bad books, either because they are poorly organized or because they
show little ability to communicate what their authors unquestionably know. On
the other hand some of the potboilers, such as one listed above by Leonard
Cottrell, are surprisingly sound and informative. These offerings also vary
greatly in size and price. In general, illustrations are usually
excellent, and those in color are often spectacular, as in the volume on King
"Tut." Some of these books are so elaborate and expensive that they seem
chiefly to be aimed at the Christmas gift market. They remind me of the
huge tomes, filled with expensive engravings, which the newly rich Victorian
middle classes put on their library or living room tables not to be read but to
demonstrate their genteel culture to visitors. It will be a shame if some of
these recent volumes go similarly unread, for they cannot fail to increase the
American people's social and cultural perspective at a time when this is much
Among the Best
A number of these volumes are co-operative works, in which each period, each
archaeological site, or each chapter is written by a different expert.
Although this inevitably provides an uneven and unfocused presentation, some of
these edited volumes, especially the one from McGraw-Hill above, are among the
best. Diverse authorship does not really detract from a book which is expected
to be sampled in a random fashion rather than read straight through.
Of the volumes listed, "Empires in the Dust," by a
prolific writer of science fiction, deals with the obvious archaeological sites
in an obvious way, but it is written in a vivid and straightforward style which
should have special appeal to younger readers. "Realms of Gold" does
something similar, from a better informed writer, and on a much narrowed topic,
to present our knowledge of the Mycenaean Greeks. Each of these books has a
small selection of photographs.
The ability of modern color photography to reproduce the
splendor of archaeological treasures is evident in the Desroches-Noblecourt
volume on what has been the most spectacular archaeological discovery of all
time, the tomb of young Tutankhamen, found in 1922 by Howard Carter and Lord
Carnarvon. Even those who have actually seen some of these rich objects in
museums will find unsuspected beauties in the reproductions in this volume.
In contrast, Marcel Brion's two volumes, although in a
decorative box, are, at first glance colorless: Almost 600 pages of small type
in two small volumes with 46 glossy photographs and 60 drawings in the text. But
the book has considerable novelty, since a major part of it is concerned with
relatively unfamiliar areas and sites, in India, the Americas, Central Asia,
Indochina, and Africa. Moreover, much of the information is derived from
French excavation reports which are much less known than they deserve to be.
As a result, these volumes have a host of interesting facts and suggestions, not
all of which should be accepted at their face value.
At first glance the last two works listed, from Alfred Knopf and McGraw-HIll
look like direct competitors for the Christmas trade. In fact, their chief
common traits are relatively high price and multiple authorship. The two volumes
edited by Mrs. Hawkes have brilliant dust jackets and a colorful box, but within
are rather dull, both in the text and the 48 plates of photographs. The
text consists of 100 pages by the editor on the nature and history of
archaeology from the English provincial point of view followed by about 225
extracts of writing on archaeology dating from Hesiod, Herodotus, and Lucretius
to our own day. These vary in length from a single page to over 50 pages
and were obviously selected because they form part of the history of
archaeological work rather than because they contributed to our contemporary
archaeological ideas, since dubious writing by non-archaeologists, like the Rev.
Samuel Lyons, an Old Testament fundamentalist, and from D. H. Lawrence are
The Edward Bacon volume, of all those listed here, is the
best, for a gift or for personal ownership. Edited by the archaeological editor
of the "Illustrated London News," it has everything: Large pages of high quality
paper, over 800 illustrations of which 211 in full color, with text from
outstanding experts, and dealing with recent or little known archaeological
discoveries. Henri Lhote tells of the extraordinary rock carvings in the
once lush central Sahara; he is followed by Roger Summers on Zimbabwe in
Rhodesia, and by William Watson on the Hairy Ainu. Others of the 14 chapters
deal with Angkor and the Sarmatians of South Russia, with Saba and the mysteries
of Southern Arabia, with Luristan, Afghanistan, and the amazing migrations of
the megalithic cultures from the Near East to Stonehenge. This volume is too
large to go into a Christmas stocking, but it will be a welcome gift under many
a Christmas tree.