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A review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star, 15 December 1963,

of six books:

1) EMPIRES IN THE DUST: Ancient Civilizations Brought to Light,

by Robert Silverberg.

Xxxxx: Chilton Books, 19xx

2) REALMS OF GOLD: A Journey in Search of the Mycenaeans,

by Leonard Cottrell.

New York: New York Graphic Society, 19xx

3) TUTANKHAMEN: Life and Death of a Pharoah,

by Christane Desroches-Noblecourt.

New York: New York Graphic Society, 19xx

4) THE WORLD OF ARCHAEOLOGY,

by Marcel Brion.

New York: Macmillan, 19xx

5) THE WORLD OF THE PAST

edited by Jacquetta Hawkes.

New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 19xx

6) VANISHED CIVILIZATIONS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD,

edited by Edward Bacon.

New York: McGraw-Hill, 19xx

 

 

"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 needed.

 

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.

 

For Christmas

   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 included.

 

   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.

 

--CARROLL QUIGLEY.

 


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