True Stories and Fascinating Asides

May 28, 2017 - Finding Carter

The Lion Gate of Mycenae / Getty Images


May 28, 2017 5:00 am

This book starts with an “archaeological axiom”: “One mill is a stone./ Two stones is a feature./ Three stones is a wall./ Four stones is a building./ Five stones is a palace./ (Six stones is a house built by aliens.)”

The word “aliens” takes a poke during Erich von Däniken, whose 1968 book, Chariots of a Gods, theorizes that a Nazca Lines in Peru were finished usually for a advantage of “ancient astronauts.” “What is wrong,” Cline quotes von Däniken as writing, “with a thought that a lines were laid out to contend to a ‘gods’: ‘Land here! Everything has been prepared as we ordered!'” So really scientific!

In fact a Nazcas and others finished a lines by simply picking rocks adult “to exhibit a lighter-colored silt underneath” and no one knows for certain why. Various theories indicate to mapping constellations, tracking H2O sources, or carrying out eremite rites on rite paths. And many of these geoglyphs dawn on hillsides where their makers could seemingly see them. Ancient humankind was not as infirm as conspiracy-minded moderns would have them be.

Cline also punctures a fable of a Mummy’s Curse and a intrigue of a Indiana Jones movies. He instead presents true stories of archaeological digs and fascinating asides about a lives of a few famous archaeologists, a histories of a regions in that a digs took place, and a technical side of archaeology. Cline covers this latter subject with “interludes,” wherein he answers his many mostly asked questions: “How Do You Know Where to Dig?”; “How Do You Know How to Dig?”; “How Old Is This and Why Is It Preserved?”; and “Do You Get to Keep What You Find?”

He includes classical stories such as that of Howard Carter and a Earl of Carnarvon anticipating King Tut’s tomb—when Carnarvon asked him what he saw, Carter famously answered, “I see smashing things”—and also how Heinrich Schliemann, “discovered” a hull of Troy—in quotes since Schliemann was a systematic scoundrel. He did not “discover” Troy until Frank Calvert, U.S. clamp consul to Turkey, showed him where it was.

But Cline also covers lesser-known though engaging digs, including a mine of a H. L. Hunley, a Confederate submarine found off a seashore of Charleston, South Carolina. The Hunley’s 8 organisation members all drowned during their posts though usually dual have been identified, one being a commander, Lieutenant George E. Dixon. Dixon had carried in his slot a bullion silver that had saved his life in a Battle of Shiloh. An engraved bullion silver was found during a site of a submarine and a circuitously skeleton “had a healed bullet wound in a left tip thigh, with pieces of lead and flecks of bullion still embedded in his femur.”

Excavations, then, can exhibit personal stories, though they can also turn political. ISIS has been destroying archaeological sites of extensive significance while also offered artifacts on a black market. Cline also examines a story of Masada, Herod’s outpost where Josephus says 960 Jewish zealots committed self-murder rather than contention to a Romans. Serious questions remain, Cline says, about a correctness of Josephus’s comment and of Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin’s conclusions corroborating a ancient historian. Yadin’s critics contend he was building adult a jingoist narrative—he would not be a usually archaeologist to have finished this—and interpreted a justification accordingly. Cline thinks it is some-more expected a Romans massacred a zealots, though he credits Yadin though with being a good archaeologist in a field.

Enough about politics; what about religion? Chesterton had some choice barbs for archaeologists who would all-knowingly refurbish a enlightenment from a few fragments of bone and stone. Cline is not as presumptuous. He refers a reader to David Macaulay’s Motel of a Mysteries, an illustrated book about archaeologists, in 4022 CE, who find ancient hull that seem puzzling to them though that a reader knows is a motel room:

Thus, in a supposed “Outer Chamber,” Macaulay’s Howard Carson finds all confronting “the Great Altar,” including a physique that is still fibbing on tip of a “Ceremonial Platform,” and is still holding in his hand, “the Sacred Communicator.” Of course, we commend these; a “Great Altar” is nothing other than a radio set; a “Ceremonial Platform” is only a bed; and a “Sacred Communicator” is a remote control for a radio set.

Cline’s clarity of humor, during times, falls a small prosaic for me, and we wish that instead of Glynnis Fawkes’s glorious line drawings photographs had infrequently been used. But Three Stones Makes A Wall, is a fun, informative, and erudite read, an updated, reduction regretful and breathless chronicle of C. W. Ceram’s Gods, Graves Scholars.


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