Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: Describing and Interpreting the Past

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Sveta Matskevich)

Cătălin Pavel, Describing and Interpreting the Past: European and American Approaches to the Written Record of the Excavation. Bucureşti: Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti

While there is a wide-ranging literature on the subject of excavation methods on the one hand, and of excavation reports on the other, the topic of recording in archaeology—which forms the crucial link between these two—is not very widely discussed, even within publications on method and theory. Therefore, the book under review makes an extremely valuable contribution to the topic of archaeological method and theory. It describes the state of art in the sphere of recording systems, and discusses important topics in their history and development.

This book is based on the author’s 2009 University of Bucharest Ph.D. dissertation. In his study, Pavel discusses various aspects of archaeological recording systems, considering them as a linking element between fieldwork and archaeological theory. The work is based on an analysis of more than sixty case-studies presented in the book as an illustrated catalog. The geographical scope of the research includes (with three exceptions) Western European, Near Eastern, and American field projects.

The monograph has two major parts: The first is theoretical and comprises chapters I-VII. The second half of the book is a catalog of case-studies (chapter VIII) and their summary in chapter IX.

The introduction describes the scope and research questions of the present study, and provides the reader with definitions of basic terminology (additional useful explanations are in the summarizing chapter IX).

The author begins the monograph with the explanation of the importance of recording in archaeology, and proceeds to a very detailed, well-studied and interestingly written history of archaeological recording in Chapter II.

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