The volume under review, now in its third edition, is an abridged version of the best-selling textbook by the same authors, Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice, now in its sixth edition (London: Thames and Hudson, 2012). The larger volume, which is currently more than 650 pages long, has been used for several decades as one of the best introductory textbooks to archaeology. I myself go back to it from time to time to read up on various issues that are not part of my everyday fare. That said, the size of the original volume is quite daunting, in particular for introductory and undergraduate courses, so the abridged volume, which is reviewed here, with about 350 pages of text, serves as a more accessible option.
While not covering the various topics as broadly as its “bigger brother,” overall, the authors, both among the mostimportant and well-known archaeologists in the world, do a masterful job at explaining key issues clearly and covering, more or less, the full range of topics and perspectives of modern-day archaeology—from ceramics and architecture to ancient DNA, phytoliths and diatoms.
In addition to a very readable text—with many “boxes” discussing specific issues—the volume is profusely illustrated with high-quality images, both photographs and line drawings, which make the text very accessible to the interested layperson and beginning student.
If I had to recommend the best introductory textbook in general archaeology for undergraduate students who read English, this would be it.