In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Subjects and Narratives in Archaeology ed. by Ruth M. Van Dyke and Reinhard Bernbeck
  • Mitchell Allenz
Subjects and Narratives in Archaeology. Edited by Ruth M. Van Dyke and Reinhard Bernbeck. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2015. Pp. 299, 69 illustrations. Paperback, $23.95. ISBN 9781607323877.

The Premise

This is not a standard book review. But the book in question explores alternative, literary ways of presenting archaeology. How could a reviewer turn down the chance to put their ideas into practice? Except Allen and Ellis, the modern characters in this dialogue are fictitious, no matter how much they sound like the person you share an office with. Even Ellis’s words are invented, though she has read them and agreed they are [End Page 118] things she might have said. If you think archaeological writing should stick to explicating complex section drawings, then you should consider skipping this and moving on to the next review. You wouldn’t like the book anyway.

The Book Review Panel

Ahmad al-Rahim (AA-R), an invented PhD student in anthropology at Berkeley, or maybe Stanford. Has a BA in media studies and an MA in creative writing at some Midwestern university before stumbling into an archaeological project in Cyprus and getting hooked. Field supervisor on the PI’s current project.

Mitchell Allen (MA), Book Review Editor of JEMAHS and former publisher of AltaMira Press and Left Coast Press.

Dido, a Neolithic woman buried in Feature E634 at Çatalhöyük, described by Ruth Tringham (p. 40) as part of the Last House on the Hill Project (

Carolyn Ellis (CE), leading figure in alternative presentation of ethnography, Distinguished Professor of Communication, University of South Florida.

Jennifer Lee (JL), another fictional PhD student in al-Rahim’s cohort. More traditional background: BA degree in anthropology from an unnamed research university in Pennsylvania. Regularly attends ASOR and SAA. Also works on PI’s current project.

Flinders Petrie’s ghost (FP), a shadow of the founder of scientific archaeology.

The Principal Investigator (PI), a composite senior archaeologist who runs a large excavation project in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

The Setting

Departmental lounge at a university somewhere in the United States. You’ve been in many of them. Once painted off white, now a dingy off white. “Franz Boas Room” seen in reverse on the glass door panel. Various photos and posters on the wall of places where faculty members had done their Othering in the past. A couch, equally musty and dusty, rests against one wall, badly in need of replacement. Had it charged money each time a grad student slept on it, it would have been reupholstered long ago. Other chairs and armchairs in equally desperate condition scattered about the room. Copies of Current Anthropology and Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology cover a few of the many gouges and stains on the coffee table. Windows haven’t been cleaned for a while, thus showing only bits of a beautiful university quad with lush green trees and expansive walkways. Mounted on one wall is a 64” computer screen. Below it a desk and a Lenovo laptop. Al-Rahim sits at the laptop with his fingers floating quickly over the keyboard.

The Discussion

All but the PI enter. As Dido walks in, Ruth Tringham’s website Last House on the Hill ( flashes onto the screen. “EEEEE!!!!” Dido shrieks in fright and quickly touches her forehead, both cheeks, and chin with an index finger for protection. Lee steps over quickly and holds onto her elbow. It calms her. Fright turns to wariness, then wonder. Petrie, immediately behind her, mutters something unprintable in Middle Egyptian and begins furiously stroking his beard.


(getting up from his chair and going over to Dido) Sorry if I scared you, but I knew you were from Çatalhöyük and wanted to show you the hypertext that Ruth Tringham created about your home. She describes it in the book we will be discussing as one way of sharing archaeology with a broader audience.


I know those homes. How did they come here? Did you...


Additional Information

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pp. 118-122
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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