Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson
Many, many years ago I fancied I would become an archaeologist. Ever since I could remember I have wanted to know who discovered, who was the first to figure out, who knew? Who discovered this particular plant, if pounded and pounded and pounded and mixed with urine would produce something that could be woven into cloth? How did they know which plants were medicinal and which were poison? Who figured out each mammal’s brain is big enough to tan their own hide? I figured that was archaeology. Digging for answers.
Lives in Ruins takes us on a very, very readable modern day journey to meet the archaeologists of today. We follow the author as she chases some of them down in very remote sites. Her tenacity is rewarded with digging seasons as an amateur and shares with us a first hand look at what the archaeologists endure to find the answers. The jobs are scarce, pay is paltry, the working conditions sometimes dangerous, usually hot, always dirty, hours are long. They persevere in the face of laws, property rights, lack of funding. Why? Why do they do it? Because they must. It’s in their DNA to do this work for us. To search amidst the dirt and rocks for some sign of life before. Their passion is our benefit.
The author raises the point of contemporary archaeology. The five minutes ago. The room you just left. The meal you just ate. I remember when my daughter was a child telling her history was what she did yesterday. It isn’t just the names of generals and the dates of battles. It was the doll she played with and the food she ate. As soon as the moment is passed, it’s history. Today she is the director of a museum.
I loved reading this book late into the night, imagining the truth behind Indiana Jones. If you are in the least interested in archaeology or know someone who is entertaining thoughts of taking this path, your money will be well spent with this book.