Great Adventures in Archaeology

by Robert Silverberg


Publication history


(From Dial 1964)

Babylon, Ninveh, Troy, Copán, Ur, Chichén Itzá, Nippur, the Valley of the Nile — who does not thrill to the names of the fabled civilizations of the ancient world? Here, in one superbly readable volume, the great archaeologists tell the exciting first-hand stories of their explorations.

The remarkable discoveries of Schliemann and Carter, of Belzoni and Layard, of Woolley and Stephens revolutionized the study of prehistory. Their own accounts of their excavations were not dry-as-dust technical reports, but vivid tales of the arduous searching, the shrewd detective work, the imaginative probing, and the often dangerous digging that led to the recovery of the treasures of lost civilizations.

Robert Silverberg has chosen ten of the most important archaeological adventure stories, ranging in locale from the Fertile Crescent to the jungles of Central America, but rather than giving snippets and snatches from a great many sources, he has let these noted scientists tell their stories at length.

Here you will read the stirring account by Howard Carter of his discovery in 1922 of the sealed tomb of Tutankhamen. also in the section devoted to Egypt are Giovanni Battista Belzoni, explorer of the tombs and pyramids; and William Matthew Flinders Petrie, whose careful methods helped establish the science of archaeology.

The work of Layard, Hilprecht, Koldewey and Woolley provides revelations into the ruins of Babylon, Ur and Nippur. A large portion of the book is reserved for Heinrich Schliemann's epic search for and discovery of ancient Troy.

There are also the two Americans who helped annotate the life of the Mayans: John Lloyd Stephens, who roamed the city of Copán in 1839; and Edward Herbert Thompson, discoverer of the Secret Well at Chichén Itzá in Yucatán.


On the cover, Silverberg is credited as editor (rather than author), as his contributions are mainly in selecting passages from the journals and other writings of the archaeologists themselves. There is a seven page introduction, and short passages of a few pages set up the bulk of each section. Given the subject matter of this book, I think it is a fine candidate for reprinting – it will never go out of date, as it does not pretend to present current thinking on any of the ancient sites described, but the first-hand accounts of those who were there at the time of discovery.

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