Encyclopedia of Medieval ArchaeologyBBS

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Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America covers the archaeology not only of the region known as Mesoamerica (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama) but also of the cultural areas where pre-Columbian cultural traits were carried by migrants, from the U.S. Southwest to northern Ecuador. These cultural traits include farming techniques, food preparation, clothing, tools, weapons, games, architectural characteristics, writing, calendars, and religious beliefs. The editors present "a very broad introductory overview briefly summarizing what we know about the earliest human populations, the emergence and spread of food production and the rise of complex societies." The majority of the authors are from U.S. universities.
Each entry is signed and ends with a bibliography. Lengthy entries on topics such as Agriculture and domestication , Ball game , Ceram ics, Clothing , and Gender roles (a relatively recent interest that is gaining importance in Mesoamerican archaeology) are written for the layperson and college student and focus more on cultural anthropology than on technical aspects of archaeology. There are survey articles on groups such as the Aztecs and the Maya and entries for individual archaeological sites from the well-known, such as Cichen Itza, in Yucatan, Mexico, to hundreds of the more obscure. The names of the region and country follow each site in parentheses in the entry heading. Archaeological methods (e.g., Dating methods, Skeletal analysis) are discussed, as are a few important people like Manuel Gamio (1883-1960), one of Mexico's most important archaeologists, and the American George Vaillant (1901-1945).
Of special interest in this work are the tables and charts. For example, one table lists diseases before and after the European contact, and another lists museums with collections of pre-Columbian artifacts in the U.S and Central America.
Margaret Bunson's Encyclopedia of Ancient Mesoamerica (Facts On File, 1996) has a helpful guide to pronunciation, a useful chronological table, and five pages of architectural sites. However, it does not attempt the same breadth of coverage as the volume under review. Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America is an essential purchase for collections devoted to the archaeology of Middle America and Mexico from the Pleistocene to European contact in the mid-sixteenth century.
Though it is playing an increasingly important role in contemporary archaeology, the archaeology of the Middle Ages is still a fragmented field. Crabtree, editor of Medi eval Archaeology, states in her preface, "One of the goals of this encyclopedia is to bring together in one volume the research of a diverse range of scholars who work on a wide variety of archaeological problems." Archaeologists trained in history, anthropology, archaeology, and classics contributed to this work, and only 17 percent are from the U.S. Research by Czech, Polish, Slovak, and Hungarian archaeologists, not available in English until now, is included. Medieval archaeology is defined as beginning with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century and ending with the dawn of the Modern Era, A.D. 1500. The focus is on "the Latin west stretching from Poland to Ireland and from southern Italy to northern Scandinavia. The Balkans and the Byzantine world are excluded.
Country and regional surveys for areas of Europe with major sites and research programs make up a large portion of the book. There are 17 country overviews, France receiving the most attention with 13 pages as opposed to 4 each for Germany and England. More than 80 sites are represented, with more than a quarter of them in England. At many of the sites, archaeology became important when urban redevelopment unearthed remarkable medieval archaeological finds. World War II bombing raids also exposed sites of interest to medieval archaeologists.
Other entries in the work treat topics such as Animal husbandry , Boatbuilding, Pilgrim souvenirs, and Water supply. There are entries related to archaeological techniques such as dendrochronology (a dating method) and crafts such as pottery and dyeing. The article Gender is especially interesting because the concept was not introduced until the 1980s in prehistoric archaeology and not until 10 years later in medieval archaeology.
There is no encyclopedia with which to compare this work, which is highly readable for nonspecialists. Very little technical language is used. Bibliographies accompany each entry, and a subject guide by country and an index facilitate access. The work is recommended for large public and academic libraries where study of the social and urban aspects of this historical period may be augmented by knowledge gleaned from
# Hardcover: 448 pages
# Publisher: Routledge (September 21, 2000)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0815312865
# ISBN-13: 978-0815312864 
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