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The Archaeology of Colonialism

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The Archaeology of Colonialism
Edited by Claire L. Lyons and John K. Papadopoulos. (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute: 2002. Illustrated, Pg. 284.) ISBN: 0-89236-635-4.

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - July 21, 2002

Archaeology is, and always has been, a means of learning about other cultures and societies, and their associated histories. Few, however, have ever used this information in order to study the effects and impact of colonialism on a community. In this book, The Archaeology of Colonialism, Claire L. Lyons and John K. Papadopoulos have compiles a variety of essays on this issue. Combined, these essays help to explain how colonialism can be examined through the archaeological evidence, and the impact that these outside influences have had on various communities.

This book begins with an introductory essay, Archaeology and Colonialism, by Lyons and Papadopoulos. This essay not only defines the scope of this book, but it also delineates the problems and challenges faces in study colonialism via archaeology. The remainder of the essays in this book are divided into two thematic categories, Objects and Ideologies.

The essays in Part I: Objects, include: And, the essays in Part II: Ideologies, include: As you can tell simply by glancing over the titles of these essays, the scope of this book is broad, yet barely begins to touch upon the full possibilities of this topic. Most of these essays are illustrated, and they all included exhaustive endnotes. In addition, biographical notes on the contributors can be found at the end of the book, as well as a detailed index.

The Archaeology of Colonialism offers more than just theoretical musing. Here you will find four case studies that illustrate how artifacts can be used to reconstruct various aspects of a community and what information can be derived from such reconstructions. As well, it offers examples of specific objects, and their known histories. A wonderfully complex and intriguing book, The Archaeology of Colonialism will be of interest to archaeologist, anthropologist, historians, and anyone interested in learning how communal identities are shaped and how we learn about these communities from the artifacts they leave behind.

Related Reviews:

Reclaiming a Plundered Past, by Magnus T. Bernhardsson.
Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq.

Imperial Connections: India in the Indian Ocean Arena, 1860-1920, by Thomas R. Metcalf.
A thought-provoking analysis of Indian history that contends that the India of the Raj was as much a colonizer as it was colonized.

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