Archaeology is a brand!

The meaning of archaeology in contemporary popular culture. Fully illustrated with numerous cartoons and two flip cartoons.

Oxford: Archaeopress. 196 pp., very many illustrations, paperback. ISBN 978-1905739066. £14.99.
North American edition: Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press. ISBN 978-1-59874-179-7. $24.99.

by Cornelius Holtorf, Linnaeus University Kalmar, Sweden and Quentin Drew, University of Wales, Lampeter, U.K.

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Archaeology is a regular feature in daily life and popular culture—what is the impact of this fact on the field? To answer this question, Cornelius Holtorf examines and compares media portrayals of archaeology in England, Germany, Sweden and the USA. He also analyses the gaps between media presentations and audience knowledge and attraction to the subject. In his inviting, populist style, Holtorf discusses strategies with which archaeologists can engage with popular representations of themselves and their profession. Possessors of a widely recognized, positively valued and well-underpinned brand, archaeologists need to take more seriously the appeal of their work and its relationship to society and popular culture.

(text from Left Coast Press)

 

 

Some appreciations:

The rise of public archaeology, the popularity of TV archaeology, and widespread stereotypes about the profession of archaeology have changed the way archaeologists relate to the public. A socially meaningful archaeology needs to take seriously where the popular demand and the appeal of archaeology actually lie. Arguably non-archaeologists know better what the subject is all about than most of its professionals do. This is the first full-length study of the meaning of archaeology in contemporary popular culture. It is fully illustrated with cartoons by Quentin Drew.
In popular culture archaeology is associated with adventurous fieldwork, criminological clue-hunting, great revelations, and responsible care for threatened resources. The emphasis is on doing archaeology rather than on its actual results. Cornelius Holtorf argues in this provocative account of more than two years of research that archaeological companies and institutions are not in the business of understanding the past but of enhancing peoples lives through adventures, mysteries, and revelations and by offering a chance to care. Archaeology may be an academic discipline but even more so it is a widely recognized, positively valued and well underpinned brand.
As we can expect from Cornelius Holtorf, the book contains not only its share of facts and analysis but also more than a few controversial arguments about the present and future roles of archaeology in society. It is unmissable for professional archaeologists working in the heritage sector as well as for students of archaeology, anthropology, heritage and museum studies, cultural studies, science studies, and related disciplines.

(text from Archaeopress)

This is possibly the best book I ever read. It has very nice pictures. I would recommend it for readers from about 17 months. Melanie Holtorf

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[Cornelius Holtorf's] ability to combine the perspective from in front of the TV with that from the ivory tower remains a rare skill. ... He has not followed Stephanie Moser, Ian Russell et al. (and there are numerous alii) onto the postmodernist representation bandwagon. Instead Holtorf has invented his own brandwagon. James Doeser

Gestern war mein erster Tag im Büro und ich fand in meinem Postkasten dein "Archaeology is a Brand"! Klasse! Gerade durch die Illustrationen bekommt das "Werk" nochmals eine andere Konnotation. Habe dann gestern abend kreuz und quer geblättert und mich köstlich amüsiert! Tom Stern

Jag blev väldigt förtjust i din Archaeology is a brand! Det bästa - och roligaste - jag läst på länge inom arkeologin. Anders Gustafsson

Dr Holtorf’s microscopic view of the industry, though, is not what it externally seems. Smartly published using a comic font and cartoons produced by the hilarious hand of Quentin Drew of Lampeter University, Wales, Archaeology Is A Brand superficially resembles a light-hearted romp through the past in the present. But do not be hoodwinked by the author’s cunning intelligence: this is a very serious reflection that ‘typologises’ archaeologists – turning the tables on our artefact-cataloguing obsession – to predict future trends. Sean Kingsley (full review here)

Like Holtorf’s previous book (From Stonehenge to Las VegasArchaeology is a Brand! suffers from the same problem in terms of academic credibility in that it’s a pleasure to read. Despite this is it a good book? For me a good book is one which brings to light new information, new ideas or new questions. If you’re interested in the public perception of archaeology, then by that measure this is a good book. Alun Salt (full review here)

Nicht nur interessant, sondern macht auch noch Spaß! Spannend der Vergleich zu anderen Ländern und ihr lockererer Umgang mit der Wissenschaft - siehe Time Team in England. Super, Holtorfs andere Herangehensweise! Gisela Graichen

When Holtorf says that archaeologists have come to terms with the popularity of their subject - the archaelogist is not digging up things, or even people, but dreams - he may be onto something. ... The bibliography will be much used in archaeology and media courses. Mike Pitts (review in British Archaeology Magazine)

I can say no more than buy the book... buy it... read it and learn from it... It is a book that has been waiting to be written - and I am glad that at last it has. BAJR Forum (full review here)

Es macht Spaß das Buch zu lesen. Holtorfs Zielpublikum sind natürlich Archäologen, aber auch Studenten, die sowohl Archäologie, Anthropologie aber auch kulturwissenschaftliche oder naturwissenschaftliche Fächer gewählt haben. Eigentlich ist das Buch unverzichtbar für all diejenigen, die das Feld bearbeiten, das sich "public understanding of science" nennt. Norbert Steinhaus

It is hard not to imagine that Cornelius Holtorf spends his time in some kind of secret lair trying to come up with ever more inventive ways to drive mainstream archaeologists up the wall. Archaeology is a Brand! plays with every perception of what an archaeological text is supposed to be like. James Holloway

I absolutely loved this book. There is simply no one else to turn to for such an eye opening and honest look at how archaeology is viewed by the public....I swear, youl'll read this book in one go round! I certainly did! The book's full of wit, humor, intelligence and great factoids you'll constantly fire-off in conversations with professionals and amateurs alike! Perhaps, best of all for students of the discipline, there's a huge reference section for you to exploit! Bob Wishoff (full review here)

... the brand model that Holtorf develops offers an innovative view of the discipline. In widening engagement and responding to consumer demands the discipline is not under threat rather it is cultivating future stakeholders in the archaeological enterprise. Tim Clack (full review here)

Holtorf is correct: archaeology is a "brand" and very much a part of popular culture. ... Highly recommended. C. S. Peebles

Full list of press coverage and reviews:

forthcoming Fornvännen (Ing-Marie Back Danielsson)

2011 Review, Zeitschrift für Volkskunde 107 (1), 116-117 (Michaela Fenske)

2010 Review, Goodreads (Jeb Card)

2009 Review, Orientalische Literaturzeitung 104 (4-5), 412-421 (Marcus Müller)

2009 Review, Time and Mind 2 (3), 359-362 (Bob Trubshaw)

2009 Of Note, Science Communication 30 (3), 420 (JoAnn Valenti)

2008 Review, The Prehistoric Society (Timothy Clack)

2008 Review, Public Understanding of Science 17, 507-508 (Katherine Pandora).

2008 Review, Anthropology Review Database (Sarunas Milisauskas).

2008 ‘Popular culture’ and the archaeological imagination: A commentary on Cornelius Holtorf’s Archaeology is a Brand! (2007), Archaeolog (Chris Witmore).

2008 Review, Dirt Brothers Website (Bob Wishoff).

2008 "Should archaeology be in the service of 'popular culture'? A theoretical and political critique of Cornelius Holtorf's vision of archaeology." Antiquity 82, 488-492 (Kristian Kristiansen, with a reply by Cornelius Holtorf). Full text available here (Kristiansen) and here (Holtorf

).

2008 Review, Archaeological Review from Cambridge 23 (1), 169-173 (James Holloway).

2008 Review, Minerva 19(2) , 54-57 (Sean Kingsley), contains some of the cartoons in colour!

2008 Review, Current Archaeology 29, issue 217 (April 2008), 44-45 (Neil Faulkner).

2008 Prehistoric Fiction: Swigart, Lessing, and 10,000 BC. Kris's Archaeology Blog (Kris Hirst).

2008 Review, CHOICE April 2008 (C. S. Peebles).

2007 Review, Ethnographisch-Archäologische Zeitschrift 48, 447-452 (Kathrin Felder).

2007 Review, Fennoscandia Archaeologica XXIV (Eero Muurimäki).

2007 Review, Przeglad Archeologiczny 55, 171-177 (Darek Blaszczyk).

2007 Review, Public Archaeology 6 (4), 249-251 (James Doeser), see also here.

2007 Review, Arbeitsmarkt: Umweltschutz und Naturwissenschaften (Wissenschaftsladen Bonn) 15 (20.11.2007), IX (Norbert Steinhaus).

2007 Review, Silpakorn University International Journal 1 (2), 204-207 (Thanik Lertcharnrit).

2007 Annotation, Book News Inc.

2007 Recommended reading by the Society for American Archaeology.

2007 Archaeology - enjoy the past. Cornelius Holtorf geht der Archäologie zwischen Wissenschaft und Populärkultur nach. Sachbuchforschung (David Oels).

2007 Booktip, K-Blogg, 14 September 2007 (Malin Blomqvist).

2007 Review in the New Book Chronicle, Antiquity 81, 496-7 ('New Book Chronicle', Madeleine Hummler).

2007 *Editor's Choice and Review (Mike Pitts), British Archaeology Magazine, May/June, 52.

2007 Review, Archäologie Online (Christina Zingerle).

2007 Review on BAJR Forum, 26 April.

2007 Review on Archaeoastronomy.wordpress.com (Alun Salt), 25 March.

2007 "Scholars talk in toon to fight rise of jargon", Times Higher Education Supplement, 2 March (cover).

 

 

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My personal favourite cartoon in the book (by Quentin Drew):

 

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