In describing the excavation of a junk which sank off the north coast of Viet Nam in the mid-fifteenth century, Frank Pope focuses on the people who engage in excavation work–the maritime archaeologist vs. the treasure hunter, the financiers who supply the funds that make underwater excavation possible, the looters (often fishermen) who damage sites, the academics who engage in fierce competition for recognition within the field, and the divers, who have to live underwater in small, pressurized containers for over a month at a time. He also includes the history of maritime archaeology, detailed descriptions of the equipment which has evolved to make deep dives possible, the status of current technology in the field, and the complex systems which support “saturation divers,” who may be working at eight atmospheres of pressure. Almost a million rare Vietnamese porcelain and ceramic artifacts from the fifteenth century are discovered.
Category Archive for '9-2008 Reviews'
The author raises more questions than he answers. James Stephenson’s memoir about the Hadzabe in Tanzania, one of the last tribes of hunter-gatherers, is fascinating, though not always in ways the author probably intended. As much about the 27-year-old author and the casual romanticism with which he plunges into life in another culture as it […]
Within this engrossing story of love and war in Berlin and Mostar, Yugoslavia, from 1989 to 1992, John Marks considers the subject of divided cities-and the damaging effects on the people who live in them. The Wall dividing East and West Berlin has just come down, and Germany is in the process of reunification, attempting to erase the invisible walls still dividing the people of Berlin and of Germany as a whole. Arthur Cape, an American reporter for Sense magazine, has been in Berlin since 1989, when he arrived there from India at the age of thirty. He and Eric Hampton, the senior editor, have been filing reports from Berlin, documenting the story of the reunification and the surprises which have accompanied it. The novel gets off to a quick start with the appearance of the Halloween “revenant,” and Marks’s crisp prose and ability to select perfect, illustrative details advance the action and keep the story moving at breakneck speed. The peaceful reunification of Berlin offers a poignant and moving contrast to the growing violence of Mostar, with Marks presenting a clear picture of the conflicts through the action, never allowing the complexities of historical background to overwhelm his story.
Written in 1974 and newly translated by Roger Allen, the novel takes place in the mid-1960s and focuses on the Karnak Café regulars as they respond to some key moments in contemporary Egyptian history. For the young people, “history began with the 1952 Revolution,” in which the army, led by a young officer named Gamal Abdel Nasser, overthrew King Farouk, abolished the pro-British monarchy, and established a republic, inspiring other Middle Eastern and north African countries in an Arab sovereignty movement. In 1954, Nasser became President of Egypt. Hopes were high then and continue to be high for the young at the café in the early 1960s, despite the acknowledged (and continuing) problems with civil rights, poverty, and the abuses of the police. The three young people and their fates become the focus of the narrator when the young people inexplicably disappear for several months. Mafouz recreates in a mere one hundred pages the historical record of a country yearning to be free at the same time that he depicts the movements against individual freedom which are at their peak. (On the Favorites List for 2008)
The search for dinosaur fossils amid sandstorms and desert heat is anything but dry in this lively story of the excavation in January, 2000, of a site in the western Egyptian desert, partially excavated by Ernst Stromer in 1911, but untouched since then. Nothdurft, a professional writer, working in concert with Josh Smith, the young paleontologist who was the team leader of the January, 2000, dig, tells the stories of both the 1911 and the 2000 excavations, along with the fossil discoveries made by each group. Stromer, a German aristocrat and meticulous paleontologist, found the fossils of four unique, 95-million-year-old dinosaurs in Bahariya in 1911, spent twenty years analyzing them, and then supervised the fossils’ installation at the Bavarian State College of Paleontology and Historical Geology in Munich. In April, 1944, everything was lost in the allied bombing of Munich.