Sins of the Shovel: Looting, Murder, and the Evolution of American Archaeology

Univ. of Chicago. Nov. 2023. 312p. ISBN 9780226822389. $30. HIST
Archaeologist Morgan skillfully moves among the personalities and politics that led to the professionalization of the field of archaeology in the U.S. From the shameless pillaging of abandoned sites to the enactment of federal laws regulating access to these remarkable places, it is a complex story filled with good guys, bad guys, and many in between, and it continues today. In this book, vivid personalities show up, such as the Swedish aristocrat Gustaf Erik Adolf Nordenskiöld, who arrived in Colorado in 1891 and joined forces with the storied Wetherill family of Durango to explore ancient ruins such as the Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde. The text is enriched with plentiful footnotes and photographs that capture day-to-day life among Indigenous peoples as well as the white people who usurped their lands and property.
VERDICT An intriguing addition to the archaeological history of the American Southwest.
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