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Lives in Ruins: A Book Review Tempered by the New World Order

lives in ruins book cover by marilyn johnson

A book about archaeologists! ("why does this matter," she said, curled in a ball in the corner) Bop around the world with Marilyn Johnson! ("nothing matters now") See what being an archaeologist in the 21st century is REALLY all about! ("aagghhhhhhhhhh")

Take your everyday-life escapisms where you can get them, my friends. This is our new reality. And it sucks donkeyballs. But here we are. And I read a book I rated 3/5 stars on Goodreads! Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble is by Marilyn Johnson, author of that book you probably saw at the bookstore a few years ago where she talked about how librarians would save the world. WELL WHERE ARE YOU NOW, LIBRARIANS.


Johnson's thing seems to be deciding to find out more about an interesting job and then going around and interviewing people who do that job in a variety of ways. Here she picked archaeology, which is GREAT, because archaeology is the shit.

While she's sometimes a little bit too much like your mom's best friend Sue, you have to admit that even though Sue can be a little braggy sometimes, she can also be super-fun, and no you DIDN'T know that thing about how an archaeologist at Fort Drum was inventing a card game to teach soldiers how to identify historically important sites and avoid them ("her funding will probably all be cut now"). ANYWAY. 

I'll be over here walking somberly into the wind for the next 4 years

Archaeology is humans + history, and both those things are awesome, which is why I wanted to read this in the first place. Johnson covers a bunch of sites I knew nothing about that seem super-cool ("he'll probably destroy them himself while laughing at you") including the Fishkill Supply Depot, which apparently nobody knows about because during the Revolutionary War it was SUPER SECRET, only then after the war, nobody was like "hey, this was important so maybe we should tell people about it" so no one knew and then they found a bunch of buried soldiers there in the 20th century. Revolutionary War soldiers! Can you imagine. But now it's like, an empty field next to a gas station. 

She also interviews a man who helped uncover the oldest known (...I think) African burial ground in the U.S., which is in MANHATTAN. I think I've visited NYC the most of any place, and I've looked up so many of its damn historical places, and no one told me there was an African burial ground in lower Manhattan that has a beautiful memorial to the hundreds of free and enslaved people that have been buried there since the 17th century. So, thanks, guys.

(oh I just read that "the African Burial Ground Museum is easy to miss because it's in the middle of this building on Broadway and gaining entry is like getting into an airport," so I guess everyone's off the hook, nevermind)

look at that tho'

She tries something about archaeologists who study people today, and I'm like "haha, no dice, Johnson. Dig old things up from the ground or scrape the moss off them or IT DOESN'T COUNT." 

OR DOES IT. (it doesn't, but go with me) One of the best quotes in the book is about what archaeology really is, which is about "trying to locate a spark of the human life that had once touched that spot there." Because we as humans want to feel connected to each other and learn from each other. EVEN WHEN IT SEEMS LIKE WE DON'T. 

And everything is terrible but let's still read books and learn things about each other and also maybe participate in some giant hugs a couple times a week.

it's all we've got now


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