Books

Top 5 books about archaeology

The writer and archaeologist digs up the best of books that dive down into the earth

Mike Pitts

The Fens: Discovering England’s Ancient Depths by Francis Pryor

An autobiographical account by a leading fieldworker in the decades when archaeologists and developers were learning to work together. Pryor’s fondness for the landscape underlies accounts of extraordinary discoveries.

Time Song: Searching for Doggerland by Julia Blackburn

Another personal journey, beautifully told by a novelist and memoir writer. The North Sea hides Doggerland, an ancient landscape of hunter-gatherers flooded by rising waters, and connects Blackburn with memories of her late Dutch husband.

The Emergence of the English by Susan Oosthuizen

Oosthuizen challenges the assumption that English origins lie exclusively in Anglo-Saxon settlement. Focusing on landscape, especially what she identifies as common land, she argues from history and archaeology for continuity from prehistoric times. Intense and stimulating.

Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie

As in her poetry, Jamie here combines perceptive observations of modern life and antiquity, reflecting on museums and excavations – in Alaska, in Orkney, in her own archive from living in Tibet – and the personal passage of time in crisp, lyrical prose.

Urne-Buriall by Sir Thomas Browne 

Inspired by discoveries of pots holding cremated human remains – he thought they were Roman, most were probably Bronze Age or Anglo-Saxon – Browne wrote this mesmerising essay in 1658, on responses to death in different cultures, the difficulty of knowing ancient thoughts and the levelling force of time.

Mike Pitts’ Digging up Britain is out now (Thames & Hudson, £24.95)

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Top 5 books about the British seaside, chosen by crime writer William Shaw
Books

Top 5 books about the British seaside, chosen by crime writer William Shaw

The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard review – the moral conundrums of coming of age
Books

The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard review – the moral conundrums of coming of age

Fragile Animals by Genevieve Jagger review – a captivating and original gothic novel
Books

Fragile Animals by Genevieve Jagger review – a captivating and original gothic novel

From castle walls to Banksy: How graffiti has given us the writing on the wall throughout history
Graffiti

From castle walls to Banksy: How graffiti has given us the writing on the wall throughout history

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know