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Anthropology and Archaeology

"Berlin - Pergamonmuseum - Keilschrift - Cuneiform from Uruk" by Daniel Mennerich is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Academic writings - Anthropology and Archaeology

Learn about the types of academic texts that you can access from the library for your discipline.


Books and articles 

Most writings for anthropology and archaeology can be found in books or articles.  Articles appear in books that are edited anthologies (collections on a specific topic) or in academic journals. These can be read either online or in print. 

Most of the print books and journals for anthropology and archaeology are located in the Arts and Social Sciences Library.


Forms of written sources

Primary texts

These are original works in which anthropologists and archaeologists write directly about research topics and their findings. They often take the form of books or articles. Other primary sources that give insights into the work of anthropologists and archaeologists are: letters, diaries, fieldnotes, maps, oral histories, testimonies, films and audio recordings.

  • Ethnographies are book-length accounts of fieldwork, and contain anthropologists’ interpretation of their observations. 
  • Archaeological reports are book-length accounts of fieldwork and scientific analysis that document, report and interpret archaeological sites and surveys. Shorter preliminary reports can appear in journals or periodicals. 
Secondary texts

These are commentaries on the original works of anthropologists and archaeologists. They often discuss other texts while also dealing directly with a topic.  Texts on, or about, a primary text are known as secondary texts. These are often read alongside the primary texts they refer to.

Reference books

These are a great place to start your research as they contain useful summaries of key themes, concepts or a scholar's ideas. These include:

  • General introductions to the subject as a whole.
  • Introductions to particular topics or areas of interest or scholarship (e.g. visual anthropology or landscape archaeology).
  • Dictionaries that can help you with terminology and key concepts.
  • Encyclopedias are a great starting point for research, or to gain background information for a new topic. They have useful topics and bibliographies. They are updated regularly by professional archaeologists and anthropologists, and contain bibliographies for more in-depth information.
  • Handbooks and ‘companions’ that collect longer articles on a wide range of topics, concepts and ideas in anthropology and archaeology. 

These in-depth, scholarly books are important for further research once you have grasped the basics.


Articles are published regularly in journals, also known as periodicals. These contain up-to-date and in-depth content for your assignm­­ents. They are peer-reviewed by anthropologists and archaeologists to ensure that they are of high quality.  Anthropology and archaeology are dynamic disciplines. By reading journal articles, you keep up to date with quick-paced research before it becomes incorporated in books. 

Some journals focus on just one area of the discipline, such as The Journal of Human Evolution or The Journal of Archaeological Science, whereas others cover a variety of topics, for example  Current Anthropology or Antiquity.

Featured primary texts

The gift : the form and reason for exchange in archaic societies

In this, his most famous work, Marcel Mauss presented to the world a book which revolutionized our understanding of some of the basic structures of society. By identifying the complex web of exchange and obligation involved in the act of giving, Mauss called into question many of our social conventions and economic systems. In a world rife with runaway consumption, The Gift continues to excite and challenge.

The Gender of the Gift

In the most original and ambitious synthesis yet undertaken in Melanesian scholarship, Marilyn Strathern argues that gender relations have been a particular casualty of unexamined assumptions held by Western anthropologists and feminist scholars alike. The book treats with equal seriousness--and with equal good humor--the insights of Western social science, feminist politics, and ethnographic reporting, in order to rethink the representation of Melanesian social and cultural life. This makes The Gender of the Gift one of the most sustained critiques of cross-cultural comparison that anthropology has seen, and one of its most spirited vindications.

Mules and Men

Mules and Men is a treasury of black America's folklore as collected by a famous storyteller and anthropologist who grew up hearing the songs and sermons, sayings and tall tales that have formed an oral history of the South since the time of slavery. Returning to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida, to gather material, Zora Neale Hurston recalls a night with a pinch of everything social mixed with the storytelling. Set intimately within the social context of black life, the stories, big old lies, songs, Vodou customs, and superstitions recorded in these pages capture the imagination and bring back to life the humor and wisdom that is the unique heritage of African Americans.

Body and Soul

When French sociologist Lois Wacquant signed up at a boxing gym in a black neighborhood of Chicago's South Side, he had never contemplated getting close to a ring, let alone climbing into it. Yet for three years he immersed himself among local fighters, amateur and professional. In this experimental ethnography of incandescent intensity, the scholar-turned-boxer fleshes out Pierre Bourdieu's signal concept of habitus, deepening our theoretical grasp of human practice. And he supplies a model for a "carnal sociology" capable of capturing "the taste and ache of action." Body & Soul marries the analytic rigor of the sociologist with the stylistic grace of the novelist to offer a compelling portrait of a bodily craft and of life and labor in the black American ghetto at century's end.

The Relative Native

This volume is the first to collect the most influential essays and lectures of Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. Published in a wide variety of venues, and often difficult to find, the pieces are brought together here for the first time in a one major volume, which includes his momentous 1998 Cambridge University Lectures, "Cosmological Perspectivism in Amazonia and Elsewhere." Rounded out with new English translations of a number of previously unpublished works, the resulting book is a wide-ranging portrait of one of the towering figures of contemporary thought--philosopher, anthropologist, ethnographer, ethnologist, and more.

Tales of the Field

For more than twenty years, John Van Maanen's Tales of the Field has been a definitive reference and guide for students, scholars, and practitioners of ethnography and beyond. This is a book about the deskwork of fieldwork and the various ways culture is put forth in print. The core of the work is an extended discussion and illustration of three forms or genres of cultural representation: realist tales, confessional tales, and impressionist tales. The novel issues raised in Tales concern authorial voice, style, truth, objectivity, and point-of-view.  

Book cover

Black Feminist Archaeology

Black feminist thought has developed in various parts of the academy for over three decades, but has made only minor inroads into archaeological theory and practice. Whitney Battle-Baptiste outlines the basic tenets of Black feminist thought and research for archaeologists and shows how it can be used to improve contemporary historical archaeology. She demonstrates this using Andrew Jackson's Hermitage, the WEB Du Bois Homesite in Massachusetts, and the Lucy Foster house in Andover, which represented the first archaeological excavation of an African American home. Her call for an archaeology more sensitive to questions of race and gender is an important development for the field.

Photo: book cover.

Stonehenge, and Tumuli Wiltunenses

Begun in 1874 and published in 1880, a detailed survey of the stones of Stonehenge was one of the earliest works of William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942), the energetic archaeologist who is remembered as a pioneering Egyptologist. It is reissued here alongside Sir Richard Colt Hoare's 1829 analysis of the barrows surrounding Stonehenge, thus giving modern readers a valuable two-part snapshot of nineteenth-century investigations into this famous site. Hoare (1758-1838), a Wiltshire baronet with a keen interest in archaeology and topography, conducted excavations on the site of the stones in the early 1800s, which were later referred to by Petrie, whose measurements were much more accurate (up to one tenth of an inch). 

Avebury: The Biography of a Landscape

Designated a World Heritage Site, the landscape around Avebury in north Wiltshire contains a remarkable wealth of archaeological remains, including some of the most spectacular prehistoric monuments in Europe. Incorporating extensive research and fieldwork from the last ten years, this is the only book to explore the landscape context of Avebury over six millennia. Extending from early prehistory, through the Roman occupation, to the Anglo-Saxon and later medieval periods, this comprehensive study works through a series of interrelated themes such as histories of occupation, the modification of the landscape and the changing perceptions of past populations. 

Photo: palace of minos cover.

The Palace of Minos: Volume 4, Part 1

Inspired by Schliemann's discoveries at Mycenae and Troy, Sir Arthur John Evans (1851-1941), keeper of Oxford's Ashmolean Museum from 1884 to 1908, trustee of the British Museum and fellow of the Royal Society, used his inherited wealth to purchase land in Crete at Knossos. Work started in 1900 and excavations continued for eight full seasons, uncovering a Bronze Age palace and bringing to light further architectural and artefactual remains of Minoan civilisation, including numerous texts in Linear A and Linear B. Evans' speculative reconstruction of the site in reinforced concrete remains controversial, and some of his interpretations are disputed, but his pioneering work is painstakingly detailed in this highly illustrated multi-volume work, published between 1921 and 1935, with an index volume appearing in 1936.

Curating Difficult Knowledge

This volume inscribes an innovative domain of inquiry, bringing museum and heritage studies to bear on questions of transitional justice, memory and post-conflict reconciliation. As practitioners, artists, curators, activists and academics, the contributors explore the challenges of bearing witness to past conflicts.

Featured reference books

Research Handbook on Contemporary Intangible Cultural Heritage

This Research Handbook explores contemporary intangible cultural heritage (ICH) from the perspectives of both law and heritage, including the definitions and legal frameworks designed to safeguard it. In doing so the Research Handbook highlights not only gaps and inconsistencies, but also questions the relevance of the legal framework as it applies to ICH itself. A diverse range of contemporary examples are explored, ranging from the local and global identity of migrant children, to language and the Berlin techno music scene. The authors challenge the authority of existing legal instruments, expose their limitations and propose innovative ways in which contemporary forms of ICH can be safeguarded, whether via the law or other means.

A Companion to Archaeology

A Companion to Archaeology features essays from 27 of the world's leading authorities on different types of archaeology that aim to define the field and describe what it means to be an archaeologist. It shows that contemporary archaeology is an astonishingly broad activity, with many contrasting specializations and ways of approaching the material record of past societies. Includes essays by experts in reading the past through art, linguistics, or the built environment, and by professionals who present the past through heritage management and museums. Introduces the reader to a range of archaeologists: those who devote themselves to the philosophy of archaeology, those who see archaeology as politics or anthropology, and those who contend that the essence of the discipline is a hard science.

Museum Basics: The International Handbook

Drawing from a wide range of practical experience, the authors provide a basic guide to all aspects of museum work, from audience development and learning, through collections management and conservation, to museum management and forward planning. Museum Basics can be used both as a reference work to assist day-to-day museum management, and as the key textbook for pre-service and in-service museum training programmes. Museum Basics is also supported by its own companion website, which provides a wide range of additional resources for readers. Museum Basics aims to help the museum practitioner keep up to date with new thinking about the function of museums and their relationships with the communities they serve. 

The Handbook of Culture and Biology

A comprehensive guide to empirical and theoretical research advances in culture and biology interplay. Culture and biology are considered as two domains of equal importance and constant coevolution, although they have traditionally been studied in isolation. The Handbook is a comprehensive resource that focuses on theory and research in culture and biology interplay. This emerging field centers on how these two processes have evolved together, how culture, biology, and environment influence each other, and how they shape behavior, cognition, and development among humans and animals across multiple levels, types, timeframes, and domains of analysis. Harnessing insights from a range of disciplines (e.g., biology, neuroscience, primatology, psychology) and research methods (experiments, genetic epidemiology, naturalistic observations, neuroimaging), it explores diverse topics including animal culture, cultural genomics, and neurobiology of cultural experiences. The authors also advance the field by discussing key challenges and limitations in current research.  

The Cultural Geography Reader

The Cultural Geography Reader draws together fifty-two classic and contemporary abridged readingsthat represent the scope of the discipline and its key concepts. Readings have been selected based on their originality, accessibility and empirical focus, allowing students to grasp the conceptual and theoretical tools of cultural geography through the grounded research of leading scholars in the field. Each of the eight sections begins with an introduction that discusses the key concepts, its history and relation to cultural geography and connections to other disciplines and practices. Six to seven abridged book chapters and journal articles, each with their own focused introductions, are also included in each section. 

Book cover

Archaeological Theory: An Introduction

Archaeological Theory, 2nd Edition, is the most current and comprehensive introduction to the field available. Thoroughly revised and updated, this engaging text offers students an ideal entry point to the major concepts and ongoing debates in archaeological research. New edition of a popular introductory text that explores the increasing diversity of approaches to archaeological theory. Features more extended coverage of 'traditional' or culture-historical archaeology.  Offers greatly expanded coverage of evolutionary theory, divided into sociocultural and Darwinist approaches. Includes an expanded glossary, bibliography, and useful suggestions for further readings.

Book cover

Anthropocene: a Very Short Introduction

The proposal that the impact of humanity on the planet has left a distinct footprint, even on the scale of geological time, has recently gained much ground. Global climate change, shifting global cycles of the weather, widespread pollution, radioactive fallout, plastic accumulation, species invasions, the mass extinction of species - these are just some of the many indicators that we will leave a lasting record in rock, the scientific basis for recognizing new time intervals in Earth's history. The Anthropocene represents far more than just another interval of geologic time.Instead, the Anthropocene has emerged as a powerful new narrative, a concept through which age-old questions about the meaning of nature and even the nature of humanity are being revisited and radically revised.This Very Short Introduction explains the science behind the Anthropocene and the many proposals about when to mark its beginning: the nuclear tests of the 1950s? The beginnings of agriculture? The origins of humans as a species? Erle Ellis considers the many ways that the Anthropocene's "evolving paradigm" is reshaping the sciences, stimulating the humanities, and foregrounding the politics of life on a planet transformed by humans. 

Archaeological Practice in Great Britain

This manual provides a unique 'user guide' to practicing archaeology and working in the cultural heritage sector within the diverse settings of Great Britain. As part of their training, archaeologists often seek work in parts of Britain, either for experience before travelling elsewhere, or directly as part of their career progression. While this does involve reading published material on excavation techniques, archaeological theory, and specific heritage management practices, or research using the Internet, the ideal preparation to working in Britain for the first time requires practitioners to know a little about a lot. Currently, there is no single resource which provides that primary resource for budding archaeologists. Archaeological Practice in Great Britain provides just such a resource: presented in an accessible style, with a comprehensive and up-to-date bibliography and lists of useful websites.

Archaeologist's Toolkit: Artifacts

How can you ensure that you are learning everything your artifacts have to teach you? Charles Ewen explores a variety of methods and techniques used to prepare, protect, and analyze artifacts once they are in the lab. In brief, user-friendly sections, he outlines the basic principles of identification, classification, quantification, data manipulation, and analysis. Students will find that Ewen's suggestions point out fruitful areas of analysis, yet do not dictate the researcher's approach. Examples drawn from 16th century Spanish sites in the Americas introduce students to the hows and whys of archaeological lab work.

The Human Bone Manual

Building on the success of their previous book, White and Folkens' The Human Bone Manual is intended for use outside the laboratory and classroom, by professional forensic scientists, anthropologists and researchers. The compact volume includes all the key information needed for identification purposes, including hundreds of photographs designed to show a maximum amount of anatomical information.