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Eric Cline seems like a fun guy as well as an expert archeologist. I agree with another reviewer who finds him "clunky but endearing." I've listened to several of his courses and liked them, especially "Archaeology and the Iliad," an oldie that I still find fascinating.
But probably because I have heard other Cline courses (as well as several Great Courses by Professor John Hale, who covers similar territory), this most recent presentation was a miss for me. It's obviously the soundtrack to a filmed version, opening with a riff on Indiana Jones (with the Professor entering as Harrison Ford before transforming into the much less glamorous scholar). A later lecture is on the archeologist's tools, the subject of a show-and-tell that we can only listen to. Since National Geographic is involved, I expect the filmed version has some pretty spectacular video--how can you go wrong with Petra and Machu Pichu?
I thought the best lecture was the one on Masada, where Dr. Cline (whose specialties include both Late Bronze Age civilizations and Biblical archaeology) spent several seasons. Modern politics, theology, archaeology, and the history of the Roman Empire intersect in a fascinating mystery of "what really happened" at Masada almost 2000 years ago.
This is probably a good and enlightening course if you are not all that familiar with the fabulous sites on the Cline Tour. But for me, it was a little like having dinner with an uncle you love but whose stories you've heard before. And these are indeed "family" stories; you'll hear plenty of personal anecdotes--will learn that the Professor has a fear of heights and how/where he and his wife became engaged. It's definitely an up-close and personal look at the life of an archaeologist, as well as a first-hand overview of many amazing sites that are increasingly threatened both by the inevitable ravages of time and by the destructive politics of humans and their never-ending wars.
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This series of lectures is a multi-faceted introduction to archaeology discussing archaeology's accomplishments, techniques, and even its own history.
As one would expect, foremost in the series is the survey of many archaeological sites in terms of their purose, who the inhabitants were, what artifacts were discovered, and the historical significance of the site. This alone is plenty interesting and could easily fill many documentaries, but these lectures also discuss the history of who discovered these sites and how they were excavated. Examining the personalities and techniques involved at some sites is sometimes just as interesting and important as what was discovered, because of the impact they had on the context in which these sites have been and can be understood.
Although not highlighted as part of the title, there are additionally lectures discussing the basics of what archaeology involves, including how archaeological sites are discovered, the process of funding and setup, how the focus and goals of changes through various phases of the excavation, the tools and techniques involved in excavation, and how artifacts can be dated. The information here is not overly technical, but instead a good balance of broad understanding with detail, since I'm sure the details could easily fill another series of equal length (though I would love to see such a series!).
As for the performance of the lectures, I found Professor Cline's delivery to be engaging and exceedingly clear, as well as uniquely personable as he provides ample anecdotes from his own career and first-hand knowledge of many of the sites he discusses.
Overall, the lectures are very approachable while having plenty of breadth and depth to be very interesting, even to a documentary junkie like myself. You would be hard pressed to find much of this content in documentaries, and certainly not in such a compact well-formed collection like this. Academically and professionally, I'm nowhere near an archaeologist or historian, but am just a curious learner who devours scientific and historical documentaries like Skittles. I truly found this course to be engaging and informative, and I only wish there was more of it.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful