Matthews, R. 2003. The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: Theories and Approaches
Papers from the Institute of Archaeology
Review of: Matthews, R. 2003. The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: Theories and Approaches. London: Routledge. 256 pages; 21 line drawings, 12 b&w photos. ISBN 0415253179. Paperback £15.99. 'The Archaeology of Mesopotamia' and 'theories and approaches' have traditionally been separate concerns, making this a welcome attempt to review the two in concert. Matthews freely admits in the Preface that it is an uneasy relationship, noting that "[a]s a discipline, Mesopotamian and Southwest Asian
... has not been renowned for its critical awareness or self-reflexivity, but if this is a failing it is one that it shares with many other regional archaeologies of the world" (p. xi). The aim of the book is to correct this bias and survey some of the key issues of the discipline. An ulterior motive is perhaps also to show that as regional archaeologies go, Mesopotamian archaeology is exceptional, covering some momentous social changes. The emergence of agriculture, states and empires each receive a chapter, followed by one considering the everyday lives of people, a topic which tends to be overlooked when the big issues are considered. These are sandwiched between opening chapters which consider the historical and theoretical background and methods of the discipline, and a final chapter addressing future directions (as they seemed a year ago). As a critical survey of the discipline it is a new departure for the literature concerning this fascinating -but currently politically charged -region of the world.