Summary: "An Archaeology of Early American Life"; a study of the minutiae in which historical archaeologists work to piece together the early days of Amercan history.
My Thoughts: Yum, yum, yum.
This book is just full of the stuff I wonder about when I visit old, historic homes. Knowing that the written record is so poor, that so few early Americans wrote down their observations, and even fewer thought to write about the mundane aspects of the day (do we write about how we shop at grocery stores? about how we mow our lawns? Ok, different age.), I often want to know, how do we know what life was like?
It turns out that in many cases it's the material culture, not the written word, that tells about what life was like. But it's the combining of several differents bits of evidence - the dates on the tombstones, the symbolism carved into them, the bore hole sizes on pipe stems, the type of pottery found at house sites - that bring us to the right points in history.
For me, living on the South Shore of Boston, working in the history realm, this book speaks volumes. Plymouth, Kingston, Plympton, all places mentioned in the text, are my historical playground. Reading about the Parting Ways settlement was eye-opening (and why it got its name never occurred to me, one of those local history overlooks we all suffer from). To find out that the first fork ever mentioned in a probate inventory in Plymouth County was in Marshfield, where I worked for the last decade, was pretty cool, and the fact that the fork was an Italian invention was even better. It's a refreshing thing to read a chapter in a book about a historical or archaeological site and say, "I think I'll drive by and check it out."
But it goes even further. How do we play musical instruments today? Like our European forbears, or like those of the African-Americans who came over as slaves? How do we hold our forks? Like whom do we design our houses? It's those questions that we can answer through a book like this one.
I was utterly fascinated form end to end.