Not my next book

My recent article on Ethics and Archaeology in The Economist was partly an excuse to enable me to do a lot of research into a proto-archaeologist and tomb raider called Giovanni Belzoni. I’ve long been interested in him; he’s the prototype for Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, and other torch-carrying, “kick down the door first and ask questions later” archaeologists. He broke into the Great Pyramid, discovered several tombs, rediscovered the entrance to the temple at Abu Simbel, and thus helped to lay the foundations for modern archaeology and Egyptology. In short, he was just the kind of glamorous character most people imagine archaeologists to be; and no matter how much they try to distance themselves from his dubious exploits, modern archaeologists have no choice but to acknowledge him as their forebear. I was thinking of writing about Belzoni for my next book, wrapping up his amazing life story (he was a former circus strong-man) with the modern questions he raises about archaeological ethics, and his enduring influence on popular conceptions of archaeology. But I decided against it. Instead, I’m doing something else.

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