Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.03.17

Adolf H. Borbein, Tonio Hölscher, Paul Zanker (ed.), Klassische Archäologie. Eine Einführung.   Berlin:  Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 2000.  Pp. 379 + figs. 44.  ISBN 3-496-02645-6.  EUR 35,00.  

Reviewed by Amy C. Smith, Department of Classics, University of Reading (
Word count: 1064 words

In this increasingly complex world how can any academic field be sufficiently introduced in the scope of a slim book in a manner that gives credit to its history, evolution, variety, and interdisciplinarity? And if such an introduction might be possible, who would need or wish to be introduced to an academic field in this manner? The volume under review is sturdy and compact, reminiscent of a thorough guidebook, in terms of size. A quick glance at the contents reveals that it is densely filled with much that seems relevant in the field of classical archaeology. The editors have addressed, although not quite answered, the question of audience: they suggest on p. 19, under a "To the reader" subheading, that the book is not so much for a beginning student as for any reader uninitiated in the discipline who might wish to familiarize him/herself with the academic pursuits included in the field of classical archaeology. While the volume is itself an "Introduction" of one sort (Eine Einführung) the "Introduction" (Einleitung) that introduces this volume almost suffices in itself for the general reader: a short defining section precedes a history of the discipline, which is followed by a survey of current trends (particularly in Germany), a note to the reader, and a short bibliography regarding the history of classical archaeology (mostly in German). The following chapters, each authored by an unquestioned expert in the relevant subdiscipline, might serve well as introductory readings for graduate level courses, and even specialized undergraduate courses, albeit in a restricted zone of the world until an English translation might be attempted. As it is, a German audience is clearly anticipated: contributions by American, English, French, and Italian scholars (comprising approximately a quarter of the volume) have been translated into German. One wonders if there are enough non-archaeological German speakers who are erudite and interested enough to benefit from the almost 400 pages of text. Despite the authors' intentions, however, a large number of German universities have adopted this volume as an introductory text. C.H. Beck has competed for both academic and lay audiences with its simultaneous publication of a slimmer, less expensive introduction to classical archaeology by U. Sinn.1

The 20 articles by the 21 contributors have been usefully divided among four separate sections: Issues concerning cultural heritage ("Erschliessung, Sicherung, Präsentation"); Artworks; Cultural spaces; and New approaches in other countries. The last section, containing a scant two articles, however, hardly treats "new" approaches: A.M. Snodgrass' article on "Anglo-Saxon countries" actually focuses on the New Archaeology (and its successors) while F. Lissarague and A. Schnapp's article on classical archaeology in France takes a more historical approach and considers the evolution of classical archaeology alongside sociology and anthropology. The choice of subdisciplines and issues explored in the 20 articles reveals a conservative bias, with the traditional emphases on ceramics, sculpture, and architecture, Greece and Rome. Indeed only two of the articles self-consciously explore geographically or chronologically limited material: P. Zanker's contribution on "Decorative Space and the Viewer in Imperial Rome" and J. de la Genière's on "Archaeology and Religion in the Archaic and Classical Greek Worlds." While this is not in itself reason to suggest that the rest of the classical world (outside of Greece and Rome) has been ignored, it is counterintuitive that an introduction to an academic field rife with regional studies and obsessed with chronology should give short shrift to these two concerns.

The assignation of some articles to each of the other sections seems somewhat arbitrary. "Artworks" (Bildwerke), for example, houses N.B. Kampen's article on "Gender Studies" and P. Zanker's aforementioned article. Both might have been more appropriate in the "Cultural spaces" section, which is otherwise filled with the expected range: cities, architecture, sanctuaries, religion, graves, and commerce. Although "Artworks" contains separate contributions on formal analysis, art and material, and representation, the article by T. Hölscher, "Artworks: Representations, Functions, and Meaning," could have sufficed for the entire section, introduced, as it is, with a historical perspective, and comprised of the full gamut of scholarly approaches to explaining and understanding the purpose of artworks.

The most current section is the first one, concerning cultural heritage. S. v. Schnurbein's contribution on "Excavations and archaeological land surveys" has a particularly useful and current bibliography. Closely related in content is H.-J. Gehrke's Graeco-centric "Historic cultural studies," which addresses land surveys and other diachronic and regional studies, with a more traditional but expansive bibliography. H.-J. Schalles' "Classical archaeology and the preservation of historical monuments," looks at changing approaches to monuments over the centuries (from the 17th century) as does L. Schneider's "Archaeology, Tourism, and Society." In "Antiquities Museums: History and Perspectives on an Institution," L. Giuliani also takes a diachronic approach, exploring the changing character of museums from the fifteenth century to the present day. A short section on the politics of acquisitions concentrates heavily on the 19th century, and a section on the role of the museums prioritizes the task of protecting the objects already contained within the collections. Thus Giuliani cleverly avoids a head-on discussion of the contemporary antiquities trade. Despite the avant-garde nature of some of the publication formats he discusses, V. Brinkmann, in "Forms of Digital Publication," has chosen to focus on content that is traditional in nature (museum quality art works, text, and historical documents, even biblical studies). This contribution is already out of date, however: 3/4 of the internet addresses provided in the footnotes (no bibliography) are already (and necessarily?) broken; CVA is highlighted as an example of an analog publication project with no mention of the current plans to digitize out-of-print volumes.

Regarding editorial issues, little effort has been made to unify the disparate parts of this monumental "introduction." There are few cross references between the articles. An overarching bibliography at the end of the volume, rather than the separate bibliographies, might have dispelled the implication that the subdisciplines discussed exist separately from each other. The illustrations, although small and black-and white (mostly halftones) are of good quality and helpful, especially in W.-D. Heilmeyer's article on "Art and Material." A unified list of illustrations is, however, missing, as in an index. The obvious editorial disinclination to provide unifying front and back matter, however, emphasizes the self sufficiency of each contribution, and suggests to me, at least, that the editors realized that more of their readers would benefit from one or two chapters rather than the entire volume.


1.   Ulrich Sinn, Einführung in die Klassische Archäologie (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2000).

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