Three Stones Make A Wall

The Story of Archaeology

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Eric H. Cline
  • Princeton, NJ: 
    Princeton University Press
    , March
     480 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Readers of Eric Cline’s earlier 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Princeton University Press, 2014) will recognize in this present work the same style of presentation that they came to know there. Cline writes in a way that calls to mind a lecture offered by a seasoned and experienced scholar, whose classes are always full, and whose students are always happy to have taken the course. Cline is both engaging in style and thoroughly familiar with the topic under discussion.

Three Stones Make A Wall: The Story of Archaeology begins with Cline’s declaration of love for his chosen profession, describing how dreamed of participating in archaeological adventures from the tender age of seven. From that early decision, Cline pursued his interest.

Following the Preface and the Prologue, the volume consists of nineteen chapters in six parts, which are occasionally interspersed with asides which Cline titles “Digging Deeper.” After an Epilogue, readers will find acknowledgements, notes, a bibliography, and an index.

Part 1, “Early Archaeology and Archaeologists” traces the history of archaeology from its earliest stages in Italy, Western Asia Minor, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Central America. Before turning—in part 2—tto “Africa, Europe, and the Levant: Early Hominis to Farmers,” Cline offers his first “Digging Deeper” Excursus, answering the question “How Do You Know Where to Dig?”

Part 3, “Excavating the Bronze Age Aegean,” calls to our attention the civilizations of the first Greeks, the putative city of Atlantis, and marine archaeology.

Part 4 focuses on the Classical world, and hence, the worlds of the Greeks and the Romans, respectively. What can archaeology disclose of these important civilizations, and how does that knowledge inform the world that we inhabit all of these centuries later? At the end of part 4 Cline provides his second “Digging Deeper” excursus: “How do you Know How To Dig?”

Part 5 will be the division of most interest to students of the Bible and “biblical archaeology”—though that term, in itself, is actually quite unfortunate: “Discoveries in the Hold Land and Beyond.” Here excavations at Megiddo, Masada, and other cities in Palestine are intertwined with a very important discussion of the Bible. Indeed, chapter 14, “Unearthing the Bible” may well be the most important in this book in terms of how the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls contributes to our understanding of the biblical texts. The third “Digging Deeper” excursus serves to bridge parts 5 and 6, and is titled “How Old Is this and Why is it Preserved?”

Part 6, “New World Archaeology” brings the discussion to the Americas, and finely illustrates the importance of archaeological discoveries in our own hemisphere. The final “Digging Deeper”—“Do You Get to Keep What You Find?”—leads to the final part of the book, the Epilogue which Cline titles “Back to the Future.”

Cline writes in conclusion:

“Archaeology is not only about finding the remains that have been left from past civilizations. It’s also about preserving and curating those remains for future generations. I hope that this book lends itself, even in some small way, to that aim” (339).

Cline writes that sentence given that he wishes, above all else, to impress upon his readers the importance of protecting and preserving archaeological artifacts and archaeological sites. Looting, plundering, and the selling of stolen antiquities are all evils which need to be abolished—and Cline wishes his readers to care about antiquities, and antiquity, as much as he does.

Three Stones Makes A Wall is an introduction to archaeology’s history and practice. It tells the story of archaeology, and select archaeologists, from various regions of the world, and it includes dozens of hand drawn illustrations to help make its points visually.

This work also has endnotes, and that is its one great weakness. Readers of volumes that have endnotes are constantly flipping to the back-of-the-book in order to read those notes, and footnotes make accessing those contents easy. Many publishers, to be sure, have chosen to take the endnote path, but for the life of me, I cannot understand why. They make books less user friendly.

Endnotes aside, this volume is exceptional—both for its readability and for its informative contents. It is a pleasure, a joy, and most of all, and most importantly, an education.



About the Reviewer(s): 

Jim West is Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College, Hong Kong.


Date of Review: 
September 23, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Eric H. Cline is professor of classics and anthropology and director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute at George Washington University. An active archaeologist, he has excavated and surveyed in Greece, Crete, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and the United States. His many books include 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Princeton).



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