Reviews for Buried Empires, by Patrick Carleton

deearr's review

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“Buried Empires: Unearthing the Middle East” was originally subtitled “The Earliest civilizations of the Middle East.” The time period covered begins with primitive man and ends somewhere around 250 B.C. Originally published in 1939, it was intended to be used as a textbook, although there is a specific way the information is offered (usually found in older history books).

For instance, a chapter may begin with General information, then move on to Geography or Economy, before listing more specific entries (in this book, different civilizations such as Sumerians). This tends to make the reading, although at times very informative, a bit on the dry side due to the compartmentalization (on the other hand, it does make it easier to find specific facts when searching through the pages).

The author also had a habit of crediting every archaeologist who ventured onto a dig site and discovered something, which (to me) overshadowed what I bought the book for, which was to learn more about ancient cultures and civilizations. Archaeologists and their respective universities and museums could have been relegated to the footnotes, thus serving to illuminate without interrupting the focus of the book.

Even though the author does inform us early on this is a textbook, much of the writing appears in a conversational form. As an example: “However gravely we may suspect Ur-Nammu – and we can only suspect him, for Utu-Hegal may easily have met his death in some quite other way – of being a rebel and a traitor to the great patriot who had benefited him, we must admit him to have been one of the ablest monarchs who ever ruled in Sumer.” As you can see, there are many facts with some of the author’s personal expertise mixed in.

If you have interest in learning more about the Middle East, there is a lot of information in this book. You may have to periodically slog through the pages, but there are many factual nuggets to find. Three-and-a-half stars.