Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Gods, Graves and Scholars by C. K. Ceram

Gods, Graves, and Scholars by C. W. Ceram 
Published 1949 
Source: ordered from Better World Books for a readalong 

Publisher’s Summary: 
C.W. Ceram visualized archeology as a wonderful combination of high adventure, romance, history and scholarship, and this book, a chronicle of man's search for his past, reads like a dramatic narrative. We travel with Heinrich Schliemann as, defying the ridicule of the learned world, he actually unearths the remains of the ancient city of Troy. We share the excitement of Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter as they first glimpse the riches of Tutankhamen's tomb, of George Smith when he found the ancient clay tablets that contained the records of the Biblical Flood. We rediscover the ruined splendors of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the wonders of the ancient wold; of Chichen Itza, the abandoned pyramids of the Maya: and the legendary Labyrinth of tile Minotaur in Crete. Here is much of the history of civilization and the stories of the men who rediscovered it. 

My Thoughts: 
This is absolutely one of those books I never would have picked up (heck, I never would have heard of) without someone else’s push. In this case, I read this one as part of a readalong once again proving that, sometimes, peer pressure is not an altogether bad thing. I’ve been reading more and more nonfiction over the years but I’d have to say that the chances of me picking up a book about archeology were slim. It’s not that I didn’t think it was an interesting subject but, like so many nonfiction subjects, I wasn’t aware that there were books that could make it interesting to the layperson. It turns out, there is at least one. 

  • I thought I would share some thoughts from our readalong group: 
  • “It’s kind of hard to believe it is translated from German and written in 1949. It is easy to read, and full of stories and anecdotes.” 
  • “I thought each part of Book 1 was compellingly told, a very well-woven tapestry of the adventure of archaeology, both the intellectual, physical, and financial challenges. I should add the emotional toll of such work, demanding a lifetime of commitment and a zealous interest in the lives and sufferings of people in the past.” 
  • “Some of Ceram’s language, especially about those building the pyramids, does seem to betray certain prejudices.” We agreed that Ceram was a “scholar/writer of his time and circumstance.” 
  • “I appreciate his dismissal of the fanciful and mystical, in favor or scientific (or at least empirical) evidence.” 
  • More than one of us commented on Ceram’s abundant use of exclamation points. Clearly a man who was excited about his subject. 
  • The book packs a lot of archeology history into a few hundred pages and, as so often happens with nonfiction, several of us turned to the internet to get more indepth with some of the history and the people Ceram highlighted. It was interesting to see how some of the information in the book has since been refuted as researchers have uncovered new information. 
  • There is a lot of historical information in this book that was new to me and more than once I read whole pages to my husband in astonishment. 
  • Understanding that this book was written from one man’s perspective on the historical events, nevertheless, I was amazed by the differences between the archeological facts and what I had previously understood to be the truth. And so angered by the destruction of so many sites that had stood for thousands of years for political/religious reasons. 
It should tell you something about this book that it has been published in 30 languages and sold more than 5 million copies and remains in print more than 60 years since it was first published. Ceram himself is an interesting story. C. W. Ceram is, in fact, a pseudonym for Kurt Wilhelm Marek. Marek chose to rebrand himself in an effort to distance himself from his past as a propagandist for the Third Reich. This book is going to remain on my shelves as a resource I will return to which should tell you something about the way I felt about the book, given how rare it is for me to hold on to books I’ve read.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading your thoughts about this book, which I enjoyed so much as well. Ceram (Marek) clearly was enthused about his subject and that enthusiasm was infectious. Oh, so you read passages aloud to your spouse also! Sometimes I just have to share my astonishment over stuff I learn.