CW Ceram on archaeology

Submitted by Sammy Smith (


CW Ceram is famous for his book, Gods, Graves, and Scholars: The Story of Archaeology, originally published in German in 1949. In fact, for years, this was the serious book on archaeology that most people had read. Now, however, much of his information is out-of-date. However, you may find that some of his observations ring true even today.

In the forward to the first English edition (translated by EB Garside and Sophie Wilkins), Ceram wrote:

…Archaeology, I found, comprehended all manner of excitement and achievement. Adventure is coupled with bookish toil. Romantic excursions go hand in hand with scholarly self-discipline and moderation. Explorations among the ruins of the remote past have carried curious men all over the face of the earth. … Yet in truth no science is more adventurous than archaeology, if adventure is thought of as a mixture of spirit and deed.

Do you agree with Ceram that archaeology is the most adventurous science? Do you think of archaeology as both romantic and scholarly? Why?

Do you think Ceram’s assessment of archaeology is inaccurate? If so, how would you describe archaeology?

CW Ceram’s Gods, Graves, and Scholars is commonly available, including from used book stores, and at yard sales and flea markets. This quote is from a 1971 Bantam paperback version of the second, revised edition.