I’m finally onto the March reviews, but of course while I’ve been finishing February’s reads, I’ve been reading books and building up more! Where will it end? Anyway, this was the earliest book from the front of the TBR that was portable, as I have a slightly fragile book on Tahiti and a large one on the history of running which don’t fit easily into a handbag. So still working away at that Terrible TBR I shared on the 1st, as well as catching up with some NetGalley wins I’ve been neglecting …

Craig Childs – “Finders Keepers”

(23 August 2018 – BookCrossing, delivered in person by Cari)

In an avowed attempt to look at, accept where he could and present all the sides of the on-going and seemingly eternal struggle between the preservation and selling of artefacts, but also between those who advocate always removing archaeological fines from their direct context to keep them safe and those who – like Childs – advocate leaving them in place, Craig Childs travels across the US, with excursions into other countries’ situations, talking to looters, collectors, sellers of ancestral remains and archaeologists. It’s fairly obvious where his loyalties lie, but he does try to explain looters (and looting communities) and diggers and their motivations, which making a distinction between South-Western Americans who plunder the goods of unrelated civilisations and the people of Alaska who have always barely subsisted off the land and sea and are currently doing so by selling off the products of their own ancestral cultures.

Nuanced and full of personal anecdotes (and dilemmas), and indeed full of adventure and characters, it’s a good read. It shows the whole chain from looters to collectors and museums, and the shady links that make up this chain. It covers the effect of “population rebound”, when indigenous groups call for the return of their artefacts as well as the better-known inter-country requests.  The book includes an interesting interview with the author, extracts from his journals and sketchpads and questions for reading groups. Most movingly, near the end, the author describes a box of small artefacts – arrowheads and the like, which turns out to have been handed down from his great-grandfather.