On the Spot: Barry Cunliffe

‘From an early age I couldn’t conceive of life without being an archaeologist.’ 

An illustration from the Mahabharata. Nepal, c. 1800. Christies/Wiki Commons.

Why are you an archaeologist?

Because from an early age I couldn’t conceive of life without being an archaeologist.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?

That humans are amazingly adaptable. 

Which history book has had greatest influence on you?

Grahame Clark’s Prehistoric Europe: The Economic Basis.

What book in your field should everyone read?

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?

The visit of Alexander to the Oracle of Amon at Siwa.

Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?

Fernand Braudel.

Which person in history would you most like to have met? 

Pytheas of Massalia, who, in about 320 BC, explored the Atlantic fringes of Europe and may even have seen Iceland.

How many languages do you have?

Far too few. 

What is the most common misconception about your field? 

That archaeology is a trivial pastime and an easy option.

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