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Book reviews

Human Identity and Identification: Rebecca Gowland and Tim Thompson, Cambridge University Press 2013: A powerful and comprehensive statement of the method and theory behind biological approaches to identity. Authored by a bioarchaeologist and a forensic anthropologist, it comprises a detailed study of all the ways in which the physical body is identified and identifiable, from DNA, skeletal analysis and modern biometrics, and crucially combines this with more theoretical study of identity in the social sciences. The result is a powerful statement of the potentials, limitations and philosophical implications of identifying humans through the body. Academic book reviews: coming soon

Materializing Identities: Journal of Material Culture special issue 16(4), Christopher Tilley (ed.), 2011: The proceedings of a conference entitled ‘Materializing Identities’ held in the Department of Anthropology, University College London, on 11 November 2010, on the occasion of the retirement of Prof. Mike Rowlands. Particularly in the 1990s, Rowlands had a string of important publications on the archaeology of cultural identity and its political implications. The introduction by Tilley is primarily on Rowlands’ career and a precis of the volume rather than any broader statement on identity. The papers which follow better reflect Rowlands’ more recent research interests, particularly his anthropological fieldwork in West Africa.

Material Connections in the Ancient Mediterranean: Mobility, Materiality and Mediterranean Identities by P. van Dommelen and A. B. Knapp (eds.), Routledge 2010: a collection of progressive papers engaging in approaches to materiality in the Mediterranean, demonstrating how the mobility of objects, ideologies, and peoples influenced the development of Mediterranean and European identities. It sought to counteract long-standing colonialist attitudes and the prevalent hyper-specialisation endemic in Mediterranean archaeological studies. However, it is limited to the Mediterranean, and mainly to the Bronze and Iron Ages. Academic book reviews: Cambridge Archaeological Journal; International Journal of Nautical Archaeology

Material Culture and Social Identities in the Ancient World by S. Hales and T. Hodos (eds.), Cambridge University Press 2010: Discusses identity especially with regard to the concept of globalisation, a trend currently popular among archaeologists of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Includes important new theoretical research, but is perhaps limited in appeal by its emphasis on the Classical period in the Mediterranean. Academic book reviews: The Classical Review

The Archaeology of Identities: a Reader by T. Insoll (ed.), Routledge 2007: A reprint of previously published papers on identity, organised into sections covering differing identity vectors such as ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, and religion. While the individual papers remain essential in their own right, the volume only loosely hangs together. However, the clear-headed introductory essay by Insoll on modern perceptions of identity and how they frame our view of the past is worth the price of admission. Academic book reviews: Public Archaeology; Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

The Archaeology of Identity: Approaches to Gender, Age, Status, Ethnicity and Religion by M. Díaz-Andreu, S. Lucy, S. Babic and D. Edwards (eds.), Routledge 2005: A very useful and concise volume approaching identity through its various vectors, with a chapter each on gender, age, status, ethnicity and religion written by the editors themselves. However, its function is primarily as a literature review, covering the history of research and providing recommendations. A good place to start (perhaps combined with Insoll’s Reader), but other recent studies (see Casella and Fowler 2005, below) frown upon splitting the complex nature of social identity into discrete categories such as these. Academic book reviews: coming soon

The Archaeology of Plural and Changing Identities: Beyond Identification by E. Conlin Casella and C. Fowler (eds.), Kluwer Academic/Plenum 2005: A challenging volume that emphasises the malleable and multivalent nature of identity in any time period. The authors controversially shun fixed categories, and the geographical range covers both old and new worlds, although no case studies deal with the Mediterranean sphere. Once a forceful call for new approaches to identity theory, it now reads mainly as a warning of how not to use the term identity. The contributors have since developed their research in a variety of different fields, and it is perhaps worth following these up instead. Academic book reviews: Antiquity

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