Ian Brown's Books
Still Rambling at Sixty-Nine
An Archaeologist's Memoir
List Price: $17.95 PB
When Ian W. Brown retired in June of 2020, the Covid 19 pandemic was running rampant. The isolation that resulted from abrupt social distancing provided him with ample time to contemplate a life of doing archaeology in an academic setting, and how this came to pass. In sixteen essays he muses upon growing up in the late 20th century, touching upon subjects as wide ranging as "Home (A Short Story)," "Early Work," "Confessions of a Book Buyer," "Academia (I never Planned to be a College Professor)," "Games and Sports, a Preparation for Life)," "Life's Incidentals: The Drive-In Theater, The Circus, and the Fair," "The Point of Dancing," "What Do I Believe?" and many more, ending with his personal assessment of "2020-The Year of the Pandemic."
George C. Rable, noted Civil War historian, says in his Foreword to the volume, "There is far less ego in these pages (except for his descriptions of early sports triumphs) than would be expected. Ian generally keeps his lamp well hidden under the proverbial bushel while fondly recalling many individuals who aided his journey. His wit is sly and sharp but never demeans other people and is often self-deprecating. As his friends can attest, Ian elevates rather than denigrates... And through this work, there is a becoming and genuine modesty, a recognition of limits to both knowledge and experience but a relentless drive to find meaning in life whether figuring out why he never cared for circuses or wrestling with the mystery of death. From the thoughtful introduction to the wonderful picture at the end, Still Rambling recounts a life well-remembered, well-recorded, and well-lived."
Behind Glass in Russia, 1992
An Archaeologist's Journal
List Price: $20.00 PB
In September of 1992, less than a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union, an archaeological delegation sponsored by People to People International ventured into Russia. The author maintained a detail journal of their activities as they explored regions stretching from St. Petersburg to Novgorod and into the steppes and the Northern Caucasus Mountains. This was an important time of transition for Russia, when things were not quite what they were like under the previous Soviet regime and certainly not at all like what exists two decades into the new millennium.
Journal of an Archaeologist in the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River in 1999
University Press of the South
List Price: $20.95 PB
These memories derive from a journey that the author took in China in February and March of 1999 as a member of the Zhong Xian Archaeological Project. His trip largely focused on the province of Sichuan, but several days were spent in and around Beijing. An archaeological study of salt was the purpose of the expedition, but in the process of traveling hither and yon, Dr. Brown experienced life in China that was undergoing major changes, both in urban and rural areas. The account is extracted directly from his detailed diary and offers many insights as to how local peoples reacted to a team of strange archaeologists that happened to wander into their lives.
Marking Graves in
Tuscaloosa County, Alabama
The Musings of a Teacher
List Price: $14.95 PB
He sends his students out into the cemeteries “armed with very specific research questions.” To whom are they asking these questions? The living? On many occasions I have heard Ian insist that cemeteries are indeed for the living, that those elaborate burial rituals and markings are ourmeager attempts to
hold back the broad, merciless, and unending river of time. We erect headstones and we leave flowers—a universal yet odd desire to impart beauty and life to the cold and inert. Alongside the flowers we seem increasingly to be leaving such everyday objects as footballs and Bama memorabilia, Christmas boxes, and figurines (mostly angels). What are these mementoes saying? But perhaps Ian wants his students to direct their questions to the dead…by first looking closely at those who came before and
then asking the right questions, we ourselves will be changed… By learning about them, we learn from them. We gain insight into the human condition.
—FROM THE PREFACE BY G. WARD HUBBS
Check out this recent review of Ian Brown's Marking Graves in the University of Alabama News! Click here
The Petite Anse Project
Archaeological Investigations along the
West-central Coast of Louisiana 1978–1979
List Price: $35.00 PB
Avery Island is known far and wide for its natural beauty. Live oaks bearing festoons of Spanish moss, fields plush with red hot peppers, snowy egrets building nesting beside the ponds, and alligators peering slyly above the murky waters are but a few of the elements that make this island a virtual Eden. However, it was the presence of an active saline that made Avery Island attractive to both historic and prehistoric populations. Indians made good use of the Salt Mine Valley site for making salt in late prehistoric times, and even earlier Indians used the island to erect earthen edifices, such as the Banana Bayou Mound. In the Petite Anse Project Ian Brown begins with a thorough discussion of the archaeology of Avery Island and then heads out to the other salt domes and surrounding marsh in exploring the rich culture history of the coastal plain. Three parishes receive major treatment in this volume and well over a hundred sites are explored. The degradation brought about by hurricanes and industry has changed forever the west-central coast of Louisiana. Because many of the sites visited and described by the author have sadly disappeared, this work is an important time capsule for those interested in Louisiana’s past.
Time Travelers in England
Americans in Search of Salt
List Price: $35.00 PB
Time Travelers in England is a personal narrative of an archaeologist who studies salt. In the first half of the book Ian W. Brown and his nephew Trevor Hughes explore the various "wiches" of Cheshire County (Middlewich, Nantwich, and Northwich) via canal boat, the way that salt would have been transported in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Along the way they have many "Pickwickian" adventures. The second half of the volume deals with Droitwich, the Worcestershire countryside, the Cotswolds, and many other locales where numerous features on the British landscape quite simply were in need of exploration. It is a rich tale of B&Bs, pubs, museums, and numerous archaeological and historical sites wherein two American come to terms with the land of their ancestors. Interested readers might also turn to The Red Hills of Essex: Studying Salt in England, also by Brown, for an earlier tromp on the British countryside in search of salt and the fascinating impact that it had on society and culture.
About the Author
Ian W. Brown is Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama and Emeritus Curator of Gulf Coast Archaeology at the Alabama Museum of Natural History. He is also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Dr. Brown specializes in the archaeology and history of Southeastern U.S. Indians and has spent over four decades excavating sites in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and writing about the role of salt in North America, England, and China. He has also written much on the subjects of gravestones and cemeteries.
The Red Hills of Essex
Studying Salt in England
List Price: $14.95 PB
The foremost scholar of salt archaeology in North America, Ian Brown has turned his expertise and enthusiasm to Iron Age and Roman salt production in Essex. The resulting illustrated and engaging account is both highly personal and exhaustive, providing a thorough review of the existing literature as well as his own travels, and resulting in an original model for the ancient salt manufacture in the area. A must read for scholars interested in salt archaeology anywhere in the world, Brown has once again proven why his work is indispensable.
See review below
Above & Beyond the Pale
A Portrait of Life and Death in Ireland
List Price: $15.00 PB
An American archaeologist travels through Ireland recording life's experiences. A fascination with cemeteries leads him to explore the many ways in which death is memorialized in the Emerald Isle, both now and in antiquity. The author's detailed journal entries enable readers to learn of megalithic monuments, monasteries, battlefields, castles, the backstreets of Dublin, and many more venues of this wonderful enchanted land.
See review below
Bottle Creek Reflections
The Personal Side of Archaeology in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta
List Price: $15.95 PB
This book is a voyage of discovery into the past. Its author charts the waters of Alabama's Mobile-Tensaw Delta as he explores the Bottle Creek site, the principal late prehistoric mound center of the Pensacola Culture. This site, now a National Historic Landmark, was the scene of three seasons of archaeological fieldwork in the early 1990s. Ian Brown and his team of investigators not only provide a vivid picture of what swamp archaeology is like at the "trowel's edge," as seen from the day-to-day perspective of doing archaeology, but they offer the swamp itself in all its majesty, glory, and danger. This is a book about life in the swamp, both now and then. Any who follow in the wake of the Bottle Creek boat must do so with ample caution and due reflection.
The Peabody Man: Jeffrey P. Brain
Edited by Ian W. Brown annd Vincas P. Steponaitis
List Price: $5.00 PB
Jeffrey P. Brain, involved with one or another museum bearing the Peabody name for much of his academic career, is celebrated in this volume. Having made contributions to prehistoric and historic archaeology in the southeastern United States and historic archaeology in Maine, the time seemed ripe on his 70th birthday for his many students (and a few others) to proclaim what his teaching meant to them, in the field, the lab, and the classroom. In addition to a biographical sketch and a bibliography of Brain's many publications, there are 22 vignettes, both instructive and humorous, on his unique qualities as a teacher of archaeology.
Review by Mike Bunn, Director of Historic Blakeley State Park, in The Historians' Manifesto, July 2020
The incredible Bottle Creek Mound complex, featuring some eighteen earthen mounds, is the largest Mississippian mound site on the Gulf Coast. The site was occupied circa 1250-1550 and during the era stood as the largest community in the region. It is located in the middle of the vast Mobile-Tensaw Delta on Mound Island, inaccessible except by boat. As part of the cruise offerings by Historic Blakeley State Park, I get to take visitors to this unique site each winter and help lead walking tours in which we share some of the history of what is in truth an amazing ghost town. Most of the information I share is derived from the dedicated work of archaeologists who have investigated the site, especially Dr. Ian W. Brown, recently retired from a long and distinguished career at the University of Alabama.
Owing to the site’s remote location and the difficulty of staging large excavations there, Bottle Creek is in truth one of the least-studied mound complexes in the southeast. In the 1990s Dr. Brown conducted three summer excavations of the site with teams of colleagues and students, however, and his work forms the core of what is known about life at the site. I have reviewed his edited volume on the findings derived from the excavations of the site, contained in Bottle Creek: A Pensacola Culture Site in South Alabama, previously in this space. Today I offer some thoughts on his book chronicling the process of the excavations, Bottle Creek Reflections: The Personal Side of Archaeology in the Mobile Tensaw Delta.
The book is derived in large part from the journals he kept during work over the course of three summers. There are numerous details about what the team was finding in the notes, and numerous photographs and sketches of the progress of the digs illustrating the incredible story of habitation the team was revealing. But this book is less about technical processes and scientific findings than the actual logistics of arranging for complex archaeological study in one of the more difficult environments America has to offer.
The crew, temporarily living in housing nearby, was forced to travel by boat to the site daily in the middle of the Gulf Coast’s hot and humid summers. The region is one of the rainiest in the country, and frequent and sudden thunderstorms hampered the work at times. But so did the innumerable biting insects and poisonous plants the workers had to deal with, not to mention the frequent mechanical issues with their sometimes-unreliable boats and ground transportation. The book reads as high adventure in a virtually unknown region, featuring numerous trials and tribulations involved in merely getting to the site, and no few mishaps—the sinking of a boat, nearly losing a van into the dark waters of the Delta, almost colliding with a large barge in thick fog, and several other hardships and handicaps. But it also shows the comraderie of the teams Brown assembled, the wide-ranging interest his work generated throughout the state and region, and how discovery of a previously little-known and barely-studied community was taking place before their eyes. As Brown’s professional work comprises the essential record of what is known about one of Gulf South’s most remarkable prehistoric sites, this book will serve as an entertaining compliment to the published reports it generated. It is indeed the personal side of archaeology, and one anyone who has attempted to work in any capacity in the dense and remote forests and waters of the Delta will especially appreciate the tale.