Archaeological Institute of America
Deadline: February 1, 2023
The Felicia A. Holton Book Award is given annually to a writer who, through a major work of non-fiction, represents the importance and excitement of archaeology to the general public. The work should have broad public appeal and be written for an adult lay audience in a clear and engaging style. It should convey the excitement of archaeological discovery accurately and responsibly. It should be well-researched and provide new insight for the general public. This is a jointly sponsored award of the AIA and the Center for American Archeology (CAA).
Submissions (by authors, publishers, or AIA members) should focus on archaeology but may also delve into literary and historical topics. The work must have been published in English, be available in the United States and Canada, and bear a date of publication within three calendar years prior to (not including) the year in which the book is considered for an award. No nominated book may be resubmitted for the Holton Award unless requested by the Holton Book Award Committee. From time to time the Holton Award may be given for lifetime achievement in non-fiction popular writing. Books written by current members of the Governing Board of the AIA, the CAA or of the Committee are not eligible.
Authors and publishers may bring their books to the Committee’s attention by filling out the Nomination Form and sending seven copies for distribution to the Committee to the address below. Publishers are encouraged to submit e-books and audiobooks along with physical copies of the titles nominated. The Nomination Form should address how the book nominated fulfills the guidelines. AIA members are also encouraged to suggest books worthy of the award by filling out the Nomination Form. Please note that individual AIA members do not need to submit seven books. The AIA office will contact the publisher directly. Books may be submitted for the award only once, and should not be re-submitted unless specifically requested by the Committee.
The committee will review nominations and make a decision by October. This decision then needs to be approved by the AIA’s Governing Board. In November, AIA Staff will contact all nominators regarding the status of their nomination. The winner will be celebrated at the Awards Ceremony in January.
Archaeological Institute of America
44 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
The Archaeological Institute of America and the Center for American Archeology are pleased to present the 2023 Felicia A. Holton Book Award for a major work of nonfiction written for the general public to Mike Pitts for his book Digging Up Britain: Ten Discoveries, a Million Years of History (Thames & Hudson, 2019).
Digging Up Britain is a brisk introduction to what archaeology can contribute to the history of Britain. The book zooms in on ten archaeological sites across Britain, beginning with a massacre of fifty-two individuals, almost certainly Danish Vikings, at Weymouth in Dorset. Readers are guided backward in time with each successive chapter, mimicking the way that archaeological strata are excavated—last in, first out—until they reach the earliest evidence for the human occupation nearly one million years ago. Pitts moves with great ease across a wide variety of sites: the reader is introduced to Bronze Age houses and grave pits, to Roman cities and Palaeolithic caves, to megalithic Stonehenge and Medieval hoards of treasure. This deep and varied history allows Pitts to discern long-term patterns, such as Britain’s sustained close contacts with the continent, not just with large-scale engagements but also with small-scale movements of people and shared cultural ways of doing things across vast distances. Thus, the book also touches on the meaning of archaeology to the present day. What matters are both “the stories buried beneath our feet” – the local stories that we can tell from the archaeological record – as well as the shared complex of cultural practices that stretch back to the origins of humanity.
The Committee was impressed with the book’s ability to move easily between the details of an archaeological excavation and broader historical narratives, as well as with its effective use of figures, including over twenty stunning images in color. Digging Up Britain embraces the stories that archaeology can tell about the deep human past, providing the reader with clear and compelling narratives without losing sight of the complexity of the archaeological record and the intellectual nuance required to interpret it. For these reasons and more, Mike Pitts’ Digging Up Britain: Ten Discoveries, a Million Years of History is a most deserving recipient of the 2023 Felicia A. Holton Book Award.
The Archaeological Institute of America and the Center for American Archeology are pleased to present the 2022 Felicia A. Holton Book Award for a major work of nonfiction written for the general public to Dr. Sarah Parcak for her book Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past (Henry Holt and Co., 2019).
Archaeology from Space is a lively and personal introduction to the field of archaeology from space. It shows us how satellite imagery and remote sensing can help us do better archaeology and improve our understanding of the human past. Dr. Parcak enlivens discussion of archaeological methodology through a compilation of the “greatest hits” of her young but impressive career thus far as a field archaeologist. The reader travels with the author from the sites of Tanis and Lisht in the Nile delta to Point Rosee on the Atlantic coast of Canada to the Cañete valley in southern Peru. She clearly lays out how satellite imagery enhances and complements tried and true archaeological field methods like field survey and excavation. She also illustrates vividly how it can be used as a tool to combat looting, a formidable and ubiquitous problem faced worldwide.
Dr. Parcak’s book also brings to life the heterogeneity of archaeological practices and approaches. It blends the hard science of archaeological methods with the art of its interpretation. As with the best archaeological work, it is this combination of technical brilliance and scientific data with personal experience and humanistic learning, and even imaginative reconstruction, that makes her book so compelling. This skilled analysis is not an end in itself but yields an appreciation of the broad scope of human history and sheds light on the remarkable lives led by regular people.
Archaeology from Space is a rare book in that it expertly combines engaging narratives and vibrant prose with scholarly content. Most of all, it does a remarkable job at informing its reader about the modern state of archaeology while providing a thrilling glimpse at the field’s future. For these reasons and more, Dr. Parcak’s Archaeology from Space is a most deserving recipient of the 2022 Felicia A. Holton Book Award.
The Archaeological Institute of America and the Center for American Archeology are pleased to present the 2021 Felicia A. Holton Book Award for a major work of nonfiction written for the general public to Dr. Peter Bogucki for his book The Barbarians: Lost Civilizations (Reaktion Books, 2017).
Dr. Bogucki’s book examines the archaeological evidence for the communities of Europe north of the Alps from 2000 BC to AD 500. Although these communities did not develop the same hierarchies or textual cultures that the Mediterranean did, and were thus considered ‘barbarians’ by their neighbors to the south, they were innovative, complex, and (importantly to the reader) endlessly fascinating. The Barbarians focuses its attention on “luminous regions”: places dense with monumental and rich sites that played critical roles in the development of European prehistory. This selective approach allows Dr. Bogucki to engage his readers in a brisk and lively account while giving them real insight into the archaeological highlights that reveal the meaningful dimensions of, or raise important questions about, the societies in question. The book’s focus on archaeology provides an important and useful counter-narrative to our usual accounts, which are typically focalized through Greek and Roman eyes and written sources.
The Barbarians is attractively written, empirically rich, and true to the archaeological record. It provides evidence, if any was needed at this point, that rich and textured accounts can be written from material culture in the absence of texts. It is a model of the genre that the Felicia A. Holton Book Award honors and is richly deserving of a broad and appreciative audience.
The Archaeological Institute of America and the Center for American Archeology are pleased to present the 2020 Felicia A. Holton Book Award for a major work of nonfiction written for the general public to Dr. Billy Griffiths, for his book Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia (Black Inc. Books, 2018).
Dr. Griffiths’ book lays out the history of Australian archaeology, tracing the shifts in the way that it has been understood. It deals with the material evidence directly through the eyes of archaeologists, and vividly illustrates how deep the indigenous history of Australia is. Dr. Griffiths also shows how important that past is to public discourse through an examination of the relationships between Australian archaeologists and specific Aboriginal communities, as well as the dynamics between archaeologists and other stakeholders. The book is thus a salutary reminder of the dual nature of archaeology as an empirical and scientific discipline on the one hand, and an activity with political and social implications on the other.
Deep Time Dreaming brings not only the archaeological process to light, but also illustrates how and why that process, if it is done conscientiously and rigorously, matters outside of the discipline to a broad cross-section of communities. It is a splendid example of the type of book the Felicia A. Holton Book Award is meant to celebrate.
The Archaeological Institute of America and the Center for American Archeology are pleased to present the 2019 Felicia A. Holton Book Award, for a major work of nonfiction written for the general public, to Timothy Matney and his project team for their book “Ziyaret Tepe: Exploring the Anatolian frontier of the Assyrian Empire” (Cornucopia Books, 2017).
This book is an in-depth, detailed look at field archaeology during the eighteen years of excavations in Turkey led by Professor Matney that ran from 1997 to 2014. Day to day operations, the interpretation and evaluation of finds, conservation and presentation are all covered, with many striking photos to support the narrative. It brings the daily work of this extended, multi-year dig to vivid life for general readers in a way that genuinely excites an interest in archaeology.
This citation also acknowledges Professor Matney’s three co-authors, John MacGinnis, Dirk Wicke and Kemalettin Köroğlu, along with the contributions from the rest of the project team over the life of the dig.
It is a pleasure to recognize Ziyaret Tepe as the worthy recipient of the 2019 Felicia A. Holton Book Award.
The Archaeological Institute of America and the Center for American Archeology are pleased to present the first Felicia A. Holton Book Award to Benjamin R. Foster and Karen Polinger Foster for Civilizations of Ancient Iraq (Princeton 2009).
The Fosters’ book traces Iraq’s rich and varied history from the earliest Neolithic settlements to the Muslim conquest, with chapters that focus on the individual cultures that prospered in this area. It effectively weaves ancient texts and archaeological artifacts to present scholarly research in an engaging style that makes complicated material accessible to the general public. The authors describe the agricultural revolution that produced cities, the invention of writing that made governance and literature possible, the law Code of Hammurabi, the successive domination of the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Parthians, and finally the Sassanians. They conclude with an epilogue that brings the archaeology of Iraq up to the present day and demonstrates its importance to the modern nation to the rest of the world.
The book includes maps of the area, annotated illustrations of artifacts and monuments, an extensive bibliography, and an effective index. It is a concise and interesting treatment of a political area and of preservation and cultural heritage issues that are of great importance today.
The Archaeological Institute of America and the Center for American Archeology present this award in recognition of the Fosters’ contribution to the field of archaeology through their effective exploration of the past and its continuing impact on the present.
2011 honorable mention
The Archaeological Institute of America and the Center for American Archeology are pleased give an Honorable Mention in the 2011 Felicia A. Holton Book Award to Patrick E. McGovern for Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer and Other Alcoholic Beverages (Berkeley 2009).
McGovern’s book takes the reader on a worldwide tour through the millennia in search of the origins of fermented beverages. At a Neolithic site in China, McGovern analyzes the residue in ancient pottery jars to find a grog dating back to 7000 B.C.E. In Iran, he discovers the first evidence of wine from grapes and recognizes jars used to make barley beer ca. 3500 B.C.E. His exploration takes him along the Silk Road, to Europe, to Africa, and to the New World.
McGovern combines archaeological, chemical, textual, and artistic data to elucidate the universal allure of alcoholic beverages. He posits that cereals were domesticated for their alcoholic potential as well as for use as a food staple.
The Archaeological Institute of America and Center for American Archeology award an Honorable Mention in recognition of McGovern’s use of scientific techniques to extract new information and thereby to enhance our understanding of human history.