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X Marks the Spot

On sale

25th May 2023

Price: £25

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781529367768

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‘If you love Indiana Jones, this is the real thing’ DAN SNOW

‘A thrilling investigation’ SUZANNAH LIPSCOMB

‘Alive with the spirit of adventure’ SIR RANULPH FIENNES

Through eight sensational stories of discovery, Professor Michael Scott traces the evolution of modern archaeology from colonial expeditions to today’s cutting-edge digs, unearthing traps, curses and buried treasure along the way.

We uncover why different periods and places have caught our attention and imaginations at different times. We meet the characters, some celebrated and some forgotten, who found world-famous discoveries like the Rosetta Stone, the Terracotta Warriors and Machu Picchu. We investigate ancient human footprints, stunning shipwrecks, mythical princesses and surprising rituals as keyholes to the wonders of past civilisations. And we unravel how archaeological finds have often become emblems of modern fascinations and dilemmas.

Crossing millions of years, trekking from the jungles of South America to the frozen highlands of Central Asia, X Marks the Spot reveals how much the discovery of our past is intertwined with the concerns of our present and why X never, ever marks the spot.

‘Fascinating’ GREG JENNER

‘An essential read for anyone with even a fleeting interest in exploring the past’ JANINA RAMIREZ


If you love Indiana Jones, this is the real thing. Michael Scott celebrates the fusion of scholarship and adventure in a book full of both.
A fascinating book; both as a greatest hits compendium of archaeological breakthroughs, and as a subtle examination of how "discovery" has evolved. In tracing Archaeology's journey, Professor Michael Scott shows that "discovery" often required more than just courage, persistence, and talent, but also geopolitical pressure, local knowledge, dubious ethical choices, and pure blind luck!
I was thoroughly absorbed by Michael Scott's wonderful new book - a generous, warm retelling of eight world-changing archaeological finds, from the Rosetta Stone to the Altai Princess via Machu Picchu. It's a tour de force of scholarship and an unputdownable read.
TOBY WILKINSON, author of A World Beneath the Sands
Michael Scott deftly captures the trials and triumphs of archaeology, from the privations of life on a dig to the thrill of discovery. Wide-ranging in time and space, X Marks the Spot is a fascinating mix of history, biography and - above all - adventure.
Who knew that there may be a further 6000 suits of armour yet to uncover in addition to the Chinese imperial Terracotta Warriors already unearthed? Or that the Rosetta Stone contains not three but four inscribed texts? All that and much much more is known and beautifully related here by the indefatigable Michael Scott, famous both as an archaeological scholar and as a communicator, an Indiana Jones de nos jours and for our time. X Marks the Spot hits the spot.
DR JERRY TONER, University of Cambridge
The fascinating story of how archaeological digs are never simply fact-finding missions but are driven by the same present-day concerns that we find in any other human activity. An impressive piece, with an incisive analysis of a broad sweep of examples, all written in an engaging and lively style.
Stylish, witty, and informed by wide ranging scholarship, X Marks the Spot tells intensely exciting stories, while illuminating the profound links between the past and the present. An absolute joy to read.
Scott explores the wonder and excitement of our love affair with the past, unearthing extraordinary lost cultures, and celebrating those determined men and women who work in often gruelling conditions to help bring them to light, the common thread that binds humanity across space and time becomes increasingly apparent. Scott's enthusiasm is palpable, and his compelling, charismatic book will undoubtedly inspire a whole new generation of future archaeologists. Who knows what they will find?
A gripping account of some of history's most extraordinary archaeological discoveries. Filled with larger than life figures that give Indiana Jones a run for his money. A triumph of a book!
Michael Scott meticulously explores eight different discoveries from the Rosetta Stone in Egypt to the unravelling of the Keros Enigma. He explains how the discovery of the past is always creating a shifting appreciation of who we are across the background of the rich tapestry of human history. I much enjoyed and learned a great deal from this book.
Through eight of history's most audacious acts of discovery, Michael Scott tells us the story of archaeology itself. This is a thrilling investigation of humankind's obsession with the physical remains of its past.
Do you wish you knew more about some of the most fascinating archaeological discoveries made around the world? Then pick up Michael Scott's fabulous, learned, smart and never-dusty new book immediately. It's wonderful.
Michael Scott tells these stories in an affable, scholarly and accessible way with an expert eye, giving us incisive portraits of the fascinating, often difficult and driven characters who expanded the frontiers of knowledge, whilst also examining their actions in light of our modern values and debates about restitution, display and ongoing scholarly investigation
An essential read for anyone with even a fleeting interest in exploring the past. Michael weaves a world around each discovery, which tells us as much about modern attitudes as it does about the ancient civilisations unearthed. I couldn't put it down!
masterful storyteller. These days, serious archaeology sometimes shies away from tales of exploration and adventure. The colonial overtones and sensational headlines are too much of a risk, and too raw for a discipline steeped in difficult imperial origins. In X Marks The Spot, Michael Scott manages to pull off an inspired feat - to capture the excitement and wonder of discovery, but to situate these astonishing tales in their complex, messy historical realities. It's a page-turner and eye-opener. It will inspire you to wonder more at the world and its people - both present and past.
Vivid, pacey and full of fascinating detail, X Marks the Spot is a riveting adventure through time, propelled by Michael Scott's excellent scholarship and accessible writing style.
NAOISE MAC SWEENEY, Professor of Archaeology, University of Vienna
A rollicking read, full of fascinating detail and unexpected twists.
Dr Sophie Hay
In archaeology context is vital for understanding the evidence and in this book Michael Scott deftly unravels the historical context surrounding these seminal discoveries in a hugely enjoyable, incisive, and readable way.
Lindsey Davis
Archaeology is about more than finds, it's discovering them and reacting to them. X Marks the Spot tells us who does that and why: stories within stories, all told by a master storyteller: in the immortal words of Howard Carter, 'Wonderful things!'
Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Alive with the spirit of adventure, X Marks the Spot captures pioneering moments in history and takes readers to the thrilling peaks of discovery.
History Revealed
A lively journey across centuries and continents ... by focusing on the individuals who made such remarkable discoveries, Scott also investigates what their aims and motivations tell us about the ways in which we view the past.
Aspects of History magazine
Scott has written a book that should be on the shelves of every aspiring young archaeologist. Across eight discoveries, he lays out in great detail their importance in understanding our history ... With X Marks the Spot, we're now fortunate to have a book to inspire the next generation.
Endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking, this book is as satisfying a find as any of the archaeological discoveries that it charts. Highly recommended.
Brenna Hassett, BBC History Magazine
A vibrant take on key modern archaeological finds and the colourful characters who made them... A breathless account of some of the most audacious adventures from the Enlightenment tradition of treasure hunting, and a sharp, insightful look at the deeper politics behind the treasure that archaeologists find ... so enjoyable ... This awareness of the many factors that underpin our knowledge of the past is what elevates X Marks the Spot, making it a volume well worth reading.