Saunders, Nicholas J. (Nicholas Saunders, Nick Saunders)

views updated

Saunders, Nicholas J. (Nicholas Saunders, Nick Saunders)

PERSONAL:

Male.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Anthropology Department, University College London, Gower St., London WC1E 6BT, England. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, editor, anthropologist, archaeologist, historian, broadcaster, and educator. University College London, London, England, reader in anthropology; University of Bristol, Bristol, England, archaeology and anthropology department faculty member, 2007—. Also worked at the University of Southampton, University of the West Indies—Trinidad, University of the West Indies—Jamaica, and National Autonomous University of Mexico. Frequent commentator and guest on television and radio programs in Great Britain.

WRITINGS:

(Editor, with Olivier de Montmollin) Recent Studies in Pre-Columbian Archaeology, B.A.R. (Oxford, England), 1988.

People of the Jaguar: The Living Spirit of Ancient America, Souvenir (London, England), 1989.

The Cult of the Cat, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 1991.

The Jaguars of Culture: Symbolizing Humanity in Pre-Columbian and Amerindian Societies, University of Southampton (Southampton, England), 1991.

(Editor) Ancient America: Contributions to New World Archaeology, Oxbow Books (Oxford England), 1992.

(Editor, with Clive L.N. Ruggles) Astronomies and Cultures: Papers Derived from the Third "Oxford" International Symposium on Archaeoastronomy, St. Andrews, UK, September 1990, University Press of Colorado (Niwot, Colo.), 1993.

Animal Spirits, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995.

Icons of Power: Feline Symbolism in the Americas, Routledge (New York, NY), 1998.

The Incas, Sutton (Stroud, England), 2000.

Trench Art: A Brief History & Guide, 1914-1939, Leo Cooper (London, England), 2001.

Trench Art: Materialities and Memories of War, Berg (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor) Matters of Conflict: Material Culture, Memory and the First World War, Routledge (New York, NY), 2004.

Ancient Americas: The Great Civilizations, Sutton (Stroud, England), 2004.

Peoples of the Caribbean: An Encyclopedia of Archeology and Traditional Culture, ABC-Clio (Santa Barbara, CA), 2005.

(As Nick Saunders) The Inca City of Cuzco, World Almanac Library (Milwaukee, Wis.), 2005.

(With Tony Allan) The Aztec Empire, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2005.

(As Nicholas Saunders) The Life of Julius Caesar, School Specialty Publishing (Columbus, OH), 2006.

The Life of Alexander the Great, School Specialty Publishing (Columbus, OH), 2006.

Alexander's Tomb: The Two Thousand Year Obsession to Find the Lost Conqueror, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Writer, university lecturer, archaeologist, and anthropologist Nicholas J. Saunders is a prolific author of cultural studies, historical explorations, profiles of prominent figures from the past, and books about pre-Columbian archaeology and twentieth century conflict archaeology. He specializes in the archaeology and anthropology of Mesoamerica and South America. Among his academic works are examinations of ancient religious and cultural symbolism, including The Jaguars of Culture: Symbolizing Humanity in Pre-Columbian and Amerindian Societies; Animal Spirits; and Icons of Power: Feline Symbolism in the Americas. Saunders's biohistorical works include profiles of Alexander the Great, Francisco Pizarro, and Julius Caesar. He has written on subjects as varied as World War I trench art and the search for the tomb of Alexander the Great.

In Peoples of the Caribbean: An Encyclopedia of Archeology and Traditional Culture, Saunders addresses the modern image of the Caribbean and the relatively benign and sanitized image that has been propagated through travel and tourism. As a reviewer wrote in Reference & Research Book News, Saunders "attempts to get beneath the veneer" and explore the beginnings of the African-based Caribbean culture in slavery. He looks at the seven centuries of Caribbean history prior to the arrival of Columbus, then details the events that led to the widespread destruction of the islands' indigenous populations. Finally, Saunders looks behind the popular perception of the Caribbean and locates the realities behind modern life there.

Astronomies and Cultures: Papers Derived from the Third "Oxford" International Symposium on Archaeoastronomy, St. Andrews, UK, September 1990, edited with Clive L.N. Ruggles, presents works derived from an interdisciplinary gathering of archaeologists and astronomers. The papers combine the scientific methods of both astronomy and archaeology to explore the "use culture makes of the sky," noted E.C. Krupp, writing in American Antiquity. The collaborative effort between the two disciplines helps illustrate "how understanding astronomy in its cultural context can illuminate broader issues," Krupp observed. The editors open the volume with a discourse on "The Study of Cultural Astronomy," which establishes the relevance of astronomy to anthropological research. Other contributors report on their own research projects. Papers included in the book cover topics such as the connection between the ancient Chinese text, the Yao Dian, with the origins of astronomy in China; how astronomy and the increasing prevalence of Christian ritual helped transform pagan cultures to Christian by the use of older astronomical and calendric traditions; ancient reactions to the red star Sirius; the symbolism of architecture and sacred geometry in ancient India; the astronomical significance of North American medicine wheels; the connection between folk astronomy and Islam; and more.

"These papers will remain substantive and valuable references for future work," Krupp remarked, further noting that "each provides fresh information in a disciplined framework." Krupp concluded: "Anyone still not sure why astronomy, cosmology, orientation, and celestial symbolism are anthropologically interesting will get some quick, but rich, answers in this book."

Saunders told CA: "My interest [in writing] began as a young boy while living in San Francisco. Perhaps to remind myself of home (the United Kingdom), I would write stories about English history from Stonehenge to the Vikings and illustrate them with pencil drawings."

When asked who or what particularly influences his work, he said: "Places I visit, and the experiences and ideas that arise from these, usually with a liberal dose of lateral thinking."

When asked the most surprising thing he has learned as a writer, he said: "How hard it is to get something right, and how easy to get it wrong.

"Find an original idea and work exceedingly hard at it! I write something every day, and all my publications have been rewritten countless times before they are submitted.

"Alexander's Tomb: The Two Thousand Year Obsession to Find the Lost Conqueror, [is my favorite of my books], as it had been playing on my mind for at least twenty-five years before I had the opportunity to write it."

When asked what effect he hopes his book will have, he said: "To inform and inspire, and to show that sometimes the most fascinating things are right before our eyes, invisible in plain view."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Antiquity, April, 1990, Patrick Carmichael, review of Recent Studies in Pre-Columbian Archaeology, p. 427; April, 1996, E.C. Krupp, review of Astronomies and Cultures: Papers Derived from the Third "Oxford" International Symposium on Archaeoastronomy, St. Andrews, UK, September 1990, p. 424.

New Scientist, November 17, 1990, Susan Gillespie, review of People of the Jaguar: The Living Spirit of Ancient America, p. 58; April 25, 1998, review of Icons of Power: Feline Symbolism in the Americas, p. 46.

Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 1998, review of Icons of Power, p. 37; May, 2006, review of The Peoples of the Caribbean: An Encyclopedia of Archaeology and Traditional Culture.

Times Literary Supplement, February 9, 2007, "More Talking Than Finding," review of Alexander's Tomb: The Two Thousand Year Obsession to Find the Lost Conqueror, p. 29.

Times Educational Supplement, June 23, 2000, review of The Incas, p. 25.

Times Higher Education Supplement, June 30, 1995, Ivan Sprajc, review of Astronomies and Cultures, p. 23; March 19, 1999, Michael Douglas Coe, review of Icons of Power, p. 22; April 12, 2002, Andrew Robinson, "Shell-Case Table Gongs and Shrapnel Ashtrays," review of Trench Art: A Brief History and Guide, 1914-1939, p. 24; August 6, 2004, Annette Becker, "No Victory in the Peace to End Peace," p. 24.

ONLINE

Perseus Books Group Web site,http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/ (July 29, 2007), biography of Nicholas J. Saunders.

About this article

Saunders, Nicholas J. (Nicholas Saunders, Nick Saunders)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article