This is a superb volume. It`s interesting to read, well organized, gives a broad overview of the field, and presents illustrations of how geologists are able to contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the human past.
The authors cover a broad range of subjects, including the development of the consiliance (Wilson would be proud) between archaeology and geology, that is between what might be seen as basically a "social science" and a so-called "hard science." They discuss some of the background of both disciplines, which really arose as official fields of endeavor in the 19th century, although both have significant roots in the 17th and 18th centuries. (Thomas Jefferson in the 18th century comes to mind as do Steno and Hutton).
The subject of petrology---igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic---and how it contributes to an understanding of the stratigraphy of a site is very informative. The particular character of the paleoenvironment that encouraged humans to occupy a site in the first place is also very illuminating. The authors also point out the contributions of paleoclimatology, palynology, zooarchaology, fluvial systems, and other types of earth history studies that help give the reader a clearer understanding of the pre-historic and ancient historic worlds.
What I found particularly interesting was their discussions of the effects of upstream erosive processes on various segments of rivers, since these are still actions in force today. The human effects on terrain become very obvious here. While the data were drawn mostly from the rivers in the United Kingdom, some material on German and French rivers and on the US Mississippi are also included. The effects of the earthquakes of 1812-1813 in New Madrid, Missouri on the Mississippi were especially amazing. (An interesting discussion of this particular event is found in When the Mississippi Ran Backwards : Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes.
Information on conservation of sites provides a much clearer understanding of the problems involved in preserving a site once it has been found and its material remains exhumed. They discuss water-logged material, bog material, and modern day environmental effects on site preservation. A description of the leaning tower of Pisa and its issues was especially illustrative, since it reveals the effects of substrate on ancient buildings. Their presentation of geological data on Maya temples and the karstic substrate on which they are built made more sense of their abandonment than many other theories. The effect of site choice without an adequate understanding the effects of substrate are particularly obvious in their mention of a modern building in Mexico which has sunk several feet because of the "built" land underlying it.
Like the book Alluvial Geoarchaeology: Floodplain Archaeology and Environmental Change (Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology), which I also read and reviewed, this one relies heavily on schematic illustrations to clarify concepts. While these put the basic ideas across, they do not really provide a very clear understanding of what the worker is likely to find in the field. Here too, I would suggest more photos of sites that illustrate what is being discussed, so that beginning geoarchaeologist or archaeologist has a better handle on what to expect. Seismic features, discontinuities, unconformitities, fining up and fining down, the different soil horizons and the types found in different climates need more than a diagram for the novice to really grasp some of these features as they are commonly seen in the field. I suspect a field trip with this in mind would be very useful.
I would recommend this book to any beginning earth history, archeology, or basic geology class, certainly as a reading list entry. Brown's book is a more depthy discussion specifically of fluvial systems and is a little more difficult to stick to, but since many sites, especially prehistoric sites, are buried by river deposition and revealed by aggradation, an understanding of the behavior of rivers and their effect on archaeological sites and materials is especially useful. I would suggest that the two books be read together. Certainly they reinforce and augment one another.
A great read, but it could have used more photos.