Samantha Sutton has a passion for archaeology because her creator, Jordan Jacobs, has the same passion.
As a kindergartner, Jacobs remembers asking his school librarian for a book on mummies. Now he’s writing the books he would have loved to read as a child, with messages archaeologists wish everyone understood.
A stint at Crow Canyon’s High School Field School in 1996 helped propel him into a career in archaeology, and when he promotes his book, he makes a point of mentioning the Center.
“It was a straight line from Crow Canyon to what I did at Stanford and what I did at Cambridge, and then to the Smithsonian, to the American Museum of Natural History, to the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO), and to what I do now,” Jacobs said. “I’ve been really lucky to do some interesting stuff.”
Since February 2012, Jacobs has served as head of cultural policy at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley, where he deals with such issues as repatriation and the illicit trafficking of cultural property.
“Right now I’m definitely more of a policy person, and I’m enjoying that,” he said. “It’s a big-picture look at archaeology and heritage management, preservation, and construction.”
During his off hours, he works with Samantha Sutton.
The main character in the series is the 12-year-old niece of a university archaeologist. She enjoys the adventures she shares with her uncle, a good scientist who’s willing to take big risks, but what she really loves is the science.
It’s that science that Jacobs hopes to pass on to his readers:
- Archaeology is not a treasure hunt. “That quote by David Hurst Thomas, ‘It’s not what you find, it’s what you find out,’ was appropriately drilled into us at Crow Canyon.”
- It’s a puzzle, and you need all the pieces you can find.
- The archaeological record is a finite resource that needs to be respected.
- And it’s fun. “It’s an interesting intellectual exercise that resonates really well with young people, and with adults too,” Jacobs said. “Little bits of the puzzle, if you piece them all together, can tell us a lot about past cultures and our own human history, and people are really interested in that.”
All of the books are set at real archaeological sites and use real data. Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies takes place at Chavin de Huántar, Peru, a site included in this year’s Crow Canyon travel adventure, “The Pre-Inca Cultures of Ancient Peru.” The new book, Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen, is set outside of Cambridge, England, at a site that may indicate the historical existence of Queen Boudica
“Anything the characters find is something that’s actually been found,” Jacobs said, “and the analysis is pulled out of published literature. There’s an author’s note at the end explaining where readers can learn more, and a little bit about the project or excavation that generated the data.”
A third book in the Samantha Sutton series is due out early in 2015. All of the books are available from independent bookstores, large bookstore chains and through Amazon.com.