In The Man Who Found Thoreau Donald Linebaugh presents a succinct, articulate examination of the work of the pioneering but controversial archaeologist Roland Wells Robbins (1908–1987) and the development of historical archaeology in America. In 1945 the self-taught Robbins discovered the remains of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond. He excavated the site, documented his findings, and in 1947 published a short book, Discovery at Walden, about the experience. This project launched Robbins’s career in archaeology, restoration, and reconstruction, and he went on to excavate at a number of New England iron works and other sites, including the Philipsburg Manor Upper Mills in New York, Stawbery Banke in New Hampshire, and Shadwell, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia birthplace. Although lacking academic training, Robbins quickly developed remarkably sophisticated techniques for the period. However, his “pick and shovel” methods were considered suspect and increasingly frowned upon by the emerging American historical archaeological establishment. As the profession evolved, trained American historical archaeologists, according to Donald Linebaugh, too scrupulously wrote Robbins out of the history of their emerging field. With the help of previously unpublished information, the author offers a balanced assessment of Robbins and his place in New England regional history and the history of American historical archaeology. The Man Who Found Thoreau is a must-read for scholars, students, and historical archaeology buffs alike. This book was reviewed in Thoreau Society Bulletin 257, Winter 2007, p. 8.
University Press of New England, 1st Edition, 294 pp. Hardbound.