Archaeology: Drama for Diggers

Nothing about the exhibit seems to fit among the musty antiquities of Assyrian Hall in the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. Eye-popping red, blue and yellow paints are splashed inside the glass showcases; a lettered wheel whirls out breezy explanations in art nouveau type. Topping off the extravaganza is a large wall map, lit up by flickering red neon tubing. It is the kind of show that conservative diggers dismiss with a scornful epithet: "Pop Archaeology."

The description delights the man who directed the display. Robert J. Braidwood, 60, is an old...

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