‘Alive with the spirit of adventure, X Marks the Spot captures pioneering moments in history and takes readers to the thrilling peaks of discovery’

'If you love Indiana Jones, this is the real thing. Michael Scott celebrates the fusion of scholarship and adventure in a book full of both.' DAN SNOW

Uncovering the physical remains of our past is a quintessential human itch; the pursuit of every society from the ancients through to today. But the stories behind archaeological exploration and discovery - what we look for when, what we end up finding, and what we then do with it - tell us as much about ourselves today as they do about the past.

Through eight sensational stories of discovery, Professor Michael Scott traces the evolution of modern archaeology from colonial expeditions to today's cutting-edge digs, unearthing traps, curses and buried treasure along the way. We uncover why different periods and places have caught our attention and imaginations at different times. We meet the characters, some celebrated and some forgotten, who found world-famous discoveries like the Rosetta Stone, the Terracotta Warriors and Machu Picchu. We investigate ancient human footprints, stunning shipwrecks, mythical princesses and surprising rituals as keyholes to the wonders of past civilisations. And we unravel how archaeological finds have often become emblems of modern fascinations and dilemmas.

Crossing millions of years, trekking from the jungles of South America to the frozen highlands of Central Asia, X Marks the Spot reveals how much the discovery of our past is intertwined with the concerns of our present and why X never, ever marks the spot.

Check out my latest blog all about the book and where you can find me talking about it at Literary and History festivals across Summer and Autumn 2023.

Released 25th May 2023

Published by Hodder and Stoughton, UK.

Foreign Language Rights available

Praise for X Marks the Spot

X Marks the Spot is a fascinating book; both as a greatest hits compendium of archaeological breakthroughs, and as a subtle examination of how ‘discovery’ has evolved. In tracing Archaeology’s journey – from imperialist scholars, polyglot geniuses, and marauding adventurers, up to the modern-day collaboration of multi-decade projects – Professor Michael Scott shows that ‘discovery’ often required more than just courage, persistence, and talent, but also geopolitical pressure, local knowledge, dubious ethical choices, and pure blind luck!’

Greg Jenner, historian, author and host of You’re Dead to Me podcast

‘Alive with the spirit of adventure, X Marks the Spot captures pioneering moments
in history and takes readers to the thrilling peaks of discovery’

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, explorer and author

‘If you love Indiana Jones, this is the real thing. Michael Scott celebrates the fusion of scholarship and adventure in a book full of both.’

Dan Snow, historian, author and host of History Hit podcast

‘Through eight of history’s most audacious acts of discovery, Michael Scott tells us the story of archaeology itself. This is a thrilling investigation of humankind’s obsession with the physical remains of its past.’

Suzannah Lipscomb, historian (University of Roehampton), broadcaster and author

‘An essential read for anyone with even a fleeting interest in exploring the past. Michael weaves a world around each discovery, which tells us as much about modern attitudes as it does about the ancient civilisations unearthed. I couldn't put it down!’

Janina Ramirez, historian (University of Oxford), broadcaster and author

‘Do you wish you knew more about some of the most fascinating archaeological discoveries made around the world? Then pick up Michael Scott’s fabulous, learned, smart and never-dusty new book immediately. It’s wonderful.’

Natalie Haynes, classicist, broadcaster and author

‘With his fedora and bullwhip, one of the most famous heroes in popular culture is an archaeologist: Indiana Jones. Now here are some of the larger-than- life stories that lie behind the films, comics, novels and video games: Hiram Bingham on the heights of Machu Picchu, Aurel Stein in Kashgar, Mary Leakey at Olduvai Gorge and many more. These are the tales of some of the most extraordinary discoveries in archaeology, in deserts, jungles, and even under water. Michael Scott tells these stories in an affable, scholarly and accessible way with an expert eye, giving us incisive portraits of the fascinating, often difficult and driven characters who expanded the frontiers of knowledge, whilst also examining their actions in light of our modern values and debates about restitution, display and ongoing scholarly investigation.’

Michael Wood, historian (University of Manchester), broadcaster and author

‘Vivid, pacey and full of fascinating detail, X Marks the Spot is a riveting adventure through time, propelled by Michael Scott’s excellent scholarship and accessible writing style.’

Alice Loxton, historian, author and presenter at History Hit TV

‘A masterful storyteller. These days, serious archaeology sometimes shies away from tales of exploration and adventure. The colonial overtones and sensational headlines are too much of a risk, and too raw for a discipline steeped in difficult imperial origins. In X Marks The Spot, Michael Scott manages to pull off an inspired feat – to capture the excitement and wonder of discovery, but to situate these astonishing tales in their complex, messy historical realities. X Marks the Spot takes us around the world and through deep prehistory, but always leads us back to the pressing questions of our time. Whose history is it? And who should tell the stories of these ancient times? It’s a page-turner and eye-opener. It will inspire you to wonder more at the world and its people – both present and past.’

Mary-Ann Ochota, anthropologist, broadcaster and author

‘Who knew that the Uluburun shipwreck’s finds include 32 land snails? Or that there may be a further 6,000 suits of armour yet to uncover in addition to the Chinese imperial Terracotta Warriors already unearthed? Or that Kenya’s Olduvai Gorge preserves footprints proving that the featherless biped – us – walked on two feet far earlier than previously imagined? Or that the Rosetta Stone contains not three, but four inscribed texts? All that and much, much more is known and beautifully related here by the indefatigable Michael Scott, famous both as an archaeological scholar and as a communicator, an Indiana Jones de nos jours and for our time. X Marks the Spot hits the spot.’

Paul Cartledge, historian (University of Cambridge) and author

‘Michael Scott deftly captures the trials and triumphs of archaeology, from the privations of life on a dig to the thrill of discovery. Wide-ranging in time and space, X Marks the Spot is a fascinating mix of history, biography and – above all – adventure.’

Toby Wilkinson, Egyptologist (University of Cambridge) and author

‘I am thoroughly absorbed by Michael Scott’s wonderful new book — a generous, warm retelling of eight world-changing archaeological finds, from the Rosetta Stone to the Altai Princess via Machu Picchu. It’s a tour de force of scholarship and an unputdownable read.’

Dr Katherine Schofield, historian (King’s College London)

‘Scott’s new book certainly hits the spot. It tells the fascinating story of how archaeological digs are never simply fact-finding missions but are driven by the same present-day concerns that we find in any other human activity. An impressive piece, with an incisive analysis of a broad sweep of examples, all written in an engaging and lively style.’

Dr Jerry Toner, classicist (University of Cambridge)

‘Scott’s highly personal and passionate account of eight very different discoveries delves deep into two centuries and more of archaeology. As he explores the wonder and excitement of our love affair with the past, unearthing extraordinary lost cultures, and celebrating those determined men and women who work in often gruelling conditions to help bring them to light, the common thread that binds humanity across space and time becomes increasingly apparent. Scott’s enthusiasm is palpable, and his compelling, charismatic book will undoubtedly inspire a whole new generation of future archaeologists. Who knows what they will find?’

David Stuttard, classicist, theatre director and author

‘Stylish, witty, and informed by wide ranging scholarship, X Marks the Spot tells intensely exciting stories, while illuminating the profound links between the past and the present. An absolute joy to read.’

Harry Sidebottom, historian and author

‘A gripping account of some of history’s most extraordinary archaeological discoveries. Filled with larger than life figures that give Indiana Jones a run for his money. A triumph of a book!’

Tristan Hughes, author, producer of History Hit podcast, and host of The Ancients podcast

‘Michael Scott meticulously explores eight different discoveries from the Rosetta Stone in Egypt to the unravelling of the Keros Enigma. He explains how the discovery of the past is always creating a shifting appreciation of who we are across the background of the rich tapestry of human history. I much enjoyed and learned a great deal from this book.’

Charles Freeman, historian and author

'In archaeology context is vital for understanding the evidence and in this book Michael Scott deftly unravels the historical context surrounding these seminal discoveries in a hugely enjoyable, incisive, and readable way.'
Dr Sophie Hay
'Archaeology is about more than finds, it’s discovering them and reacting to them. X Marks the Spot tells us who does that and why: stories within stories, all told by a master story-teller: in the immortal words of Howard Carter, ‘Wonderful things!’'
Lindsey Davis, author of The Silver Pigs and others in the Falco and Flavia Albia series