Archaeologies: An Essay

by Patti M. Marxsen

Archaeologies: An Essay by Patti M. Marxsen
Pages: 20
Published: April 2011
Price: $.99

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"Patti M. Marxsen mixes the personal with the historical as she looks at the literal fragments of objects as well as the fragments that make up her life.” — Kelli Russell Agodon

About the Essay

In her haunting essay, “Archaeologies,” Patti M. Marxsen explores the discoveries and losses of a family shattered by divorce.

“Archeologists know,” Marxsen writes, “that something precious is always at risk of being lost forever.” As she visits a Swiss exhibit of objects unearthed in Gaza, she takes in the history of that region as well as the science of archaeology, ultimately reflecting on the “diagnostic shards” within her own family—those missing pieces that render an understanding of what was once intact.

In this essay, Marxsen is an archeologist unearthing her own past—one of “the fearless ones who study time as a process of erosion, collision, burial, and rediscovery.” From the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva to the typewriter cubicles at the University of Kentucky, Marxsen takes us on a journey through time, offering us glimpses into the history of Gaza, into the enduring challenges facing women, and into the eroded history of a broken family.


“Patti Marxsen's essay 'Archaeologies' digs deep into the heart's core as skillfully as a poem. Her choice of vessel, the essay, is a wise one for the content of this work, filled as it is with such luxuriant detail of the ancient finds of Palestinian wonders interfaced with the shattered pieces of a contemporary American family. Seeing the gut-wrenching emotion of divorce through the lens of archeology makes it almost bearable to witness. Who among us has not witnessed the heartache of good people gone separate ways with children who 'don't remember' for reasons that are not our business but very much the concern of our hearts? This essay aims to heal that hurt, not only individually but communally.”
— Loretta Cobb, author of The Ocean Was Salt
“This is an essay beguiling in its language, the lexicon of archeology echoed in the telling of the personal so carefully and beautifully constructed that we can’t help but remember that each civilization is made up of individual human beings, each history of a culture is comprised of the stories of those who created it and lived it and, perhaps, destroyed it. Patti Marxsen writes sentence after stunning sentence.”
Judy Reeves, author of A Writer's Book of Days
“In this beautiful essay, Patti M. Marxsen mixes the personal with the historical as she looks at the literal fragments of objects as well as the fragments that make up her life: 'Each divorce is its own museum...a house of fragments forever open to interpretation.' Throughout history, women’s passions have been put aside for motherly duties, and the choices each woman makes can be difficult to discuss, but Marxsen speaks honestly here, of her own memories and in sharing the response from her now grown-daughter: 'I have no memory at all of us as a family.' Marxsen insightfully reflects on her own past and the world’s history while viewing recent archeological exhibits of Gaza and ponders 'the fine line between total destruction and the possibility of reconstruction.' In this poignantly written, poetically inspired yet grounded essay, Marxsen explores the challenges of relationships, parenting, and a greater passion, as well as other discoveries in herself and what is found in the earth below.”
Kelli Russell Agodon, author of Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room (White Pine Press, 2010)
“In this beautifully wrought essay, author Patti M. Marxsen leads the reader back and forth over the centuries, from a terra cotta amphora from Gaza year 457 C.E. to present-day Gaza, and back again to the cone-shaped, cracked amphora. As she intertwines her personal story of lost love, the author knows 'the stance of hands on hips, the hollow feeling in the bodies of aging mothers.' Dust, water, and time are on her mind in this intricate archeological excavation. It is truly a fabulous read.”
— Susan Tiberghien, author of One Year to a Writing Life and Looking for Gold

Click here to learn more about Patti M. Marxsen and her work.

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