Archaeology: An Introduction - 4th Edition 2002
The Online Companion: updated November 2007


CHAPTER 6 : Making Sense of the Past

>> CHAPTER OVERVIEW

6.1. WHERE IS ARCHAEOLOGY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY?

6.2. ARCHAEOLOGICAL THEORY

6.3. TOWARDS PROCESSUAL ARCHAEOLOGY

6.4. TOWARDS POSTPROCESSUAL ARCHAEOLOGY

6.5. INTERPRETIVE ARCHAEOLOGY

6.6. ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE PUBLIC

 

 


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6.1. WHERE IS ARCHAEOLOGY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY?

6.1.1. Too much knowledge?

 

6.1. WHERE IS ARCHAEOLOGY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY?

Archaeology has grown rapidly since 1900, with the result that virtually every country in the world now operates some form of state-financed protection of ancient monuments, as well as supporting the subject in universities and museums.

  • ANTHROPOLOGY IN THE NEWS Links to news stories published on the web, maintained by Texas A&M Department of Anthropology.
  • National Monuments Record 'As well as our search room in Swindon where you can browse a huge collection of photographs and historic resources, the National Monuments Record (NMR) also provides many specialist services such as Developing Standards and Partnership Projects to help you find the resources you need.' (English Heritage)
  • National Archaeological Database (U.S.) 'Reports module, is an expanded bibliographic inventory of over 350,000 reports on archeological investigation and planning, mostly of limited circulation. This "gray literature" represents a large portion of the primary information available on archeological sites in the U.S.'
  • AHDS Archaeology '... is hosted by ADS and is part of the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS).' Repository for all sorts of archaeological data.
  • Museum Documentation Association ''Documentation' is the name of an area of professional practice in the heritage sector. It defines how museums manage knowledge and information about the collections in their care.' (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA))

6.1.1. Too much knowledge?

Certain factors have led to a fragmentation of academic archaeology into restricted periods of the past, limited geographical areas or arcane philosophies of interpretation.

  • OLogy Web site 'OLogy means "the study of." And here on the American Museum of Natural History's OLogy Web site, you can study and explore many cool OLogies'. (American Museum of Natural History). Light-hearted collection of different academic pursuits (including archaeology)
  • Symmetrical Archaeology 'This is a forum for exploring ways of attaining symmetry in archaeology. We all share the common belief that archaeology in its current state of thinking is moving too far from things. Stretched across a yawning divide between the material world and language, archaeology is plagued by a climate of multiple communities with incommensurable theoretical platforms and agendas.' (Stanford University: Christopher Witmore and Timothy Webmoor )

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6.2. ARCHAEOLOGICAL THEORY

6.2.1. Social evolution

:: Darwin and Marx

6.2.2. Culture history

:: Invasion, migration, or diffusion?

:: Nationalism and racism

 

6.2. ARCHAEOLOGICAL THEORY

Archaeological thought happens whenever archaeologists 'do archaeology', but theory emerges when they reflect upon what they are doing, and why, and as a result make decisions about the way they will proceed in the future.

  • Archaeological Theory: An Introduction by Matthew Johnson. The Amazon bookstore page allows you to browse some sample pages of this engaging introductory book
  • Different Theoretical Approaches to Archaeology Introductory notes comparing three current approaches - culture history, processual, and postprocessual - from a teaching site (Nancy White, University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences)
  • Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) '...was founded as a national body in 1979 with the aim of promoting debate and discussion of issues in theoretical archaeology. Its principal activity is the promotion of an annual conference, traditionally held in December and organised so as to be accessible at low cost to research students and others.' Includes links to TAG Meetings and Conferences, many of which have abstracts of papers which will give a good idea of the range of current theoretical preoccupations.
  • Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference 'The first Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference was held in 1991 to widen the range of perspectives offered, and voices heard, in Roman Archaeology. In 2001, a Standing Committee was established to ensure that TRAC continues to serve this purpose well into the future.' As with TAG, this site has links to conferences whose programmes indicate theory in a historical archaeological context.
  • ARCH-THEORY 'Archaeological theory and associated fields of interest list'. If you register you may search the archives of correspondence.
  • Materials for teaching the History of Anthropology 'We are making available for educational purposes a large selection of articles published in the American Anthropologist on the subject of the history of the discipline of anthropology. This is not a selection of papers of historical significance, but papers on the subject of the history of the field, along with some obituaries. Our goal is to facilitate learning and teaching the history of anthropology.' (American Anthropological Association Centennial Commission)

6.2.1. Social evolution

Any well-read antiquarian of the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century who encountered ancient objects and sites could place them into a scheme of human development that involved progress, and the same background influenced scientists and political theorists, including people who are still significant today such as Darwin and Marx.

----- Darwin and Marx

The Darwinian concept of evolution contributed to acceptance of the great antiquity of human ancestors by reinforcing the awareness of 'deep time' developed by geologists in the eighteenth century, and by archaeologists in the nineteenth. Rather than seeing social stages as a natural state of affairs Marx attributed them to contradictions between different classes or productive forces and explained their progression not in terms of 'evolution' but by dialectical materialism.

  • On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin. Complete text of first edition (TalkOrigins Archive)
  • Karl Marx (1818-1883) Biography with links to wrtings and concepts from Marxists Internet Archive
  • Gordon Childe and Marxist archaeology 'Childe, as both academic and activist, was heavily influenced by Marxism. The compelling interpretive sweep of his grand narratives of prehistory and antiquity are rooted in his materialist approach. That is what has made Man Makes Himself (1936) and What Happened in History (1942), Childe’s two popular syntheses that between them chart the history of Europe and the Near East from the Old Stone Age to the fall of the Roman Empire, probably the most widely read archaeology books ever written.' (Neil Faulkner, International Socialism Issue: 116: 28 September 07)
  • Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) 'British philosopher and sociologist, Herbert Spencer was a major figure in the intellectual life of the Victorian era. He was one of the principal proponents of evolutionary theory in the mid nineteenth century, and his reputation at the time rivaled that of Charles Darwin. Spencer was initially best known for developing and applying evolutionary theory to philosophy, psychology and the study of society...' (from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

6.2.2. Culture history

Links had been made between economics, technology and social progress since ancient Greece, but material culture was not incorporated into such theories in a systematic manner until the nineteenth century.

  • V. GORDON CHILDE 'Gordon Childe's writings give us an overview of the culture history of the Western cultural tradition from a rational-utilitarian point of view. He was as sensitive to factors of diffusion as to those of cultural evolution. His writings are full of clear and concise perceptions and they have had a natural appeal to an anthropology which was, very rightly, beginning to concern itself with generalities about extinct cultures as well as with living ones.' (Robert Braidwood/American Anthropological Association)
  • Culture History 'The historiographic method of early fieldworkers was therefore explicitly grounded in nineteenth-century historical theory and this approach has come to be known as Culture History (a term often used in a pejorative sense). Culture History was responsible for establishing the basic framework within which all archaeologists operate, by collecting and sorting the basic material culture sequences across the world. Without this classificatory approach, it would have been impossible to develop the discipline further.' (Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews and James Doeser, Bad Archaeology - an informative site with an ironic name!))

----- Invasion, migration, or diffusion?

Diffusionism gained some support from the concept of evolution, because it provided an explanation of 'progress' through the inevitable spread of 'improvements' from advanced to less developed areas - an evolutionary concept related to the idea of the 'survival of the fittest' popularised by Herbert Spencer.

  • Early Medieval Britain Invasion and migration have been studied intensely in the archaeology and history of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Britain. This detailed site examines many cases, and includes Birth Myths of the Nations of Britain and 'Teutonic' England, an interesting example of 19th-century historical explanation couched in terms of ethnic groups on the move.
  • When and where did civilisation begin? In the 19th century, most Europeans and north Americans believed the Bible story that Ancient Egypt had been the first great civilisation. It seemed obvious that civilisation had begun in the Middle East and then spread out across the world – this view was called 'diffusionism'.'
    (John Romer, Great Excavations)
  • The "Roman Figurine" Supposedly Excavated at Calixtlahuaca 'The diffusionists have taken this case up with a vengeance, and the "Roman" figurine is all over the web. After some research on Calixtlahuaca, I am dubious of the validity of this find. ...the case for a Roman object in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica remains weak.' (Michael E. Smith, Arizona State University)
  • Megalithic Culture in Japan 'Megalithic culture is distributed widely over the coast of Continents except the Antarctic Continent in the world. Therefore some problems of diffusion should come out naturally. ... Eliot Smith, famous for "the Diffusion theory" is not accepted at present, it is hard to deny diffusion of the Megalithic Culture itself.' (SAJI Yoshihiko)

----- Nationalism and racism

Concepts of social evolution and diffusion were a mixed blessing for archaeological interpretation. Although Darwinism reinforced (rather than initiated) racist interpretations of the past, evolution and diffusion influenced the political outlook of the leading European governments.

  • Archaeology and Nationalism 'A range of sites looking at issues of nationalism, ethnicity, and culture history, and the uses to which archaeology has been put in their name.' (Archaeology at the University of Glasgow)
  • Narrative for "The Archaeology of Ethnicity in America" Personal statement accompanying college course notes: 'Classes that fulfill the ethnicity requirement must present information on groups neglected by previous scholarship, but they also address how ethnicity is constructed as a social category and works by critical scholars that have transformed conventional scholarship in the given field of study.' (Elizabeth Brumfiel, Albion College)
  • Ethnicity, Race and the Archaeology of the Atlantic Slave Trade 'The new atmosphere in British later historical archaeology has seen a continued neglect of the issue of ethnicity - despite the presence of significant numbers of Africans, Asians and other ethnic minorities in Britain throughout the past five hundred years. Archaeology has unique access to the material remains of the past landscapes and artefacts through which ethnicities were expressed and negotiated - a potential which has been investigated by American studies of the archaeology of slavery.' (Dan Hicks, University of Bristol/Assemblage 2000)

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6.3. TOWARDS PROCESSUAL ARCHAEOLOGY

6.3.1. The New Archaeology

6.3.2. Ethnoarchaeology and Middle Range Theory

:: Cognitive archaeology

 

6.3. TOWARDS PROCESSUAL ARCHAEOLOGY

Once detailed sequences of artefacts and cultures had been established, and after they had been placed into a chronological framework through documentary evidence or radiocarbon dating, they could be studied in more sophisticated ways.

6.3.1. The New Archaeology

New archaeology grew out of pre-existing archaeological and anthropological ideas, and it was by no means replaced when 'post-processualism' emerged during the 1980s

  • Philosophy and the New Archaeology 'Following the lead of Lewis Binford, several archaeologists in the late 1960s began to argue for what came to be called the New Archaeology. Inspired by developments within the philosophy of science, they wanted to do more than just describe and believed that genuine explanations could be achieved by changing direction in archaeology.' (Paul Newall 2005, from The Galilean Library)
  • The ‘New Archaeology’ of the 1960s and 70s 'The generation of archaeologists that came to maturity in the 1960s was carried along on a rush of technological innovation, a deep respect for the scientific method and an evangelising outlook that reflected the spirit of the age. They wanted to change archaeology by making it a truly scientific discipline.' (Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews and James Doeser, Bad Archaeology)
  • SMU ANTHROPOLOGY PROFESSOR ELECTED TO NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES 'Often referred to as "The Father of Modern Archaeology," [Lewis R.] Binford has changed the way people think about prehistoric societies. An article in the November-December 1999 Scientific American magazine described Binford as "quite probably the most influential archaeologist of his generation."' (Southern Methodist University News, May 2001)

6.3.2. Ethnoarchaeology and Middle Range Theory

Instead of carrying out modern experiments, some archaeologists (especially prehistorians) chose to conduct the kind of fieldwork traditionally associated with anthropologists. They concentrated on making ethnographic observations of everyday life from the point of view of physical traces - structures, discarded tools, food waste - which might be recovered by excavation.

  • The Dogon blacksmiths Record (including film) of traditional iron smelting in Mali (INAGINA, Geneva)
  • Ethnoarchaeologist Homepage of Dr. Nicholas David, University of Calgary, including a bibliography.
  • A Critique of Middle-Range Theory in Archaeology 'For the past decade, several archaeologists have advocated the development of middle-range theory as a way to give objective meaning to the archaeological record... They argue that we must translate the static archaeological record into behaviorally dynamic terms by documenting causal linkages between relevant behaviors and their static material by-products.' (Essay written at graduate school by Christopher D. Pierce, 1989)

 

Cognitive archaeology

One major drawback of a strictly processual view of the past is its failure to address some of the most profound aspects of human life related to thought and belief.

  • Cognitive Archaeology 'Cognitive archaeology is the branch of archaeology that investigates the development of human cognition. It therefore deals with a great variety of evidence, ranging from early rock art to other forms of palaeoart, from animal cognition to palaeoanthropology to psychology and ontogenic cognitive development, and it also needs to concern itself with evidence of early human technology and the ability of domesticating natural systems of energy. ... Its ultimate purpose is to consider how early humans managed to formulate their various constructs of reality, and how these may have led to the worldviews held by the human species today.' (Robert G. Bednarik)

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6.4. TOWARDS POSTPROCESSUAL ARCHAEOLOGY

6.4.1. Postprocessualism

6.4.2. Reflexive thinking

6.4.3. Modernity, modernism and postmodernism

:: Phenomenology and hermeneutics; constructivism, Critical Theory and post-colonialism

:: Structuralism and semiotics, post-structuralism and deconstruction

:: 'The archaeology of knowledge'

:: Postmodernism and archaeology

 

6.4. TOWARDS POSTPROCESSUAL ARCHAEOLOGY

Interest amongst anthropologists in diverse modern philosophical approaches to society and culture spilled over into archaeology, where they came to be described by the inelegant term postprocessualism.

  • Post-processual archaeologies 'Developing from a critique of the New Archaeology during the late 1970s and 1980s, Post-processual archaeologies drew inspiration from structuralism, post-structuralism and critical theory. Heavily influenced by developing post-modern social theory, it looked to its opponents as if it might give comfort to the Bad Archaeologists. What new insights has it brought to Good Archaeology?' (Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews and James Doeser, Bad Archaeology)

6.4.1. Postprocessualism

Processualism incorporated 'uniformitarian' assumptions about the way societies operate according to abstract rules, whereas postprocessual archaeology took an inside view of culture, and emphasised individuals - whether ancient people experiencing the past or modern archaeologists creating interpretations.

  • Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology by Ian Hodder and Scott Hutson. The Amazon bookstore lets you to browse inside this authoritative book and gain a very good idea of the range of approaches bracketed together as 'postprocessualism'.
  • Post Processual archaeology and after PDF file of a forthcoming chapter by Michael Shanks: 'Its title tells you only that this archaeology came after processual. Implied is a coherent program, approach, method, body of theory. But post processual archaeology cannot be said to have any of these. Processual archaeology is still a dominant orthodoxy in the largest community of archaeologists in the world, in the United States: so even the ‘post’ is a misnomer.'
  • Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory and Postmodern Thought Martin Ryder, University of Colorado at Denver. Includes Resources, Corollary Sites, Readings, People - including most of the names bandied about in the writings of archaeological theoreticians... There is a further search-engine to go beyond this excellent resource for exploring the background of modern thinking that has influenced archaeology.

6.4.2. Reflexive thinking

In the later twentieth century the role of a writer has become increasingly self-conscious, and the word reflexive is frequently used to characterise this awareness. A reflexive approach does not mean abandoning judgement, but it does require profound thought.

  • ARCHAEOLOGY AT THE EDGE OF CHAOS: FURTHER TOWARDS REFLEXIVE EXCAVATION METHODOLOGIES 'In a recent Antiquity article, Ian Hodder proposed that by embracing post-processual ideas of subjectivity, recursive hermeneutics and multivocality, a more reflexive excavation methodology should be possible (1997). This paper broadly concurs with Hodder's thesis but argues that his article did not take into account many of the other workers within the discipline who have also put forward similar ideas. This paper therefore seeks to redress this imbalance by outlining these various perspectives. It also suggests further means by which reflexivity in excavation practice may be explored...' (Adrian Chadwick/Assemblage 1997)

 

6.4.3. Modernity, modernism and postmodernism

The 'modern' view of European history, economics and technology presents them as an upward trajectory of progress through the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, to which awareness of individual emotions and deeper rational understanding were added in the nineteenth century by Romanticism and positivist science.

  • Postmodernism 'Postmodernism is hard to define, because it is a concept that appears in a wide variety of disciplines or areas of study, including art, architecture, music, film, literature, sociology, communications, fashion, and technology. It's hard to locate it temporally or historically, because it's not clear exactly when postmodernism begins. Perhaps the easiest way to start thinking about postmodernism is by thinking about modernism, the movement from which postmodernism seems to grow or emerge.' (Mary Klages, University of Colorado at Boulder)
  • POSTMODERNISM AND ITS CRITICS Useful collection of definitions and links (SHANNON WEISS & KARLA WESLEY, from ANTHROPOLOGICAL THEORIES: A GUIDE PREPARED BY STUDENTS FOR STUDENTS, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Alabama)

----- Phenomenology and hermeneutics; constructivism, Critical Theory and post-colonialism

Suspicions about modernity's confidence in discovering truth were already held by nineteenth-century philosophers such as Nietzsche, and were reinforced by phenomenology and hermeneutics, which scrutinised the nature of individual consciousness and knowledge.

  • Hermeneutics and Phenomenology 'Hermeneutics is the art of understanding and the theory of interpretation. This definition is really two definitions combined and much of the later history of hermeneutics can be diagnosed as the working out of the tension between the two definitions, between the technical, theoretical task of interpretation and the art of understanding texts, historical periods, and other people.' (Wesley Wildman, Boston University)
  • The Politics of Experience: Embodiment and Difference in Our Pasts and Present Abstracts of papers included in a TAG conference session in 1997: 'In archaeological theory, phenomenology has recently enjoyed currency as a way in which we can think about the different relationships between persons and the material world. It has been applied, in particular, to evidence from the Neolithic and Bronze ages where the categories 'experience' and 'performance' have served to focus research on the effects of landscape and architectures on the movements of the 'human' body and the sensory perceptions of persons. ... The papers offered are an attempt to bring together various strands of work in the general areas of embodied knowledges and phenomenology, which do not often occur in the same session, in order to make explicit the connections between our interpretations of the past and our present politics.' (Maggie Ronayne & Chris Fowler)
  • Global Adventures in Decolonisation: 'But do we really live in a 'postcolonial' world? Indeed, how appropriate is the term "postcolonial" to the archaeology we conduct today? While 'post' means 'after' most texts described as postcolonial are simply critiques of colonialism, but do not actually portray an archaeology with a form that is greatly different from that of colonialism.' Short introduction to World ArchaeologicalConference session convened by Claire Smith, Ken Isaacson and George Nicholas .

----- Structuralism and semiotics, post-structuralism and deconstruction

An important component of postprocessual archaeology was structuralism, an approach developed in the study of linguistics that began in the early twentieth century. Meaning in speech or text emerges from the structure of signs, rather than from an individual or author; again, the individual is de-centred, with thoughts and speech determined by an underlying structure, rather than produced by individuals.

  • Structuralism 'There are many structuralists including Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan and Lévi-Strauss. It is even possible to claim that some important social and/or psychological theoreticians and certain sciences are structuralist in character because what they do is to build models of psychological or social reality. ... In all of the above a distinction is made between what may be called surface (consciousness, superstructure) structure and deep (unconscious, infrastructure) structure. It is also worth noting that structuralist claim that to understand the surface structure one has to understand the deep structure, and how the it influences the surface structure. It is accurate to say that of all the structuralist the best known and most influential is Claude Lévi-Strauss.' (Mark Glazer, University of Texas-Pan American)
  • Historical Perspectives of Mapping in Archaeology: Semiotic Critiques and Standardised Systems 'Language is a tool used by archaeologists to describe, represent and theorize. By ‘language’ in this context I refer not only to the spoken and written word, but predominantly to visual languages, primarily maps in the context of this study. Semiotic theory details a specific theoretical approach toward language that allows for the examination of it and its functions, understanding its strengths and its weaknesses. This is something that will be applied here to an archaeological context, looking specifically at the structure and function of the language of site mapping.' (Darran Jordan, PhD Student, Greater Angkor Project, University of Sydney)
  • The landscape of the Wadi Arabah: Deconstructing the archaeological landscape of a modern political border (PDF file) 'My 'landscape' is the Wadi Arabah, today the political border between Jordan and Israel. It runs for c. 178 km. between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. The line of the modern border was created in 1922 during the period of the British Mandate over Palestine. ... I am interested in the way the discourse on this area in the present and in antiquity has been deliberately manipulated to legitimise modern political realities and identities, as part of the Arab-Israeli conflict.' (Piotr Bienkowski, Manchester Museum)

----- 'The archaeology of knowledge'

Michel Foucault looked at the 'archaeology' of knowledge in general, rather than scrutinising texts from a post-structuralist point of view, but shared the purpose of 'de-centring' interpretation. He identified discourses - ways of studying or describing knowledge that characterised various periods of the past or the approaches of different disciplines, and looked closely at the structures of power that controlled knowledge.

  • The Archæology of Knowledge 'Can one accept, as such, the distinction between the major types of discourse, or that between such forms or genres as science, literature, philosophy, religion, history, fiction, etc., and which tend to create certain great historical individualities? ... In any case, these divisions - whether our own, or those contemporary with the discourse under examination - are always themselves reflexive categories, principles of classification, normative rules, institutionalised types: they, in turn, are facts of discourse that deserve to be analysed beside others; of course, they also have complex relations with each other, but they are not intrinsic, autochthonous, and universally recognisable characteristics' (Michel Foucault; Marxists Internet Archive)

----- Postmodernism and archaeology

Postmodernism is not a specific school of thought, but a persistent challenge to the assumptions of western European culture. Its impact is not clear, for most recent philosophical influences upon archaeology have generated an attitude that resemble modernism challenging itself, rather than fully-fledged postmodernism.

  • Postmodern archaeology Interesting collection of links: 'Post-processual archaeology sits comfortably within the postmodern condition. ... Within this cultural context, archaeology is viewed as popular culture; fringe, indigenous and non-professional archaeology is flourishing; and the Internet has changed the ways we all access and disseminate 'data'.' (Interpreting Archaeology resource pages, University of Glasgow)

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6.5. INTERPRETIVE ARCHAEOLOGY

6.5.1. Agency and structuration

6.5.2. Conflict, compromise, or pluralism?

6.5.3. Indigenous peoples and ethnicity

6.5.4. Gender

 

6.5. INTERPRETIVE ARCHAEOLOGY

We should not make the mistake of thinking that the entire archaeological world became embroiled in debates about processualism and its theoretical successors. Indeed, much thinking from outside England and North America has been ignored, particularly when written in languages other than English.

  • Interpretive archaeology and new importation: Mediation and the material past: A case from Teotihuacán, Mexico. 'Moving in-step with many post-positivist philosophers of science, both interpretive archaeologists and processualists, convinced of the inalienability of theory-ladenness in inquiry, advocate a system of checks-and-balances to insure credible interpretations of the archaeological record.' (Stanford University: Dissertation Summary )

6.5.1. Agency and structuration

Agency is a term that expresses the role of individuals - especially in the form of 'knowledgeable agents'. When this concept is combined with a view of society that incorporates the interaction of individuals with social structures it offers great potential for humanising the past.

  • Steps to an archaeology of agency 'Agency is often associated with 'putting people back into the past', and most definitions would center around the relationship between the constitution of the actor, in terms of cultural and psychological structures, and behavior. This relationship is usually considered dialectical: structures shape actions, and these actions reproduce structures.' (John Robb: Paper presented at Agency Workshop, University College London, November 2001

6.5.2. Conflict, compromise, or pluralism?

It is not necessary to solve conflict by means of compromise; different approaches to archaeology may be considered as discourses or language-games appropriate to different archaeological problems.

  • ARCHAEOLOGY UNDER FIRE Interesting review of a book edited by Lynn Meskell: 'Pluralism for some is the inclusion of different social strata or ethnic groups in the concerns of archaeologists, whilst others see pluralism in the mix of Western liberalism with international capital and local fundamentalists. These apparent paralogical and contradictory viewpoints do however reveal the contradictions within archaeology itself.' (Pedro Paulo Funari (Campinas State University, Brazil)/WAC)

6.5.3. Indigenous peoples and ethnicity

The protests of native peoples and feminists, along with the widening social background of people who have become archaeologists, have gradually forced established archaeological institutions and museums to review their perspectives about these aspects of the past - as many had already done about nationalism and racism.

  • Center for World Indigenous Studies 'Access to indigenous peoples knowledge and ideas; Conflict resolution based on mutual consent; Protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.'
  • Native Web: 'Resources for Indigenous Cultures around the World' including Resource Database / Anthropology & Archeology with lots of interesting links.
  • American Indian Studies Program at Michigan State University '...seeks to form an understanding of American Indian cultures and identities, the place of American Indian/ Indigenous people in today’s world, and the changing demands of American Indian/Indigenous peoples in the pursuit of cross-cultural diversity. We believe these are issues that transcend traditional boundaries between academic disciplines.'
  • NAGPRA 'The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is a Federal law passed in 1990. NAGPRA provides a process for museums and Federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items -- human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony - to lineal descendants, culturally affiliated Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.' (US National Park Service)

6.5.4. Gender

Gender in archaeology - like ethnicity and indigenous rights - is an aspect of the postmodern concern with otherness which promotes an inclusive attitude to groups in society who face prejudice.

  • Gertrude Bell 1868-1926 '...in a time when it was not at all usual for a woman to have a university education, she went to Oxford to read history, and, at the age of twenty and after only two years study, she left with a first-class degree. ... Her first love, however, was always for archaeology, and, as Honorary Director of Antiquities in Iraq, she established in Baghdad the Iraq Museum. ... The University of Newcastle upon Tyne Library has undertaken a 4 year project to check and complete the transcription of the manuscripts, to recatalogue and digitise the photographs, and to build a WWW for the finished archive.' The web-site includes an on-line archive of stunning photographs taken by this adventurous woman.
  • Diotima: Materials for the Study of Women and Gender in the Ancient World '...serves as an interdisciplinary resource for anyone interested in patterns of gender around the ancient Mediterranean and as a forum for collaboration among instructors who teach courses about women and gender in the ancient world.' (Stoa/Kentucky University).
  • Women and Gender in Ancient Egypt: From Prehistory to Late Antiquity 'This exhibition uses Egyptian artifacts from the collection of the Kelsey Museum and the Papyrology collection of the University of Michigan Library to examine the roles and lives of women in ancient Egyptian society, and how these fit into the larger patterns of gender definitions and relations. Since ancient times, it has been recognized that women occupied special positions within Egyptian society, but only recently has the nature of women's experience and status in ancient Egypt been the subject of systematic study.' (Ann Arbor, Michigan).
  • Exploring gender through archaeology edited by Cheryl Claassen - full text available online. 'The papers in this collection were presented at the Anthropology and Archaeology of Women Conference, held at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, May 1991.'

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6.6. ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE PUBLIC

6.6.1. Heritage management: controlling the present by means of the past?

6.6.2. Archaeology and the State

6.6.3. Museums: from Art Gallery to 'Experience'

6.6.4. Stonehenge

6.6.5. The antiquities trade

6.6.6. Archaeology in the media

 

6.6. ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE PUBLIC

Looking at archaeological theory, and the wider intellectual context in which it developed, helps us to clarify our own points of view and guard against an unthinking imposition of values and preoccupations on other societies - past or present.

  • Welcome to Archaeology for the public... 'Do you want to visit an archaeology site? Are you curious about what archaeologists do and why? We have information about all this -- and a lot more.' (Society for American Archaeology)
  • British Archaeological Awards lecture 1996: ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE PUBLIC 'The thing is, we work, talk, perform and write for individual people and not for institutions, journals or, come to that, for abstractions - such as Posterity, Science or Truth. Archaeology is about and for people, or it is nothing.' (Francis Pryor)

6.6.1. Heritage management: controlling the present by means of the past?

The word 'heritage' became very popular in the 1980s, and 'heritage management' became an important source of employment for archaeologists, absorbing a large number of specialists who, in previous decades, would have made their careers in universities or academic museums. Many heritage professionals (especially in the USA) prefer to apply the less emotive description cultural resource management (CRM) to the conservation and presentation of sites, landscapes and artefacts.

  • World Heritage 'The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.'
  • International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) '...is an international non-governmental organization of professionals, dedicated to the conservation of the world's historic monuments and sites.'
  • eCulturalResources cultural resources network: '...we seek to provide the web's most complete source of news, jobs, announcements, consultant listings, and resources for the cultural resource industry. This website is useful to: archaeologists, anthropologists, ethnographers, historic preservation specialists, museum specialists, architectural historians, and other professionals interested in cultural resources, heritage, and preservation.'
  • Hunter Research Inc. Commercial Heritage organisation based in Trenton, New Jersey, founded in 1986: 'Hunter Research provides professional consulting services in historical research, architectural history, archaeology, preservation planning, exhibit development and educational outreach. We cater to public, private and non-profit clients throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. Our company seeks to satisfy clients with an effective and prompt service that is respectful of our shared cultural heritage.'
  • University of Leicester Archaeological Services 'ULAS is an independent professional archaeological unit embedded in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History. ... ULAS is a registered organisation with the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA), offering a comprehensive archaeological service. It has an annual turnover in excess of £700,000 and employs a staff of 31.' )

6.6.2. Archaeology and the State

State involvement in British archaeology grew in little more than one century from informal supervision of a small number of sites through cooperation with sympathetic landowners to implementing planning legislation and providing a major focus for leisure and tourism.

  • English Heritage '...exists to protect and promote England's spectacular historic environment and ensure that its past is researched and understood.' See in particular Heritage Protection: '...some historic buildings, monuments, landscapes and areas are of special importance nationally or even internationally. Our Heritage Protection team identifies these special places so that particular attention can be given to them where they are likely to be affected by change in the historic environment.' Links to listed buildings, scheduled ancient monuments, historic battlefields etc.
  • Planning Policy Guidance 16: Archaeology and planning 'PPG 16 sets out the Secretary of State's policy on archaeological remains on land, and how they should be preserved or recorded both in an urban setting and in the countryside.' Influential document that has determined the direction of rescue archaeology in England since 1990.
  • National Park Service: History & Culture: 'History is everywhere. In nearly 400 national parks and every hometown. It covers everything from the remnants of ancient civilizations to the boyhood homes of U.S. Presidents to the stirring sagas of hard-fought wars to the reverberations of one woman refusing to give up her seat on a bus. History is a part of who we were, who we are, and who we will be.' (US Department of the Interior)
  • The Discovery Programme '...is an archaeological research institution dedicated to investigating Ireland's past from earliest times and presenting the results to as
  • Australian heritage 'Australia is a complex and diverse nation composed of both Indigenous and immigrant peoples from nearly 200 countries. But we all have a common heritage that makes us distinctively Australian. By knowing our heritage - our past, our places and the source of our values - we can better understand our special place in the world.'
  • Chester History and Heritage (Chester City Council). An example of corporate presentation of a historic town in England. The council's services include Chester Archaeology: 'Founded in 1972, Chester Archaeology is one of the longest-established archaeological units in the country and provides a comprehensive range of services aimed at many different types of people.'

6.6.3. Museums: from Art Gallery to 'Experience'

Archaeological museums once assumed that visitors only needed to know the origin, date and function of an artefact on display, but in the twentieth century they gradually attempted to provide more information through pictures of contemporary sites, explanatory diagrams, and extended text commentaries and labels.

  • Virtual Library museums pages International searchable database, supported by the International Council of Museums (ICOM: 24,000 members in 150 countries)
  • Canadian Museum of Civilization: Archaeology Excellent example of use of Internet for making information available beyond the institution.
  • The British Museum 'The British Museum holds in trust for the nation and the world a collection of art and antiquities from ancient and living cultures.
    Housed in one of Britain's architectural landmarks, the collection is one of the finest in existence, spanning two million years of human history. Access to the collection is free.'
  • Flints and Stones: Real Life in Prehistory Pioneering use of the Internet to produce an electronic version of a temporary exhibition held in the Museum of Antiquities, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
  • Thomsen Center Archeodome 'The Thomsen Center Archeodome covers the open archeology dig in the prehistoric Indian village and provides visitors year-round access. The 10,000 square-foot building encloses two full lodges on its exposed earthen floor. It includes a full laboratory, darkroom, computer classroom, and video conferencing studio. The site is the only preserved protected archeological site open to the public in the state of South Dakota. The Archeodome provides an enclosed archeological teaching and research facility—one of very few such facilities in North America. ' (Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village, South Dakota)
  • Jorvik Viking Centre 'Welcoming 14 million visitors over the past 21 years, visitors can journey through the reconstruction of Viking-Age streets, as they would have been in the year AD975. JORVIK Viking Centre also offers three exciting exhibitions and the chance to actually come face to face with a 'Viking'.' Follow link to DIG: An Archaeological Adventure: 'Have you ever wanted to: - Take part in an excavation? - Discover real objects from ancient civilisations? - Understand how archaeologists recreate the past? Now you can!' (York Archaeological Trust)

6.6.4. Stonehenge

Everything that is currently known - or believed - about Stonehenge is the result of almost nine centuries of speculation, observation and excavation, guided by changing fashions and approaches. Since neither the original builders nor the purpose of the structure have any direct link to the present, its popular attraction stems more from ignorance than knowledge, and provides an interesting example of the problems of cultural resource management.

  • The Stonehenge Project '...is designed to improve the setting and interpretation of Stonehenge. It will remove the sights and sounds of the roads and traffic from the area near the Stones, recreate chalk downland from arable farmland and transform the visitor experience with better access to the landscape and a new world class visitor centre.' Official plans with links to management plan, proposals for changing the local road system etc.
  • The Stonehenge Saga 'Stonehenge was begun around 3000 BC, in a landscape already rich in funerary and ceremonial monuments, and was thereafter expanded and remodelled for more than a thousand years. English Heritage is today the Guardian of Stonehenge. The National Trust owns the surrounding land (1450 acres), which is rich in prehistoric archaeology.' Links to relevant documents and notes from meetings listed in chronological order. (Council for British Archaeology)
  • ~ Another Stonehenge Page ~ 'THE STONEHENGE CAMPAIGN exists to lobby, campaign, attend meetings, raise public awareness and maintain links with interested parties for the reinstatement of the Stonehenge Peoples Free Festival and religious access to Stonehenge itself, and to protect the Stonehenge landscape and environment.' Collection of links to news reports, photographs etc
  • Save Stonehenge! 'World Heritage Site threatened by roadbuilding scheme! “...barbaric... No other country in the world would contemplate treating a site which is a world icon in such a way.” Lord Kennet'. Informative web site full of news and links, and a message board for leaving comments.
  • Official Carhenge Web Site The ultimate postmodern statement about heritage? 'Thirty-eight automobiles were placed to assume the same proportions as Stonehenge with the circle measuring approximately 96 feet in diameter. Some autos are held upright in pits five feet deep, trunk end down, while those cars which are placed to form the arches have been welded in place. All are covered with gray spray paint. The honor of depicting the heel stone goes to a 1962 Caddy.' The official website for Carhenge, located in Western Nebraska.

6.6.5. The antiquities trade

Although a conservation ethic began to develop in Europe and North America during the nineteenth century, most archaeologists and museums regarded sites and artefacts around the Mediterranean, the Near East and other parts of the world as a resource to be exploited for the benefit of their own countries.

  • Looting matters! 'David Gill (University of Wales Swansea) and Christopher Chippindale (University of Cambridge) have been researching the impact of the antiquities market on the archaeological record. As part of the project they have identified a number of intellectual consquences of the looting process. This site provides links to their on-line resources.'
  • Portable Antiquities Scheme '...a voluntary scheme to record archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. Such discoveries offer an important source for understanding our past.' British scheme to allow finds to be recorded to enhance academic knowledge.
  • Detecting with Bill What do you do after a career as an international rock star? Former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman takes a keen interest in archaeology through the popular hobby of metal detecting.

6.6.6. Archaeology in the media

Through archaeology television programmes, the subject has been given a very positive image through its ability to work with laboratory scientists and geophysical surveyors, and to combine scientific information with historical and/or archaeological research to produce a rounded interpretation of life in the past - frequently enhanced by artists' reconstructions of people and sites.

  • Guardian unlimited Online version of daily paper with search results for 'archaeology' (Guardian News and Media Limited)
  • Time team 'Here you can catch up on the latest news about Time Team, find out about past and present programmes and see more of the personalities who make Time Team tick, as well as unearthing some of the archaeology that brings Channel 4's award-winning series to life.' Web pages of the unexpected hit of British television, which has been running for more than 10 years. Links to programmes accordin to period of the past.
  • BBC Archaeology Information source going beyond individual programmes: 'Discover more about the techniques used to investigate archaeological sites on land and sea. With analysis of some fascinating digs and the controversies surrounding the findings.' Links to further resources.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull New film featuring the character who made archaeologists cool in Raiders of the Lost Ark (George Lucas/Steven Spielberg 1981)

 

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