Archaeology

Historical Archaeology

AND THE
IMPORTANCE OF MATERIAL THINGS

Papers of the Thematic Symposium,
eighth Annual Meeting of
the Society for Historical archaeology

Charleston, South Carolina, January 7-11,1975

Leland Ferguson

Editor

Special publication series, Number 2
PUBLISHED AND REPRINTED BY

The Society for Historical Archaeology
JOHN D. COMBES, EDITOR, 1977

J.W. JOSEPH, JOURNAL EDITOR, 20

12

Material Culture and Archaeology— Whats the Difference?

HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE IMPORTANCE OF MATERIAL THINGS

James Deetz

#

#

I’d like to preface this paper with the sincere request that it not be taken too seriously. One of the lessons that I think Fm learning as I advance into the sunset toward senior citizenship is that the most important thing in life is not to take it deadly serious, because all you do is get yourself into trouble. Still, in all, I think that buried within the morass of things I have to say are a couple of points that might at least bear thinking about, and maybe they deserve a bit of extended consideration.

About the title—I think I have an international reputation as the worst title writer in the world. I simply cannot produce them. Anyone who calls something “The Doppler Effect in Archaeological Chronology: In Consideration of the Spatial Aspects of Seriation/’ (Deetz and Dethlefsen 1965) complete with colon, should be shot. But? I figure starting from there, there’s nowhere to go but up, so Leland and I kind of put the title of this paper together. The first half of this title is a statement of subject; the second half asks a question. Obviously, there are a number of answers to this question, which we have all considered. Yet it is possible that we have not completely appreciated the range and diversity and the concomitant importance of material culture to the study of human behavior, now and in the past.

A cursory review of traditional definitions and concepts tells us that material culture and artifacts are vaguely synonymous. “They are the products of man’s technology,” or “all those things made by man,” or “they are referred to as cultural material rather than material culture/’ Of course all these considerations have their value, but we must look for the definition or definitions that will have the most value to archaeologists.

As archaeologists we must deal with artifacts and consider their subterranean context. From this perspective material culture is culturally patterned data which provide the archaeologist with insights to life in the past. Viewed in this fashion, the difference between archaeology and material culture is one of scope. Archaeology is the discipline or subdiscipline, and material culture —that is artifacts—is the set of most culturally sensitive data available. Such a view of the relationship between material culture and archaeology is from within, so to speak; and certainly all historical archaeologists and most probably most, if not all, prehistorians have a more catholic view of material culture than that above. However, among the other precincts of anthropology, material culture is not ranked as important to the student of the human species, simply because the folks are there too, and one can go directly to the behavior being studied without going through the screen produced by the material culture in between.

Certainly the questions asked of material culture by most ethnographers and ethnologists are of a very different order and emphasis than that asked by archaeologists. ‘Tots and pans” courses are considered relatively unimportant in most universities. The real “substance” of anthropology is more likely to be sought in courses in structural anthropology or kinship algebra. Perhaps to anthropologists, material culture has been as the elephant to the blind man. Each encounters a different part and reacts dififerently in accordance with the precise circumstances of the contact.

Possibly a modest and tentative redefinition of material culture is in order. Perhaps through redefinition the elephant can better be perceived for what it truly is. Consider material culture as that segment of man’s physical environment which is purposely shaped by him according to culturally dictated plans. This definition will more than comfortably accommodate all which we have considered as material culture thus far: Siberian fish hooks, office buildings, banjos, Freaky cereal and the little band of plastic Freakies which dwells in the box, the box, standing rib roast, apple pies, jumbo jets, step ladders, Venus figurines, and a number of other objects too numerous to mention here. But what of topiary work or perennial borders of flowers? This query is not quite as silly as it might seem at first. These things differ from those mentioned above in that they are living. Nevertheless, when we cut a privet, or shape a dwarf pine tree, we are modifying real world material according to a set of cultural plans.

Now, with animate beings the problem of endowing them with a culturally dictated form is a bit more complex. Yet, this is not to say that there are not a great number of ways whereby man also shapes the animate sector of his environment, including himself, in culturally ordained ways. The end result of this kind of modification is just as much material culture as is our beloved shell edged pearlware or a Pomo basket. Of course, a number of examples may come to mind of material culture formed by alteration of the human physique. Such things as scarification and tatooing are worked on living people, but much of the design could equally be applied to paper or wood. Of a very different order is the way man uses his physique alone or in the company of others to accomplish various tasks and follow the set of culturally prescribed rules in doing so. This range of cultural phenomena has been extensively studied, but not studied as material culture. Kinesics is concerned with the obviously cultural manipulation of the individual by himself, but it seems inescapable to view this too as material culture. Perhaps less obvious is the range of behavior which is covered by the study of proxemics; yet here too is a case of arranging a sector of the environment, in this instance people, according to a set of cultural rules.

At this point, one might object that there is a significant diflference between a person kneeling in prayer, material culture by the definition above, and a harpoon. After all, once the prayer is ended the individual assumes another form; but the harpoon will remain a harpoon indefinitely, perhaps for millenia. Yet the ephemeral nature of the phenomena seems spurious criteria fbr definition. A simple illustration of this is a piece of rope being used by a Boy Scout

in passing his tenderfoot knot-tying test. The same rope can be folded into sheep shank, half hitch, and bowline. Each is a piece of material culture enduring perhaps only for seconds.

I have suggested elsewhere (Deetz 1967) that technologies may be divided into additive and subtractive categories. Additive technologies involve the aggregation of raw materials, such as quilling a basket, and are in theory at least, infinitely expandable. Subtractive technologies are those which involve material removal such as carving or stone work, and artifact size is a function of the size of the parent block of stone, wood, bone, or other substance. To these, we might add another category, manipulative, in which neither adding nor removing of materials is involved, but only the reshaping of the constant mass. Examples of manipulative artifacts include blown glass, oragami, the knots mentioned above, as well as the endless variety of ways in which man uses his body to communicate;, to work, and to play.

The proxemic use of the human body as a unit of material culture may go beyond simple considerations of what is usually called cultural space, to the entire range of ways in which man, in numbers, creates culturally patterned phenomena. In this case, the people may become involved as components of a set of larger systems, and the individuals perform much tihe same function as individual, unmodified grass stems in the foundation of a coiled basket. Highly structured examples of this class of material culture are parades or rituals involving large numbers of individuals. The Catholic High Mass before Vatican II is a striking instance involving kinesic, proxemic, and even larger scale patterns. The complex and often bizarre configurations performed on football fields during halftime such as a band forming the word “OHIO” is? as far as Fm concerned, just as much material culture as an arrowhead.

Less structured and correspondingly less obvious examples of this phenomenon include communities and families. If we can accept the culturally patterned assemblage of family members within a household as material culture under the definition offered above, then it becomes obvious that a whole range of data normally in the domain of the ethnologist should also be considered from the material perspective. The same applies to the disposition of these family units into aggregates called communities. One definition of an archaeological assemblage is simply the material remains of a community. However, we must remember that communities are composed of people. In reality, the community and the archaeological assemblage are one. The living component of the assemblages, subassem- blages, and artifacts identified in archaeology may only be ignored at our peril,

A shovel does not excavate by itself, but is attached to a shoveler who shovels in a manner dictated by his culture. His motor habits are learned and culturally determined, and it is probably fair to say that both shovel form and shoveler form must be understood. For instance, seventeenth century shovels cannot be used with the same motor habits we use with modern shovels. Likewise, dwelling houses are used by dwellers, and while the form of the house is dictated by the number of and relationship between the dwellers it must, in turn, also impose a structure upon them. The relationship between the human and inanimate components of these systems is not a one way street. Behavior is reflected in material culture to be sure, but material culture, especially as it is considered here, is reflected in behavior as well.

Deetz •
Material Culture and Archaeology—WhatJs the Difference?

In the realm of language, I have suggested elsewhere (Deetz 1967) that material culture in the traditional sense and language are homologous, as well as analogous to each other. If this is so then it is no surprise that all the structural and syntactic analyses of language have such ready application to artifacts. The homology is derived simply from the fact that the physical form of language is that of a modified substance. The substance is air and the modification is in the size and shape of the vibrating air mass and the frequency variations imparted to it by the vocal cords. This class of culturally shaped substance can neither be seen nor touched, but it is as much a part of mans culturally modified physical environment as is a brick schoolhouse. I suspect that if linguists had been able to stack their words on tables like potsherds ? the insights they have developed concerning the structure and syntax of lan-

#

HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE IMPORTANCE OF MATERIAL THINGS

12

guage may well have been much slower in developing. Whether such is the case or not? the linguists were the first to demonstrate the precise structural form of a patterned cultural phenomenon, and even though the terms “formeme” and “fiacteme” are rather atrocious in their etymological bastardization, this does not detract from what I believe to be their reality in an homologous as well as analogous sense. Likewise, efforts to apply the techniques of linguistics to more .complex material configurations, when they have succeeded, owe part of their success to the same homology. It has been suggested that people and their language can be accommodated under a somewhat revised and more general definition of material culture.

There is always the danger in broadening definitions to such a point that they lose their precision. Years ago, I made up a semi-facetious definition of culture that I actually thought was rather good, only to have a student point out that it also defined a spiral nebula, God, and an ant hill. In this case, however, such a generalization is not indicated, and yet, many other cultural phenomena not normally thought of as material culture do fall promptly within the bounds of this definition. Consider, for example, animal domestication. To the extent that the form of these animals has been dictated by cultural preference, we can see domestication as a process of material culture production. This may not apply too directly to animals such as the dogs that lived among North American Indians, but in the case of a color coordinated living room complete with white cat and black dog, the process seems disturbingly complete. Also, as we learn more of the complexity of human genetics and its code, we can expect a time to come when purposeful alteration of the human body will be effected. When this happens yet another dimension of the use of the body as an artifact will have emerged.

As we consider the way in which a simple change in the definition of material culture broadens its applicability, it becomes increasingly clear that as archaeologists we have been laboring under a needless burden for these many years. All of those behavioral scientists have really been poaching on our domain, but we haven’t reacted since we didn’t know where the property line was. One thing about these poachers—they use some very effective weapons. So, whether we decide to evict them or not, their arms should be incorporated into our analytical arsenal. Claude Levi-Strauss has a delightful way of turning things upside down for a better look at them, as indicated in one of my favorite passages from his writing,
Tristes Tropiques (1970), second chapter, and I quote, “The fact that my first glimpse of British University life was in the neo-Gothic precincts of the University of Daka in eastern Bengal, has since made me regard Oxford as part of India that has got its mud, humidity, and super abundant vegetation under surprisingly good control.” Perhaps in a similar manner we have inverted the relationships between material culture, archaeology, and the rest of anthropology. The time may have arrived to inform our fellow anthropologists that the poor cousin, material culture, has at last come into its true place in the order of things. This new order would hold the study of material culture to be the proper study of man. Its subdisciplines would include ethnography, ethnology, and archaeology. Anthropology departments would be material culture departments, and as we expand and define our jargon, we may soon be asking, “Is the study of material culture a science?n

Department of Anthropology

Brown University

Bibliography

Deetz, James

1967
Invitation to archaeology. American Museum Science Books, New York.

Deetz, James and Edwin Dethlefsen

1965 The Doppler effect and archaeology: a con

sideration of the spatial aspects of seriation.

Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 21 (3): 196-206.

Levi-Strauss, Claude

1970
Tristes tropiques. Atheneum, New York.

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Doing
archaeology
in
popular
culture

Holtorf, Cornelius

Published
in:

The Interplay of Past and Present.

2004

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Doing archaeology in popular culture

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Doing
Archaeology
in
Popular
Culture

Abstract

The popular image of archaeology and what archaeologists do is based on various clichés which emphasise, among other things, adventurous fieldwork, the discovery of treasures and historical detective work. Although archaeologists may see them- selves differently, their image in popular culture reveals a lot about how the subject is perceived and why it is so widely appreciated at present. I suggest that archae- ologists ought to assess the potential social benefits of their popular image and address them explicitly in their work.

Key words: Archaeology, popular culture, public archaeology, underground, discovery, treasure, detective work.

Cornelius
Holtorf,
National
Heritage
Board,
Box
5405,
SE-114
84
Stockholm,
Sweden.

cornelius.holtorf@raa.se

41

The
Interplay
of
Past
and
Present

Doing Archaeology in Popular Culture

CORNELIUS HOLTORF

A

rchaeology is a particularly fascinating occupation of our age. People love to study it, read about it, watch it on TV, observe it in action and engage with its results. Resonances of archaeology can be found, for example, in films, literature, folklore, art, advertising, zoos, theme parks, and in the literature of psychoanalysis, criminology and philosophy, among other fields. There is much archaeological imagery all around us. It makes our present world a lot richer.

One of the underlying reasons for the popularity of archaeology is that archae- ologists do not only dig in the ground but also in certain popular notions. In this paper, I shall demonstrate that the image of archaeology in popular culture is dominated, in particular, by references to three key themes.

1. Archaeology is about searching and finding treasure underground (or at any rate below the surface)

There are three main characteristics of the underground with resonances in a wide range of fields, including archaeology: (a) its invisibility from the surface, (b) the hidden treasures it contains, and (c) the risks involved in getting at these treasures. These characteristics are, for example, apparent in folk tales about treasures that are suspected to lie in ancient barrows, where attempts to retrieve these possessions are usually prevented by some kind of deadly creature or mechanism. A fine literary example is James Rollins’ novel
Excavation (2000) which describes the discoveries and ordeals of a group of archaeology students in the Peruvian jungle. The text on the back cover reads like this:

“The South American jungle guards many secrets and a remarkable site nestled between two towering Andean peaks, hidden from human eyes for thousands of years. Dig deeper through layers of rock and mystery, through centuries of dark, forgotten legend. Into ancient catacombs where ingenious traps have been laid to ensnare the careless and unsuspecting; where earth-shattering discoveries—and wealth beyond imagining—could be the reward for those with the courage to face the terrible unknown. Something is waiting here where the perilous journey ends, in the cold, shrouded heart of a breathtaking necropolis; something created by Man, yet not humanly possible. Something wondrous. Something terrifying. ”

42

Doing
Archaeology
in
Popular
Culture

All the elements of the underground theme are here: a hidden site which can be reached by digging deeper, promising earth-shattering discoveries and wealth beyond imagining, but fraught with danger and terror. This may be an extreme example, but in principle every archaeologist is braving the various troubles of archaeological fieldwork and the risks of archaeological interpretation in order to find and uncover what is precious to us as part of our history, identity and world view (see also Fig. 1). Treasures, indeed!

As a matter of fact, the idea of gaining valuable insights by revealing what is below the surface has long transcended its literal, archaeological meaning and indeed become the dominant metaphor for truth-seeking in many fields. A good example is psychoanalysis, which Sigmund Freud described as “the archaeology of the human soul” . He stated once about the practice of psychoanalysis (Freud 1964: 259):

“[The analytic work] resembles to a great extent an archaeologist’s excavation of some dwelling-place that has been destroyed and buried or of some ancient edifice. The two processes are in fact identical, except that the analyst works under better conditions and has more material at his command to assist him, since what he is dealing with is not something destroyed but something that is still alive. ”

2. Archaeological fieldwork involves making discoveries in tough conditions and in exotic locations

Entering the underground can be an adventurous and sometimes dangerous

Fig.
1. Lost Treasure Golf
with
Professor
Hacker
leading
an
expedition
to
search
for
ancient
gold
and
diamonds.
Seen
in
Branson,
Missouri.
Photograph
©
by
Marcia-Anne
Dobres
2001,
reproduced
by
permission.
See
also
http://www.losttreasuregolf.com/.

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The
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of
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and
Present

Fig.
2.
Archaeological
fashion,
“coloni-
al
style”.
From
the
German
women’s
magazine Verena
,
5/1990:65.
Photo-
graph
©
by
Wilfried
Beege,
reproduced
by
permission.

enterprise, but it is potentially very lucrative. To some extent, the idea of archaeological fieldwork is de- rived from this image: it is an exci- ting and occasionally risky adven- ture, at the end of which the archae- ologist seeks to be rewarded by dis-

covery.

Even among archaeologists themselves, those who do not do fieldwork are often mocked as “armchair archaeologists” . It is

therefore hardly surprising that practical fieldwork is widely considered to be of central importance for the training of students. As Stephanie Moser put it in her study of Australian prehistoric archaeology, “it was in the field that students learnt how to ‘do archaeology’ and thus become ‘real’ archaeologists” (1995: 185). Going into the field is the principal initiation rite for an apprentice archaeologist. Yet this traditional emphasis on fieldwork is only partly to do with learning to master the practical skills of archaeology. In the field, students also learn the many unspoken rules, values and gender roles of the disciplinary culture of archaeology (Moser 1995). Moreover, enduring the ordeals of fieldwork tests the students’ commitment and, in turn, earns them rank and status. Stories about the hardship of fieldwork and anecdotes derived from the shared experience of being in the field with other students or colleagues are a popular subject of conversation among archaeologists. As collective memories, they can forge a strong sense of social and professional identity.

It is particularly fitting that the popular image of the archaeologist should also emphasise fieldwork so much. The archaeologist is often portrayed as “the cowboy of science”, living a life of romance and risky adventures in exotic places (see also Fig. 2). The Indiana Jones movies have been especially influential here, but the cliché, as such, is far older. Already in 19

49

, Alfred Kidder observed that

“in popular belief, and unfortunately to some extent in fact, there are two sorts of archaeologists, the hairy-chested and the hairy-chinned. [The hairy-chested variety appears] as a strong-jawed young man in a tropical helmet, pistol on hip, hacking his way through the jungle in search of lost cities and buried treasure. His boots, always highly polished, reach to his knees, presumably for protection against black mambas and other sorts of deadly serpents. The only concession he makes to the difficulties and dangers of his calling is to have his shirt enough unbuttoned to reveal the manliness of his bosom. ”

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Doing
Archaeology
in
Popular
Culture

The archaeologist is depicted here as a passionate and totally devoted adventurer and explorer who conquers ancient sites and artefacts, thereby pushing forward the frontiers of our knowledge about the past. The associated narratives resemble those of the stereotypical hero who embarks on a quest to which he is fully devoted, is tested in the field, makes a spectacular discovery and finally emerges as the virtuous man (or, exceptionally, woman) when the quest is fulfilled. This is seen nowhere more clearly than in descriptions of the life and career of Heinrich Schliemann, who was, and is, a popular hero (Zintzen 1998).

3. Like a detective, the archaeologist tries to piece together what happened in the past

Returning to Alfred Kidder, we read that

“The hairy-chinned archaeologist […] is old. He is benevolently absent-minded. His only weapon is a magnifying glass, with which he scrutinizes inscriptions in forgotten languages. Usually his triumphant decipherment coincides, in the last chapter, with the daughter’s rescue from savages by the handsome young assistant. ”

The hairy-chinned archaeologist is the scholar and detective. Like the detective, the archaeologist solves mysteries and is often portrayed as creating light where there was darkness, by finding clues and revealing truths (Holtorf 2003 and forthcoming (b)). Even Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot is inspired by archaeological methodology. At the end of his adventures in Mesopotamia, the archaeologist Dr Leidner, after being found out as the murderer himself, commends the famous detective with the words: “You would have made a good archaeologist, M. Poirot. You have the gift of re-creating the past” (Christie 1994 [1936]: 215).

According to Massimo Pallotino (1968: 12), it is the process of searching for, and interpreting, clues that makes archaeology “so exciting to the general public, who derive such enjoyment from reading detective stories or following the twists and turns of court cases” (see also Fig. 3). A case in point was the very widely reported discovery of the Ice Man in the Italian Alps more than a decade ago. It was initially investigated by forensic scientists, but the archaeologists too were much concerned with documenting and retrieving even the smallest piece of evidence on the site in order to reconstruct what had happened there. Konrad Spindler’s book (1994), telling the story of the Ice Man’s discovery and the initial results of the ensuing archaeological research, was so popular that for several years it was even available in airport bookstores. Even today, the Ice Man regains his popularity in the media every time a new clue has been found and analysed, contributing to complete the picture of who this man was, how he lived and how he died.

The significance of doing archaeology

In the light of these three prominent themes of archaeology, it should not surprise anybody that for many the process of doing archaeology is more exciting and important than its actual results. The subject of archaeology brings three themes together, each of which is powerful and popular even by itself. The underground, adventurous fieldwork, and criminology become manifest in the actions, tools and skills of the archaeologist. Ironically, it is this very physical and material dimension

45

The
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and
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Fig.
3.
Hairy-chinned Playmobil
explorer
searching
for
clues
in
order
to
illuminate
ancient
civilizations
in
the
jungle.
Image
by
courtesy
of Playmobil
,
a
registered
trademark
ofgeobra
Brandstätter
GmbH
&
Co.
KG,
reproduced
by
permission.
The
company
also
holds
all
rights
to
the
displayed
toy
figures.

of archaeology that seems to have been overlooked at times by the archaeologists themselves.

Archaeologists tend to see themselves mostly as (pre-)historians who are con- cerned with cognitive insights into the past or as caretakers and managers of existing collections or sites. What matters first and foremost to them is
what a site looks like today and
what it can tell us about the past – and generally not
how it has been investigated and
how its significance came into being, as it were. In other words, professional archaeologists tend to assume that
what archaeology leaves us with is more important than
how it is done. With this view, we might wake up one day and find that we have all the knowledge about the past and all the heritage sites we need, and consequently put an end to archaeology.

On the contrary,
I
wish
to
suggest
that
archaeology
is
culturally
significant
mainly
because
the
process
of
doing
it
is
significant
in
itself. As Gavin Lucas put it (1997: 9), ever to complete meaningful, archaeological processes such as searching, digging, collecting and preserving, would frustrate the very desires which lie behind them. It is not a question of needs being eventually fulfilled but of deeply felt desires being sustained. The search for the past is the search for ourselves (Holtorf, forthcoming (b)). As a consequence, we have never revealed enough about the past, a collection of antiquities is never complete, there are never sufficient numbers of sites preserved. The archaeological process must therefore go on continuously –

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Doing
Archaeology
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Culture

we have to be “at it” all the time. The action must never come to a halt.

This may be one reason why the British TV documentary series
Time
Team, which has recently broadcast its tenth annual series, has been extremely successful for so long. Its normal format is a one-hour programme documenting a three-day, archaeological excavation at a chosen site. The highlights of each programme are the moments when the presenter Tony Robinson gets called over to look at a newly discovered, material clue and the subsequent discussion, which is often followed up by expert analysis, about its significance in relation to what happened at the site in the past. The latest
Time
Team book (Robinson and Aston 2002) takes a similar approach. An associated press release proclaimed that “archaeology has never been so much fun. This book will inspire everyone to get out into their back gardens and start digging. ”

Conclusions

Understandably, archaeologists have often judged their popular image by what it fails to do. How Indiana Jones spends his day is certainly not a fair representation of actual archaeological practice (for example, he doesn’t have coffee breaks). I would like to suggest, however, that it is of little use to complain that people who are not professional archaeologists themselves may have an in some respects badly informed view of professional archaeology and what it has achieved. Instead, these views are significant in themselves and ultimately an important part of the current fascination and popularity of archaeology as a whole (Holtorf, forthcoming (a)).

Ever since the emergence of modern archaeology during the 19th century, the popular fascination with the process of doing archaeology has remained virtually the same (Zintzen 1998). What is required is an attempt to understand both the cultural context from which this fascination emerges and the (maybe changing?) cultural needs to which it responds. In other words, professional archaeologists should appreciate these alternative understandings for what they are rather than for what they are not.

Let us look, then, at what the cliché of archaeology in popular culture
does achieve. By emphasising the process of doing archaeology, it expresses a fascination with methodical human inquiry and idealises persistence in adverse circumstances, eventually being rewarded by valuable treasure or new insights. It also gives people the satisfaction of imagining a different life, which is full of adventure and purposeful missions, such as those involved in solving a “mystery” or preventing a “treasure” from falling into the wrong hands. These are no small achievements.

Arguably, a society benefits from individuals who can occasionally fulfil some of their dreams or gain satisfaction from (seemingly) being able to contribute to important missions. It makes for happier people and better stories that they can tell, both themselves and others.

A society also benefits from people with inquiring minds, and maybe much more so than from receptive students who are ready to learn factual knowledge. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), one of the foremost thinkers of the Enlight- enment, argued this very point in 1777 (cited from http://www.projekt.gutenberg.de/ lessing/essays/wahrheit.htm):

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Present

“Nicht die Wahrheit, in deren Besitz irgendein Mensch ist oder zu sein vermeinet, sondern die aufrichtige Mühe, die er angewandt hat, hinter die Wahrheit zu kommen, macht den Wert des Menschen. Denn nicht durch den Besitz, sondern durch die Nachforschung der Wahrheit erweitern sich seine Kräfte, worin allein seine immer wachsende Vollkommenheit bestehet. ”

In other words, more valuable than possessing truths is searching for truths by methodical inquiry. Taking this seriously means encouraging any such inquiries, and not just those that, at any given time, happen to resemble certain professional approaches.

Professional archaeology can make very significant contributions to achieving such aims. It is not for nothing that Indiana Jones too is “in real life” a professional archaeologist who is employed by an American university! What professional archaeology has got to offer is as good or superior to what archaeologists on TV, in movies or in fictional novels can provide. This is not because they necessarily always get the facts right. It is because professional archaeology can let people become involved in the real thing rather than watch a film or read a book.

There are already many good examples of how amateurs can get involved in archaeological practice. Professional archaeologists have the expertise to guide people’s involvement in directions that may be best for both parties. They can suggest particular sites that deserve or need attention and recommend specific actions; they can support research by pointing to interesting literature or comparable efforts elsewhere; they can get like-minded people in touch with each other; they can mediate between archaeological projects that need help and people interested in becoming volunteers. Most importantly, they can make people aware of politically or ethically highly disputed notions that are occasionally connected with archaeology. Over the past few years, archaeologists have become very aware not only of the looming dangers of mainstream nationalism, but also of the political claims made by minorities and indigenous populations. There are also risks of archaeology becoming (or remaining?) reliant on colonial or neo-colonial, exploitative relations with non-western communities or on patriarchal social structures in the western world itself (cf. Figs. 1-3). By becoming more involved in, and ultimately a significant part of popular culture, archaeologists can make sure that all these issues are kept on the agenda and can inform everybody’s judgment about what is and is not considered politically or ethically acceptable when doing archaeology.

Yes, a lot of that already happens in “public archaeology” projects, because it helps archaeologists to achieve aims to which they usually give greater significance, such as advancing scientific research, educating people about academic knowledge, preserving sites and increasing public support. In the light of what I have argued, this hierarchy of aims and means may need to be reconsidered (see also Holtorf, forthcoming (a)). What I suggest is that we should adopt as our most important aim what makes our field so exciting and so valuable, both in popular culture and in reality: the possibility for people to live out some of their dreams and to develop inquiring minds by being archaeologists themselves, if only for a day. To me, the benefits gained from that are what really matters about doing archaeology.

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Culture

Acknowledgments

The research on which this paper is based has been supported by a Marie Curie Fellowship of the European Commission. Earlier versions were presented at a conference on
Archaeology
and
Communication, organised by the Swedish National Heritage Board in November 2002, and at a graduate seminar at the Institute of Archaeology, Stockholm University, in January 2003. I am grateful to all those who contributed to the discussion that ensued on each occasion, making me refine my argument. I would also like to thank Marcia-Anne Dobres, Wilfried Beege and Judith Kaufmann (on behalf of Playmobil) for the images. Responsibility for all the consequences of this paper, intellectual or otherwise, lies with me alone.

English
revised
by
Neil
Tomkinson.

References

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