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HS401 Lecture 10: Interpreting Archaeology

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Laura Snook

on 22 April 2013

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Transcript of HS401 Lecture 10: Interpreting Archaeology

HS401 Introduction to Archaeology Lecture 10: Interpreting Archaeology Archaeological Interpretation Archaeologists aim to explain past human behaviour

BUT, we cannot excavate behaviour

So, we need to interpret the material remains in the hope that they will tell us something about behaviour Museums Museums are often used to present archaeology to the public Israel Josephus 'War of the Jews' 7.9 describes the mass-suicide of the Jews at Masada in resistance against the surrounding Romans

Yigael Yadin (1960s) excavated at Masada

The archaeology of the region is used to justify Israel's claim to the area Marble lekythos & reconstruction
IN 2564, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
Image by Laura Snook (07.2011) The British Museum, London
Image by Laura Snook (2010) Why do we
do archaeology? How do we get from this... ...to this? Political Agendas Archaeology & anthropology have been adopted to support racist & nationalist views John Lubbock 'Pre-historic Times' (1865)

Used evolutionary theory, archaeology & anthropoligy to argue that non-European cultures were inferior Nazi Propaganda Archaeologists were used by the Nazi party to find evidence supporting the research of Gustaf Kossinna

Kossinna suggested pre-historic Germany and an Aryan Nordic race were the root of all major European developments Kosovo February 1998-June 1999

Kosovar Albanians wanted independence from the Yugoslav military and Serbian police

Christian Serbs and Muslim Albanians both use the archaeology of the region to stake their claim to control. ‘It's a pity that the Acropolis museum actually finishes historically to Classical Parthenon. This actually prevents someone to see the rest of the story, which is tellingly compressed into film. Interestingly this is the part of the story that is now so Hellenic so there is a clear nationalistic ideal behind the exhibition as it now stands’ - AM13MGRE36-40

‘I found the way they want to sacralise the objects very off-putting...They want to turn their classical sculpture into religious relics. I found the bombastic nationalism undermined my enjoyment of the art’ - AM21FGBR51-55 ‘In my view, the exhibition does not provide a sense of where the sculptures were taken from. They are displayed as separate autonomous objects rather than architectural parts forming a structural and aesthetic units’ - BM32FGRE21-25 Lack of Interpretation Different museums will assume a different degree of prior knowledge and therefore offer varying degrees of interpretation Varying Interpretation Images by Laura Snook Differing Reconstructions Nationalistic Interpretations Pergamonmuseum, Berlin Reconstructions Colour Reconstructions Larnax, Tomb II Vergina, fourth century BC
Building for the protection of the royal tombs, Vergina First flag of Sovereign Macedonia (1991-5) Flag of the Republic of Macedon Public awareness and enjoyment are vital to the survival of archaeology

- project funding is usually dependent on 'impact' Public Engagement Terrorism November 1997, Deir el-Bahri, Luxor

58 tourists killed

$700 million lost Negatives Looting Luigi Perticarari - clandestino in Tarquinia

Emptied c.4000 tombs over 30 years Visitor Impact By 1950, deterioration of the tomb led to access being restricted to dignitaries

1983 - tomb closed completely

1992 - restored by the Getty Conservation Institute at cost of $2million
- reopened only to specialists The Staffordshire Hoard was found by a metal detectorist on arable land in the parish of Ogley Hay in south Staffordshire in July 2009, and was recovered by archaeologists from Staffordshire County Council and Birmingham Archaeology. More than 3,940 pieces were retrieved, mostly of gold or silver alloy and mostly representing what appear to be martial battle goods. The date of the material has yet to be ascertained but the artefacts appear to range from the late sixth to the early eighth centuries AD. The reasons for burial remain, as yet, largely unknown. The choice of location, on the north-western spur of a prominent ridge, could have been intended to facilitate its rediscovery, unless the locale held a symbolic significance within the wider landscape. The second stage of fieldwork, in March 2010, identified a number of undated field boundaries and undated palisade trenches perhaps associated with a small farmstead of pre- or post-Roman date, unlikely to be associated with the hoard. The Antiquaries Journal 90, 139-152 (2010) The 'Staffordshire Hoard': The Fieldwork The UK's largest haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure has been discovered buried in a field in Staffordshire.Experts say the collection of 1,500 gold and silver pieces, which may date to the 7th Century, is unparalleled in size and worth "a seven-figure sum".It has been declared treasure by South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh, meaning it belongs to the Crown.Terry Herbert, who found it on farmland using a metal detector, said it "was what metal detectorists dream of".It could take more than a year for it to be valued.The Staffordshire hoard contains about 5kg of gold and 2.5kg of silver, making it far bigger than the Sutton Hoo discovery in 1939 when 1.5kg of Anglo-Saxon gold was found near Woodbridge in Suffolk.
Mr Herbert, 55, of Burntwood in Staffordshire, who has been metal detecting for 18 years, came across the hoard as he searched land belonging to a farmer friend over five days in July. The exact location has not been disclosed.
A total of 1,345 items have been examined by experts, although the list includes 56 clods of earth which have been X-rayed and are known to contain further metal artefacts.This means the total number of items found is likely to rise to about 1,500. Following the initial find, Alex Jones, director of Birmingham Archaeology and his colleagues were invited to excavate the site, Birmingham University said.
Experts have so far established that there were at least 650 items of gold in the haul, weighing more than 5kgs (11lb), and 530 silver objects totalling more than 1kg (2.2lb) in weight.Copper alloy, garnets and glass objects were also discovered at the site. Duncan Slarke, finds liaison officer for Staffordshire, was the first professional to see the hoard, which contains warfare paraphernalia, including sword pommel caps and hilt plates inlaid with precious stones.He said he was "virtually speechless" when he saw the items.
... news.BBC.co.uk 24/09/2009 Publication Up to 60% of modern excavations are unpublished after 10 years

USA - Since 1950 only 27% of digs funded by the National Science Foundation have been published

Israel - 39% (1960s), 75% (1970s), 87% (1980s) of digs are still without site reports Dead Sea Scrolls 1947 - scrolls were discovered in Qumran, Palestine

1953 - editorial team appointed to decipher material

1991 - most fragments were still unpublished
- American library made microfilm of all material available to scholars Ian Richmond "not more than a quarter of his productive fieldwork can now ever see the light of day ... in spite of the constant entreaties of his colleagues he obstinately declined to keep pace with his digging by the normal method of the interim report." Mortimer Wheeler Counter Measures Israel Antiquities Authority - excavation licenses denied to those within insufficient publication records

Supreme Council of Antiquities (Egypt) - licenses revoked or not reviewed and worked stop if publication is not completed within five years

Cyprus - permit renewal requires publication within two years Counter Measures Society of Professional Archaeologists (USA) and the Institute of Field Archaeologists (UK) require publication within a reasonable amount of time for continued membership Pseudoarchaeology Ron Wyatt 'Discoveries' (1977-1999)

Noah's Ark
Ark of the Covenant
Sodom & Gomorah
Red Sea Crossing
Mount Sinai
Tower of Babel Misinterpretation 1988 - c.100 skeletons discovered in a Late Roman - Early Byzantine sewer in Israel

Originally thought to be disgarded unwanted female babies

DNA testing showed 14 of the 19 successful tests were on male skeletons

Re-interpreted to suggest the skeletons were the unwanted children of prostitutes 'Mask of Agamemon'
Image by Laura Snook (2010) Archaeological Interpretation Ethnoarchaeology - 'Living in'

Experimental Archaeology - I Caveman / Mummifying Alan

Anthropology - Garbage Project / Sri Lankan Fisherman

Reconstruction - Crossbones Girl / Otzi How would today's artefacts be interpreted? Most Printed Books The Bible - 2.5 billion +
Al-Quran - 400 million
Lord of the Rings - 150 million
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - 85 million
The Da Vinci Code - 80 million
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - 44 million
The Diary of Anne Frank - 30 million
Gone With the Wind - 30 million How do we
diseminate data & interpretations? Film Books
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