mercoledì 25 gennaio 2012

Contemporary Archaeologies: Excavating Now

This book is about the archaeology of the present and the very recent past. Archaeology's repertoire of questions, procedures, methodologies and terminologies, its material manifestations (protected sites, public museums, archives) and its popular appeals are rooted in modernity.
Contemporary archaeologies marry archaeology in the modern world with the archaeology of the modern world. Their strengths lie in a stimulating mix of interdisciplinary practices across academic, public-sector and professional contexts. 


  • Angela Piccini/Cornelius Holtorf: Fragments from a Conversation about Contemporary Archaeologies
  • Julian Thomas (University of Manchester, UK): Sigmund Freud's Archaeological Metaphor and Archaeology's Self-understanding
  • Cornelius Holtorf (University of Kalmar, Sweden): Imagine This: Archaeology in the Experience Economy
  • Sarah May (English, Heritage, UK): Then Tyger Fierce Took Life Away: The Contemporary Material Culture Of Tigers
  • Mike Pearson (University of Aberystwyth, Wales, UK): 'Professor Gregory's Villa' and Piles of Pony Poop: Early Expeditionary Remains in Antarctica
  • Colleen M. Beck (Desert Research Institute Las Vegas, USA)/John Schofield (English Heritage, UK)/Harold Drollinger (Desert Research Institute Las Vegas, USA): Archaeologists, Activists, and a Contemporary Peace Camp
  • Louise K. Wilson (University of Derby, UK): Notes on a Record of Fear: On the Threshold of the Audible
  • Mats Burström (Södertörn University, Sweden): Garbage or Heritage: The Existential Dimension of a Car Cemetery
  • Jonna Ulin (Göteborg, Sweden): Into the Space of the Past: A Family Archaeology
  • Alice Gorman (Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia): Beyond The Space Race: The Material Culture Of Space In A New Global Context
  • Angela Piccini (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada and University of Bristol, UK): Guttersnipe: A Micro Road Movie
  • Paul Graves-Brown (Llanelli, Wales, UK): The Privatisation of Experience and the Archaeology of the Future.
    Extract from: Cornelius Holtorf

Archaeology for kids

Un sito web con risorse didattiche sull'archeologia dedicate ai ragazzi, corredate da divertenti fotografie.

domenica 15 gennaio 2012

Top 10 Ancient History News of 2011

by History of the Ancient World

The year 2011 will be marked by several important archaeological discoveries, and the overthrow of authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Libya, which had profound implications for the preservation of ancient history.

Egyptian Museum attacked, artifacts damaged – the overthrow of Egypt’s authoritarian government early this year included violence directed at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Historians and archaeologists were worried about looting and damage throughout the country’s historic sites during that period, but fortunately, local residents and authorities prevented other attacks.

School for Roman Gladiators discovered in Austria - the interdisciplinary team has discovered a unique Roman building complex at Roman Carnuntum, 20 km east of Vienna in Austria and this will shed new light on how Roman gladiators lived and died in the provinces alongside the river Danube.

Castles in the desert – satellites reveal lost cities of Libya - The fall of Gaddafi has opened the way for archaeologists to explore the country’s pre-Islamic heritage, so long ignored under his regime.

Roman toilets were quite stinky, large international study reveals - Yes, the Romans had toilets and sewage. No, they didn’t match our idea of a clean bathroom in no way. Their toilets were stinking, disease spreading places, which gave rats and snakes an easy entrance to the house.
Ancient site of Olympia was buried by Tsunamis, researcher finds - Olympia, site of the famous Temple of Zeus and original venue of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece, was presumably destroyed by repeated tsunamis that travelled considerable distances inland, and not by earthquake and river floods as has been assumed to date
Deadly medication? Bonn scientists shed light on the dark secret of Queen Hatshepsut’s flacon - After two years of research it is now clear that the flacon did not hold a perfume; instead, it was a kind of skin care lotion or even medication for a monarch suffering from eczema. In addition, the pharmacologists found a strongly carcinogenic substance. Was Hatshepsut killed by her medicine?

Valley of the Kings mystery: New research shows 3,500 year old tomb contained infants who suffered from disease - It certainly wasn’t a tomb for a pharaoh. New research presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) shows that a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, KV 44, contained the remains of infants who were suffering from disease.

Ancient medicine pills found on a Roman shipwreck - The pills were discovered from a Roman shipwreck dating back to the 2nd century BC in the Gulf of Baratti off of Tuscany. although the pillls were found in the 1980s, it is only now using DNA sequencing performed by geneticist Robert Fleischer of the Smithsonian that researchers can identify what were the pills made of…

Video tour of Ancient Rome created by the University of Reading - The new 3D fly-through digital model, the only of its kind developed in the UK and due for completion later this year, will offer scholars unprecedented opportunities to reconstruct key events in the history of the imperial capital.

Ancient Mesopotamian tablets reveal “complex” anti-witchcraft ceremony - About 3,000 years ago Mesopotamian rulers, and other elite members of society, feared that witches were working against them. Ancient records say that witches had the ability to use magic to harm those whom they wanted too.

mercoledì 4 gennaio 2012

Top Five Reasons Archaeology is Not a Science

Archaeologists Have Spoken, and...

By K. Kris Hirst, Guide

Archaeologists have long pondered whether archaeology is a science or not; most (as far as I can tell) truly have their doubts. Here's a list of the top five reasons archaeologists give for why archaeology is not a science.

1. Archaeological Excavation is Not Repeatable

One of the tenets of science is that experiments must be repeatable; that is, if you run your experiment twice (or a thousand times) you'll get the same results. Philip Barker (and others including Colin Renfrew and Graeme Barker) points out that since no two archaeological sites or situations are the same, it's never possible to verify one's conclusions in a repeatable fashion. Even if you're comparing the excavations of one archaeologist, circumstances in the field change so quickly that the strategies are rarely comparable. If you can't test your results, it ain't science, goes the argument.
  • Philip Barker: every archaeological site is itself a document. It can be read by a skilled excavator, but it is destroyed by the very process which enables us to read it. Unlike the study of an ancient document, the study of a site by excavation is an unrepeatable experiment. In almost every other scientific discipline, with the exception of the study of the human individual and other animals, it is possible to test the validity of an experiment by setting up an identical experiment and noting the results. Since no two archaeological sites are the same, either in the whole or in detail, it is never possible to verify conclusively the results of one excavation by another, even on part of the same site, except in the broadest terms, and sometimes not even in these.
  • Colin Renfrew: for is it not, these days, a defining characteristic of real science that it is testable? ... That archaeological science should sometimes give wrong answers, and that these can later be shown to be indeed erroneous, must be counted one of the subject's great strengths.
  • Graeme Barker: what is an archaeological "fact"? The basic building block for archaeological interpretation is that a certain object was found in a certain context or stratum. But we ourselves cannot be present at every find. Even if we find it ourselves, can we always be sure that we have observed it correctly, or that someone has not played a trick on us and buried it the night before, or that it is not in a secondary position, having been redeposited by some human or natural process such as erosion? Immediately we are having to make value judgments. What, and whom, can we trust?

2. Archaeological Data Are Too Crummy (um, Crumbly)

Archaeologist David Clarke wrote in a number of different venues, and far more succinctly than I can, that we have to recognize that archaeological data is corrupt and patchy. Archaeological evidence taken out of the earth is corrupted by the passage of time, by climate and environmental circumstances; by human behaviors at the time of occupation, after the occupation, at the time of excavation, and in the laboratory.
  • David Clarke I: [archaeology is] the discipline with the theory and practice for the recovery of unobservable hominid behavior patterns from indirect traces in bad samples.
  • David Clarke II: we must move from the traditional model of archaeological knowledge as a Gruyère cheese with holes in it to that of a sparse suspension of information particles of varying size, not even randomly distributed in archaeological space and time. The first thing we may deduce from this revision is that many of our taxonomic entity divisions are defined by lines drawn through gaps in the evidence and zones of greatest ignorance; this does not make these taxa invalid but it does gravely alter what constitutes meaningful manipulation and explanation of such entities.

3. Too Much of Archaeology is Based on Interpretation

Interpretation of results is something all scientists must do--but does archaeology rely too much on one person's opinions? We can measure as many projectile points as we like, we can run statistics on the measurements as much as we like, but in the end, we still have to rely on (past and present) interpretations to decide when a Clovis point is a Clovis point or simply Clovis-like.
  • John Younger (the elder): could we rank Archaeology as a science, a gradation of insignificance, a standard of importance might be fixed: but Archaeology is not a science: it represents the miscellaneous gatherings of the curious and observant, the mine in which a judicious quarryman will find here a fragment, there a stone dressed to his hand, all ready to be fitted into an edifice whose plan he perhaps never imagined till the fragment came his way.
  • Lawrence Guy Strauss: just as archaeological artifacts and style can be used to argue the opposite sides of diffusion vs. independent invention debates, so too can multivariate analyses of ancient human teeth and bones be used to support differing interpretations of modern maps of genes. Often the conflicting interpretations appear equally convincing. We must learn that the reading of gene frequencies may not be any more precise or straightforward than the archaeological interpretation of split-base bone points or Linearband pots or the physical anthropological diagnosis of metric and nonmetric traits from human burials.

4. Archaeology is Part of Anthropology

In a 2003 article in The Review of Archaeology, R.E. Taylor commented that as long as [American] archaeology is embedded in sociocultural anthropology, archaeologists will not be scientists. Robert Dunnell says as long as we're focused on the anthropological behaviors of the past, and not the processes that create the archaeological record, we're anthropologists and not scientists.
  • R.E. Taylor: the century-long minority status of prehistoric archaeology, while embedded within American anthropology, has generally meant that archaeologists have accommodated and positioned themselves within the context of the existing dominant reality of the disciplinary structure. This dominant reality was most often focused on a sociocultural anthropology whose focus was, at best, incidental and, at worst, hostile to topics and issues of relevance to the pursuit of archaeological scholarship.
  • Robert Dunnell: archaeology... is, or wants to be, an empirical discipline which makes substantive claims about a body of phenomena. It is interested both in functional accounts that rely on proximate causes--the "How does it work?" kind of question--and in historical accounts that treat of ultimate causes--the "Why did it come into existence?" kind of question. It differs from other scientific disciplines in that it is not primarily concerned with the full range of characteristics of the archaeological record, but rather with those that the record acquired prior to the time it became an archaeological record. Consequently, it cannot simply be modelled on the existing hard sciences.
  • R. Lee Lyman: I am not suggesting that archaeologists abandon use of ethnologically documented cultural processes as explanatory tools, nor am I suggesting that archaeologists abandon traditional ethnological and anthropological theories. What I am suggesting is that a little explored arena that is likely to contain evidence of unique processes—particularly, tempos and modes of change, to borrow Simpson’s (1944) wording—is the temporally coarse-grained archaeological record itself. It is there that ethnologically imperceptible large-scale processes may be revealed. And, if the history of paleontology is any guide, it is precisely those sorts of revelations that will gain archaeologists a seat at the high table of anthropology. To gain those insights, archaeologists must occasionally discard the tint of the archaeology is prehistoric ethnology mantra and consider the archaeological record as potentially revealing something invisible to an ethnologist. It may reveal nothing, but how will we know unless we look?

5. Science is Boring, Archaeology is Not

Oscar Wilde says archaeology is only delightful when it's turned into art. How can you argue with Oscar Wilde?
  • Oscar Wilde: I can understand archaeology being attacked on the ground of its excessive realism, but to attack it as pedantic seems to be very much beside the mark. However, to attack it for any reason is foolish; one might just as well speak disrespectfully of the equator. For archaeology, being a science, is neither good nor bad, but a fact simply. Its value depends entirely on how it is used, and only an artist can use it. We look to the archaeologist for the materials, to the artist for the method. Indeed archaeology is only really delightful when transfused into some form of art.
  • William Dever: good scholars, honest scholars, will continue to differ about the interpretation of archaeological remains simply because archaeology is not a science. It is an art. And sometimes it is not even a very good art.