Jun2015082015 / Jun / 08Several times before I’ve discussed the topic of social media and how it can be used for the positive and the negative. The positive is found in the ability to give voice to the often voiceless especially in countries where medias stay controlled. In other places like Iraq, groups like ISIS have a global reach in multiple languages by manipulating the demographics of social media’s key users, often young people.However, there is another value in social media that is less often discussed. Its value as a data collection hub and tracking tool. In nations like Nepal and Japan it an be used to monitor aid need for natural disasters. In America – aside from some of the more social uses – it can be used to track political upheavals. Social media is even used as a tool for monitoring terrorism.Egypt for instance, has become a hub of technology in the Middle East. Millions of dollars from United Arab emirates have been poured into technology in Egypt making it one of the most wired countries in both the Middle East and Africa. Twitter and Facebook became famous in Egypt during the Arab Spring for their role in not only creating a gathering platform, but in sharing and revealing information that was not privy to the presses once the regime cracked down on the media and on TV and Internet output. Social media was used as a tool for the voiceless as was discussed in a previous post about 21st century freedom fighter.Egyptians are not alone in their use of social media for socio-political change. In recent months, there has been a flurry of activity across the United States regarding the use of excessive force by the police in cities across the nation. I was able to participate in more than one of the #BlackLivesMatter protests as a result of following the information by protest organizers on social media.Social media has gone far beyond the social and launched a society whose history and movements are forever digitally recorded in archives of the Internet.Visit this week’s new #AVProject entitled “Social Media: Science Beyond the Social” HERE or visit youtube.com/archaeoventurersAdditional Reading:
Jun2015022015 / Jun / 02
For years pop culture has used the concept of aliens or some form of extra terrestrial being in order to explain periods of history that have often been deemed unexplainable.
One of the of world’s greatest historic icons – the Great Pyramids of Giza – is subject to all manner of other-worldly conspiracy theories.
In the fourth Indiana Jones – which was widely met with disappointment among diehard fans – was the insertion of aliens into the stories in Peru.
One side or the other, passions can run very high when discussing conspiracy theories and the science – or lack there of – around them. On April 15, 2015 a video surfaced on YouTube showing the culmination of a yet-to-happen debate between Graham Hancock and Egypt’s former Minister of Antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawass. Though the video is only about two minutes long and cast in poor lighting, the ‘lively’ nature of the argument has generated over 100,000 views in the month and a half since its release. And trust me – it’s not because archaeological debates are riveting viral material – it’s all about the drama.
This argument centered around Hancocks showing of a slide that contained Robert Bauval’s Orion Correlation Theory in which it is believed that the stars in the Orion Constellation have a relationship to the kings of the Great Pyramids of Giza. However, this has been regarded by many scholars as pseudoscience or junk science. For archaeologists and other scientists that have spent lifetime examining ancient peoples and understanding the depth of their technological and engineering capabilities, it may come off as an insult to surmise that astrological-type pseudoscience has a place in the world of academia except for its role in Archaeology 101 of what NOT to do.
Keeping in mind that this dramatic debate encounter caught on film was more than simply an argument, but a deep fundamental disagreement, was Dr. Hawass still unwarranted in his fervent disagreement to the Orion Constellation theory and its proponents?
Let us know your thoughts on this and other pseudo-science and conspiracy theories in archaeology on twitter @ArchaeoVenturer
Check out this week’s episode entitled “Why Aliens? Ancient Cultures Deserve More Credit” HERE.
Apr2015282015 / Apr / 28
The past month in the US has proven big in gender and LGBT issues – Bruce Jenner’s transgender interview changed the way America sees trans individuals, the supreme court makes a decision on proposition 8 regarding same sex marriage, and the nation faces the potential of its first woman president with Hillary’s bid to run. And though there are still major strides to be made, America seems to be accepting change at an increasingly accelerated pace.
What do changes in social gender norms mean in nations outside of American boundaries? Change is in the air in the post-Arab Spring Middle East as well.
As parts of the MENA region face increasing oppression under fierce dictators and the rule of terror groups like ISIS – there are young people in areas outside of terror control that are breaking the gender boundaries such Islamist groups seek to maintain.
During the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, women were pivotal in leading the cause to advance their rights and place in Egyptian society. But even as laws change in a few short years, social fabric can often take a generation. In Egypt, women have been taking this into their own hands. Recently, Egypt awarded a mother, Sisa Abu Daooh, who dressed like a man for more than 40 years in order to provide for her family. Illiterate and widowed, she was forced to find work to support her children – being a woman in Egypt can be dangerous, being a woman in the work force equally so, but she courageously worked to do so – albeit dressed like a man.
However, there are women of a younger generation that are trying to break traditional work barriers without the gender-bending cloak and veil. Mennatullah El-Husseiny sought to break taboos of women’s place in the public social fabric of Egypt by doing jobs considered to be “only for men.”
Women are not the only ones who are trying to crack the glass ceiling they face in the Middle East – in Turkey, young men are brining back an age-old art – the Ottoman tradition of male belly dancing.
Known in Turkish as zennes, rakkas, or koceks, the art died out during the Ataturk era and has only recently resurfaced, but in the current political atmosphere is considered part of a homosexual culture in Turkey – a sentiment that while still considered taboo in many parts of Turkey, is becoming more accepted in its modern and increasingly globalizing society. And although the zenne scene in Turkey is becoming more accepted, one of the male dancers interviewed in an al-Monitor last December still declines to have his name and photo revealed – cracking the glass ceiling can still come with a price…
Apr2015132015 / Apr / 13
So last week’s episode was clearly a response to tons of queries that Katie and I have gotten about why we started ArchaeoVenturers. This week, we shift the focus of the rest of the season to more substantive topics.One thing I am sure that is apparent, either from our blogs, posts and/or videos, is that Katie and I are pretty geeky. We love comic books, cartoons, fantasy, video games, swords- you name it. So as a result, you may see reference to some of our favorite TV cult shows. This is because we tend to assume that if we enjoy something, then everyone must be enjoying it but often that turns out not to be the case. So up front, if you don’t understand references to shows like Family Guy or Futurama, we send our apologies but you’re missing out! But like all of our popular culture episodes, we get into grounded facts very quickly so hopefully everyone continues to enjoy these!
——–What we wanted to come from this episode was a realization that while we have so many artifacts and clues from ancient history in this country (USA), there doesn’t seem to be a common collective to rally behind protecting these links to Native American and Prehistoric culture. We’re so worried about sites being destroyed abroad, by terrorist groups like ISIS (and rightfully so), but there still needs to be a push here at home by the general public, to have an investment in this irreplaceable culture being destroyed by ignorance and greed. Plenty of organizations, both government (National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers, etc) and non-profit (Native American Heritage Association), and legislation, (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA)), are deeply dedicated to these issues. Yet, why are we constantly reading about (what should be considered criminal) acts of ignorance and stupidity against culture? Various examples include:
- Forest Service seeking information on archaeological site vandalism
- Vandals deface prehistoric ‘Pregnant Buffalo’ rock art
- Native American burial ground, village site destroyed for luxury California homes
- Wal-Mart’s history of destroying sacred sites
- Sacred Native American ruin vandalized
- Seattle’s Famous Native American Murals Vandalized; Artist Leads Cleanup
Also, why is one of the oddest threats to American cultural sites from drug addicts?!
And the Keystone Pipeline controversy, which we discuss in this video, although constantly in the news, has yet to be reconciled or even discussed at length with all interested and affected parties…
It seems insane that we can rally so strongly for destruction in other parts of the world, but when it comes to the history and culture of this land, that we can so easily take advantage of and disregard cultures, both tangible and intangible, that had existed for millennia.“This letter from Peter Schaghen, written in 1626, makes the earliest known reference to the company’s purchase of Manhattan Island from the Lenape Indians for 60 guilders. Schaghen was the liaison between the Dutch government and the Dutch West India Company.”
- Keystone XL would destroy our native lands. This is why we fight
- Native Americans and Supporters Fight Keystone XL Pipeline With Spirit Camp
- Keystone XL pipeline means “death” for Native Americans
- Native American willing to ‘spill my blood’ to stop Keystone XL
[ ] 5
Rcvd. 7 November 1626High and Mighty Lords,
Yesterday the ship the Arms of Amsterdam arrived here. It sailed from New Netherland out of the River Mauritius on the 23d of September. They report that our people are in good spirit and live in peace. The women also have borne some children there. They have purchased the Island Manhattes from the Indians for the value of 60 guilders. It is 11,000 morgens in size [about 22,000 acres]. They had all their grain sowed by the middle of May, and reaped by the middle of August They sent samples of these summer grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, canary seed, beans and flax. The cargo of the aforesaid ship is:7246 Beaver skins
178½ Otter skins
675 Otter skins
48 Mink skins
36 Lynx skins
34 Muskrat skins
Many oak timbers and nut wood. Herewith, High and Mighty Lords, be commended to the mercy of the Almighty,
In Amsterdam, the 5th of November anno 1626.
Your High and Mightinesses’ obedient, P. Schaghen
27 Native American Heritage Sites (PHOTOS)
Apr2015062015 / Apr / 06
The first episode of Season Three in the ArchaeoVenturers Project is about why The Digger and Diver started ArchaeoVenturers in the first place. What was the incentive behind this endeavor? With all that they have going on in the ‘real world’, why take on another project of this magnitude? It’s not like they had any experience in the virtual-social world beyond using Facebook to post pictures of their dogs, so what made #AVProject so important?
For years my family silently suffered behind their smiles and nods as I would go on – and on – and on about archaeology, anthropology, the Middle East, or whatever it was that I was working on or researching that week. The problem is – the details I found fascinating were not quite as fascinating to those around me – except for Justine, of course! We realized that there are so many important and amazing topics in history, science, and global affairs that would be interesting to so many – if only we could change, and shorten, our discussion of them. We developed the ArchaeoVenturers Project to break down all of the awesome stuff and put it into a more easily digestible format for those both in and outside of the field.
What you see as available on television for the characterizations of a scientist, archaeologist or engineer, always seems to fit people into these little boxes – and women even more so. One of the amazing things about my family and Justine’s – aside from their putting up with our constant drawn out discussions of science and history – is that they never told us that we couldn’t do something. Being women never once hindered the way we conducted ourselves as school, in the field – or in fashion. Only when I got older did I realize the obstacles women faced in one field or another. I love digging in the field, getting dirty, and working outside in 100-degree weather – I enjoy getting entrenched in academic research and examining new ways of looking at the world. Both of these are commonplace for someone in a social science or humanity – but what I later learned wasn’t so commonplace were some of my extra circulars – namely, being a cheerleader in college – and for those who know the cheerleading lingo, I was a flyer. I had no idea these two roles in my life were considered mutually exclusive by many. I never liked the idea of women needing to fit into these little boxes – you often hear about a renaissance man – but less often a renaissance woman.
Katie and I have known each other since graduate school and something we started to talk about more over the years was how we engage a different audience for our archaeological pursuits. Her work at the Capitol Archaeological Institute at GWU fueled her need to find creative ways to make archaeological lectures more appealing and then when we started to work directly together, we tried throwing archaeologically-oriented events that would reach a broader audience. This in part was because of our friendship with the founder of Thirst DC who did exactly that- only more heavy on the science and with bigger audiences. We decided that in order to engage the current generation in their digital world , being active on social media would be only the tip of the iceberg.. When over a billion viewers watch YouTube each month and yet the average length of time they watch videos averages on 30 seconds- so that’s why we decided that videos were clearly the avenue to pursue but they needed to be short and concise – the blogs are for folks who are likely our age and older, people who are still interested in gathering supplemental information via the written word.
So, for me at least, and luckily Katie shared the same view- we just wanted to engage a more general audience than just our colleagues, and it seemed like the logical thing to do would be to follow these growing online trends. I’ve learned that pursuing archaeology doesn’t mean much to me if there is no one to interact with, whether that’s a descendent community member, a student diver in Youth Diving With a Purpose, or someone who just found ArchaeoVenturers online randomly. We need to be sharing it with more people, or we are going to be outgunned by those who do make it more interesting. On it’s own, even without the glamorous pull of lost treasure, archaeology can be fantastically exciting and I think that as a rule, we should be doing all that we can to captivate our audiences.——The #AVProject was developed for all of the renaissance women, men, girls and boys out there – the people that are breaking stereotypes on their way into the field. #LetYourAVflagFly
Mar2015172015 / Mar / 17
Chapter 3 of “An ArchaeoVenture in Cambodia” begins just after our lunch stop with our guide, Mr. Raty. There were three distinct places that we visited after Angkor Wat that morning, in the order of Ta Prohm, Bayon Temple, and Phnom Bakheng:
- Ta Prohm (1186 CE): Originally named, Rajavihara (Royal Temple), is one of the most visited temples in the religious complexes, most likely for its unique look of ruined beauty mixed with invasive natural elements (in this case, ever expanding jungle trees that thrive amidst the native temple architecture and encapsulate the historic remains). The word “Ta” means ancestors and “Prohm” originates from Brahma, Hindu god of creation. As an ode to inaccurate archaeological depictions, which Katie and I talk about in the #AVProject (), I must not forget to mention that the famous Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie was filmed here, one of the only Cambodian sites depicted with accuracy in the movie- and I must have heard at least 30 different tourists mention it in the hour we wandered around. Our guide said that after the movie came out, there was certainly a larger influx of questions about the temple’s role in the movie, how it was filmed, if Angelina Jolie had been there, etc…, and that many of these questions were still asked today. Because Ta Prohm’s beauty literally lays in ruin, there is a major restoration project being undertaken all over the UNESCO World Heritage Site, as you can see in the video. This restorative conservation is a partnership project of the Archaeological Survey of India and the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) that has been ongoing since 2004. It is said to be a difficult task as the teams are avoiding vegetation removal, which is used to illustrate “how the trees and the complex coexist.” Oddly enough, Ta Prohm has also been at the center of creationist/evolutionary debate in recent years as a ‘stegosaurus’ has been discovered (see below image) amongst the depictions- judge for yourself!
- Bayon Temple (dating from the 12th century CE): Bayon was the very center of Angkor Thom (Big City), which was the capital built by King Jayavarman VII. It’s position is the manifestation of the intersection between heaven and earth. The many faces of Buddha is how I recall this temple site- Mr. Raty said there are over 2000 large faces carved on the 54 towers! He mentioned that many people point out that the Buddha’s look as though they are smiling and that some have made comparisons to the Mona Lisa’s cryptic smile. There is a tourist stop here that no matter how hard thou doth protest, you must take a rubbing/kissing nose photo with this one Buddha, reminiscent of those timed photos taken at the leaning Tower of Pisa. Between 1995-2001, UNESCO and the Japanese Government Team for the Safeguarding of Angkor (JSA) conducted an extensive research and conservation project at this temple. The World Bank warns that Bayon, and other temple towers, are sinking into their sandy foundations as the hospitality industry drains underground water reservoirs- something to seriously consider as a foreign visitor.
- Phnom Bakheng (Built at the end of the 9th century): Known as “sunset on the hill,” this is where to be when the day comes to a close- and you know you’re in the right spot as suddenly hundreds upon hundreds of people have the very same interest in watching dusk fall from the top of the temple mountain. And it’s certainly a hike up, and at the top you realize why- it has an unrivaled view of the valley of Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. I’ve never seen more selfie sticks in my life until that moment waiting for the sunset- so many selfies to be had in the twilight of evening (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em)…. However this popularity comes at a steep price: the World Monuments Fund puts Phnom Bakheng is one of the most endangered of all the complexes. More than 3,000 tourists push their way to the top, up the narrow stone staircases every single evening (myself and friends included).
A huge bonus at the end of our time in Siem Reap, was that I was able to take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the temple complexes (although that morning the wind had a different plan in mind). While we were supposed to go over Angkor Wat, we ended up flying over several other smaller temples on the way, and after over an hour in the air, we overshot our landing site three times because of tall trees. While we flew over many little villages, the children and adults would yell from below (even before the sun was up) and our handlers would give us handfuls of candy to toss overboard. I still have mixed feelings about this because it seems like a very unnecessary practice to feed into, but then, what do I know anyway- when we finally landed in a random rice paddy field (complete with ankle-deep water and fire ants!), all those nearby children ran up begging for candy but then all whipped out their smartphones to take pictures of the balloon that many were claiming to never have seen before. Moral of the story- hot air balloons are always worth it, despite wet pants and bug bites on your toes…NEXT UP VIETNAM MONTAGE!!Please stay tuned for Chapter 4 and Final in “Global ArchaeoVentures: The Diver Travels to Vietnam” also known as “An ArchaeoVenture to Vietnam” where a montage of travel and scuba dive footage await.Please see Chapter Three on YoutubeFurther Reading:
Mar2015082015 / Mar / 08
So Katie (The Digger) and I decided that if either of us ever have the chance to travel to interesting places with deep histories (which most places are and have), then we would not waste the opportunity and would share them as special ArchaeoVenturers episodes! It goes without saying that every country, city and historic site has a fascinating and complicated story to tell, and we only hope that you enjoy watching these special videos and reading our blogs as much as we love sharing them with YOU!
So this past holiday season, you may have seen on our ArchaeoVenturers social media accounts (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook), that I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit some friends of mine who had moved literally halfway around the world from good ole’ Washington D.C. (14, 392 km in fact!) to a part of the world that I had never visited before- Southeast Asia, specifically the capital of Cambodia- Phnom Penh. The Kingdom of Cambodia, once known as the Khmer Empire, saw independence from the French in 1953. Today, one of their largest sources of income has become the tourism industry. Who needs a better excuse to visit friends when you have a warm bed and Cambodian iced coffee on the other end!? If you want to visit a foreign land, my best advice would be to visit with people who are or have become locals- you meet and see things that tourists never get to experience, and luckily, such was the case here!
My two friends and I packed our bags and spent the almost two days of traveling getting to the city of Siem Reap, in northwest Cambodia, where the temple complex of Angkor awaits eager tourists. Our friends in the capital had to wait a few days to see us, because as a history buff and archaeologist, Angkor was a place I could not miss out on, and also, they had already visited a month earlier. This first video in our special Global ArchaeoVentures series is about my friends and my journey traveling from JFK on Eva Air (yes, the Hello Kitty airline!) through Taiwan to Phnom Penh, and straight into a 6+ hour taxi ride with a driver who easily hit 90 mph on roads that had more potholes than all the potholes I’ve ever seen combined! And yet, we enjoyed (and were exhausted) every minute of it! Our driver stopped only once for petrol (which is sold on the sides of the roads in used cola bottles for convenience) and to grab us all bamboo shoots filled with rice and beans for a road snack.
It’s hard to switch from light hearted travel/adventure mode in the videos to writing more about what I heard in this portion of the trip. The most enlightening part of our journey to Siem Reap, was learning more about the destruction of the Khmer Rouge from our driver, who’s family had luckily survived the massacres. Between 1975 and 1979, a genocide organized by the ruling Khmer Rouge government, killed roughly one fifth of the country’s population- from all walks of life and all echelons of their society, echoing memories of the Holocaust. Despite their ousting in 1979, the Khmer Rouge continued to exist until 1999, and the effects of their regime remain ever present in contemporary Cambodian society. Our driver told us that the bamboo with rice and beans snack we were eating, was a popular staple during the war because of its easy ingredients and simple preparation. What I was truly inspired by, and I regrettably didn’t manage to catch this part on film, was how positive our driver spoke about Cambodia’s future despite all that had happened to his family and culture. The world is doomed to repeat atrocious acts of violence if we fail to learn from history, something happening at an alarming rate with ISIS/ISIL in the Middle East right now. Luckily, there are strong communities of people willing to fight back and save what is irreplaceable. That is what happened in Cambodia, and although it is still recovering, the positive and enduring attitudes of their countrymen bring hope for the future.
Ending with that somber note of reflection, please stay tuned for Chapter 2 in “Global ArchaeoVentures: The Diver Travels to Cambodia” also known as “An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia” where the World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat is highlighted.
Please visit Youtube for Chapter One Episode! or View Below!
For further reading:The Cambodian Tribunal: Khmer Rouge HistoryTime Magazine: The Rise and Fall of the Khmer Rouge (told through images)
Mar2015092015 / Mar / 09
Chapter Two of this special ArchaeoVenturers series begins in Siem Reap, with my friends and I joining up with our tour guide Mr. Raty (highly recommended services!), who was born in the province. Along the way to the temple complex, Mr. Raty told us that while being a local tour guide is one of the more profitable professions in the area, they must take many expensive tests in order to become certified and to stay licensed, year after year. He is the only one in his family to be a tour guide and was very proud of how hard his family, in particular his mother, works in the agricultural realm of area. He also had one of the most infectious smiles I have ever seen- this was apparent anytime he mentioned a fact or tidbit about Angkor or Cambodian culture, which clearly made him happy to speak about. Also, I am not sure if every guide is this way, but Mr. Raty had a memory for specifics and dates that rivaled any academic I’ve ever met- all while speaking 5 languages!
You’ll hear some of the more interesting facts about Angkor Wat in the video, but since this is a syncing of hours of film footage and it has to be attention grabbing (thank you Tony Capelli!), I thought I wouldn’t make the video too audio heavy- the visuals of the temples tend to speak volumes more than I ever could. The interview with Mr. Raty however was important, and while I am still honing my interviewer skills, he was very eloquent while speaking about the affects of tourism and globalization on his community near Angkor. From his answers, we see that it’s a push-pull type relationship between the locals and foreigners- which I suppose is to be expected. The benefits of places with an abundance of tourist opportunities, like Angkor, means that the economy will grow from a natural resource (in this case, a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the locals will see immediate benefit from a growth in labor, infrastructure, investments, resources etc because the presence of foreigners demand those things. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, as Mr. Raty pointed out, foreign influences come with baggage, like religious holidays (in this case it was Christmas) or out-of-place foods like Mexican taquerias, and even more serious is the pollution, a divide between those able to benefit from direct contact with tourists and those who are less monetarily affected, deforestation, wear and tear and safety of the tourist site for posterity, amongst other issues. In 2013, Angkor Wat experienced an excess of 2 million visitors (not Cambodia as a whole, just this site) with a steady nearly 20% yearly increase. I am certainly no economist, but there is an obvious constant struggle between maintaining massive historical sites like this temple complex for future generations of visitors, archaeologists, and other knowledge seekers, while still being able to reap the benefits of open access in the present day for millions of current visitors.
As interesting as visiting this site was for me, it was more interesting hearing the perspectives of the local people that we encountered. Our tuk-tuk driver moonlighted as a tourist driver even though he has a full time job as a police officer. But they only get paid 90$ a month(!) for that, which isn’t enough to support his new wife and baby, he said that he gets 20$ a day to be a tuk-tuk driver around the site to supplement his income. Mr. Raty said he dreamed of traveling outside of Cambodia for the first time. Some people near the reflection pool (classic photo-op spot in Angkor Wat) who were visiting from another Cambodian province where there are no tourists, asked my friends to pose with them in photos in order to show their friends/family back home that they met ‘tourists’. Our guide said they wanted to pose with Hannah and Paul specifically because most visitors from other provinces were equating being fair skinned with being foreign, and those photos would prove they had the means to travel to places where tourists frequented.
Just briefly, for Southeast Asia and Cambodia, the temple complex at Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1992. Cambodia is in fact the only country to have a building on their national flag- and it is an image of Angkor Wat. The temple complex stretches over some 400 square km, throughout northwest Cambodia and contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th century to the 15th century. Places that we were able to visit included the famous Temple of Angkor Wat (which translates to Temple City or City of Temples), and Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple (which will be featured in Chapter Three of the series). Words do not describe how magnificent these ruins of a long-lost Empire reveal themselves to visitors- calling it ‘stepping into the past’ could not be more literal. The imagination truly has the chance to run wild there, where tales of kings and gods of old become more real with each step up the stairway to heaven….
Please stay tuned for Chapter 3 in “Global ArchaeoVentures: The Diver Travels to Cambodia” also known as “An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia” where the story at Angkor Wat continues.
Please see Chapter Two on Youtube
– UNESCO: World Heritage Site
– BBC News: Are there too many tourists at Angkor’s temples?
Feb2015092015 / Feb / 09
Monuments are a curious concept in modern society – just as the victors often write history, those in power are also responsible for determining what is valuable – what is worth memorializing and what should be forgotten. What defines “good” destruction from “bad?”
Although upon first hearing that question one would likely wonder what destruction of a monument could ever be “good?”
November 9, 2014 was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – an event many would argue as a major turning point toward a more unified Germany, more unified Europe, and a more prosperous West – its destruction overall. Few today would argue that the Berlin wall should have remained intact. Yet, will archaeologists hundreds of years from now consider the destruction of the wall a loss of important tangible heritage? Only time will tell. But today, as nations the world over work to have pieces of cultural heritage repatriated to their homeland, it may seem contradictory that we laud the sale or loss of some of these items yet celebrate the sale of others, in particular pieces of the Berlin wall.
On the one hand, the argument can be made for the sale of such a (literally) dividing piece of history in the sense that it empowers a people to reclaim their society and take back their freedoms. However, once this history becomes antiquity will future minds have changed about the sale of this major portion of history? Even decades later, past tourists are returning pieces of monuments such as those at Pompeii – yet at the same time a piece of the Berlin wall can be found on eBay.
But admittedly, Europe is not my forte – so let’s look at an example that may have more resonance with the current era: the toppling of Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad’s Firdos Square on April 9, 2003 after the US invasion of Iraq.
You’ve seen this scene before – from the invaders of ancient history conquering their enemies, to the demonstrators of Ukraine protesting communism today, to the destruction of ancient societies by modern ones – such as the recent campaign of ISIL today. Why is it that we lament the losses from destruction of the ancient world, while lauding the same types of destruction for monuments today?
Perhaps it is the fact that some believe that time can make something valuable.
Yet, if an object’s worth appreciates with time – are we then undermining the value of our future by not lamenting the destruction of modern history in the same way that we condemn the destruction of our past?
Should we only be condemning the demolition of our past and not our future? Who should determine what is ok to destroy and what is not? These are questions with many answers, and we are looking to you to send us your thoughts!
Here’s some further reading to help you inform your thoughts on the argument:
Feb2015022015 / Feb / 02
When most people hear “archaeology” one of the first things that comes to mind is Indiana Jones. How is it that a pop culture icon became the mascot of a scientific discipline?
Archaeology – and all of the romanticized tales of ancient mummies and temples that come with it – has been entwined in pop culture since people first began literally digging into our history.
In the late nineteenth century, common fads for elites involved “mummy unwrapping parties.” Although today many would see this as a desecration of a deceased person, most elite Victorians didn’t see anything wrong with damaging pre-Christian bodies.
Mummies were simply a curiosity of the orient. But as the study of the ancient Near East became a common place academic discipline – particularly after the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone in 1822 by Jean François Champollion – archaeology found its way into the imaginations of the West and the increasingly developing world of popular culture.
Ancient Egypt was used to sell everything from cigarettes to soap. And it carved out its own niche in Hollywood well before the days of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider.
Elizabeth Taylor’s famous role as Cleopatra is still well known in popular culture today as one of the iconic images of Cleopatra – never mind that many historians believe that it was not physical beauty, but wit, wisdom, and womanly cunning that made the real Cleopatra a legend of history. In reality, she is an example of what women should be valued for in society – their intellect and strength of character – but this was not the idealized beauty that Western culture wanted to portray.
Politics of women in history and Hollywood aside – one question remains: do the common misconceptions created by archaeology in popular culture hinder or help the overall discipline?
Some may think that if the public is going to learn about archaeology or history is should be with accuracy from the beginning.
However, here’s my person opinion: As someone who began studying the discipline just at the cusp of the recession and finished grad school with the effects of an economic crisis in full swing, I must say that anything that gets the public interested enough in a discipline to patronize a museum or donate to an archaeological excavation is something worth containing. Most people get into a science one way or another based on a romanticized view of what it is. Unfortunately, cut backs in government funding for research and an economic crisis that has made many funding sources at foundations and universities tighten their belts means that other routes of funding must be sought.
But this is a debate that can go on forever – so what are your thoughts on archaeology in pop culture? Does it damage the mind of the public or expand it?Crowd funding has become a new means of revenue for archaeologists to seek in gathering funding for their research. But with a source of funding that relies on the public, archaeologists must be able to appeal to the internet world’s non-scholars to get their attention – and of course dollars. This kind of appeal would not be nearly as effective if it weren’t for all of the fantasized, glorified, and heroic archaeology adventures that Hollywood and western culture portray – regardless of how inaccurate it is. Those inaccuracies provide an opportunity to grasp the imagination of the wider public and engage them in a way where those misinformed interests can be put to rest in the name of science.
For further info on crowdfunding your archaeo-project and archaeology in pop culture, check these out: