Archaeologies of the transient and intangible: what gets valued and why?
Concepts of value and worth usually underlie many of our activities as archaeologists, whether consciously or otherwise. The ways in which these are manifested in practice can be both obvious and more subtle, and context dependent.
Physical monumental remains are open to direct, immediate and apparent (e)valuation, whether social, intellectual or economic, but the transient and intangible past has value too, constructed through the memories and meanings that become attached to locales.
In this session we would like to explore how concepts of value are constructed and contested, how they can be applied to intangible pasts, and the methodologies of measuring value, discussing the value of social and shared meaning, memory and identity as applied to concepts such as the cultural value of sites of trauma, the archaeology of commemoration, transient archaeologies of the immediate past, shared senses of place and identity, and the physicality of social memory.
Intangible past: transient present. A case study of value and how it is assigned
Fay Stevens (Institute of Archaeology and Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching, University College London, UK; University of Notre Dame, USA)
Visiting the site of Stonehenge (Wiltshire, UK) today is an experience many people consider to be intangible and transient. Drawing upon the experiences of international students taking a course in archaeology and ethics at the University of Notre Dame (London Programme), this paper considers how value is defined and assigned by these students in their experience and understanding of the site and its environs. Issues raised include rights of ownership, political and moral viewpoints, multi-vocality, and how these are articulated. This approach positions the students’ understanding through the critical lens of the value of cultural perceptions of sites/landscapes and encourages an awareness of issues of identity, individual and social responsibilities and professional conduct. As such, a consideration of value (in this context) and how it is assigned can be seen to engage students with the very notion of an intangible/transient past/present and the resulting development of intellectual ideas in the discipline.
Building a past: the construction of early Neolithic identity and structures
Jolene Debert (University of Manchester, UK)
The phenomenon of the early Neolithic timber structure has intrigued, divided and sparked much debate as to its role within early Neolithic life in Britain. With a refinement in dating, the transition into the Neolithic is becoming clearer though muddied with countless contradictory theories and interpretations. The intangibility of their function and meaning has stunted work.
In an attempt to remove this barrier to understanding their nature, I have looked directly at the material evidence of these large structures, specifically the flints, investigating the construction of memory and its association with a place. These large timber buildings were the first monuments built in the early Neolithic in Britain. It is clear that their meaning was pivotal for the development of the new identity of people invoking these changes to their lifeways.
Exposing tangible heritage in correlation with a system of values and concepts within Mexican archaeologies
Lilia Lizama Aranda (EMCSA), Julio Hoil (CIESAS), Harlen Tuz (University of Yucatan/EMCSA) and Susana Echeverría Castillo (University of Yucatan, Mexico)
Mexican local concepts as to what gets valued and why are specifically oriented in economics within a global age. This means that cultural heritage moves on a platform on which value is ascribed in terms of economic gains.
We will explain cases in which archaeological sites, our first platform, are in themselves categorized within a staircase of economic importance based on their physical features, setting aside intrinsic perspectives of value: political, social, and technological.
On the other hand, we have a platform of concepts that consciously surrounds specialists’ activities; concepts that include inhabitants’ desires to help protect and promote a cultural site for their own benefit. This platform should have a balanced set of values and concepts to include binding heritage and the identity of local descendants with that of a site.
Finally, we should learn, teach, and communicate diverse heritage to professionals and engage them with the public at large. Measuring value in terms of networking allows us to create a system recognizing efforts achieved in developing countries.
Historic markers: the construction of valuable heritage, tangible and intangible
Suzanne Spencer-Wood (Oakland University and Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, USA)
My historical archaeology classes conduct a research project analyzing who puts up historic markers in southeast Michigan and why. This project has revealed which kinds of sites have a modern constituency, and which kinds of sites are not marked. It is significant that many historic markers mark buildings that have become intangible in the sense that they have been destroyed. Some markers are also concerned with intangible aspects of heritage at sites, such as marking the home of a woman who dressed as a man and served in the Civil War. Remains of this activity would probably not be excavated at the woman's post Civil-war marital household site that has been marked but has also been destroyed. This case also illustrates the androcentric emphasis in historic markers in the Detroit area. The vast majority of historic markers focus on men's public activities, even when marking a man's house site. House site markers may mention a man's wife and children, but seldom name them. The family is subsumed under the male head of household. Only 12% of historic site markers focus on women's activities. Charitable sites are also rarely marked, a fact that is probably related to the ideology that considered women innately more pious, moral, and suited to charitable activities than men. Most historic markers are concerned with men's capitalist activities, materializing the dominant national narrative of industrialization. In Detroit, most marked sites are white, but the African-American community has marked many churches, underground railroad sites, black schools and households, still predominantly focussing on men's activities. Very few historic markers are concerned with Native American sites, and the narrative usually focuses on white conquest. Many white site markers are concerned with colonization and do not mention Native Americans. The intangible dominant group narratives determine which tangible historic sites are marked as significant aspects of America's heritage.
Value in prehistory (with reference to the Balkans)
Lolita Nikolova (Department of Anthropology, College of Social and Behavioral Science, University of Utah, USA)
Value is one of the essential topics of conceptualization in the recent theoretical prehistoric research on the Balkans (see e.g. Bailey 1998, 2005; Souvatzi 2008; Nikolova et al. 2009 with refs.). Our research attempts to explore how the concept of value evolved, materialized and developed during the Neolithic, Copper and earlier Bronze Ages between the Carpathians and the Aegean. We have a two-fold goal: to test the modern understanding of value against the archaeological data and to observe whether the empirical data from Balkan Prehistory will bring theoretical conclusions that may contradict some of the general understanding of value in Prehistory.
In the context of Balkan prehistoric data (e.g. Nikolova 1999, 2000, 2003; Nikolova et al. 2009; Bailey 1998, 2000, 2005; Todorova 2002; Souvatzi 2008), it looks that prehistoric value is a concept that had developed gradually, including new and different material and non-material expressions and dependant on innovations, complexity, multi-scale cultural networks and many other factors. Specific problems are how the concepts of value and wealth interacted in Balkan Prehistory, as well as how innovative materials (e.g. spondylus, copper, gold, silver, etc.) created new values. We will also outline the differences between the settlement and burial data for analyses of value in Prehistory and the sharp ambiguity of some archaeological records by constructing anthropological models. The archaeological framework includes the following cultural horizons:
• Early Neolithic (Koprivets I – Karanovo I-II – Starčevo) (later 7th – mid 6th millennium cal BCE);
• Late Neolithic and Early Copper Age (Karanovo III – IV – V – Vinča – Boian – Hamangia – early Cucuteni) (later 6th – mid 5th millennium cal BCE),
• Late and Final Copper Ages (Sălcuţa / Kodzhadermen / Bubanj – Gumelniţa / Karanovo VI / Varna – Sălcuţa IV / Telish IV – Cernavoda I – later Cucuteni) (later 5th – earlier 4th millennium cal BCE), and
• Early Bronze Age (Cernavoda III / Boleraz – Yunatsite – Ezero – Coţofeni – Kostolac – Vučedol – Pit Grave Culture, etc.) (later 4th – 3rd millennium cal BCE).
Bailey, D.W. (Ed.) (1998). The Archaeology of Value. Essays on Prestige ad the Processes of Valuation. BAR International Series 730. Oxford: BAR.
Bailey, D.W. (2000). Balkan Prehistory. Exclusion, Incorporation and Identity. London & New York: Routledge.
Bailey D.W. (2005). Prehistoric Figurines: Representation and corporeality in the Neolithic. Routledge, London and New York: Taylor & Francis Group.
Nikolova, L. (Ed.). (1996). Early Bronze Age Settlement Patterns in the Balkans (ca. 3500-2000 BC). Parts 2-3. Sofia: Agato.
Nikolova, L. (1999). The Balkans in Later Prehistory. BAR International Series 791. Oxford: BAR.
Nikolova, L. (Ed.). (2000). Technology, Style and Society. Contributions to the Innovations between the Alps and the Black Sea in Prehistory. BAR International Series 854. Oxford: BAR.
Nikolova, L. (Ed.). (2003). Early Symbolic Systems for Communication in Southeast Europe. BAR International Series 1139. Vol. 1-2. Oxford: BAR.
Nikolova, L., Comşa, A. & Merlini, M. (Eds.). (2009). Circumpontica in Prehistory: Western Eurasian Studies. In Memory of Eugen Comşa. BAR International Series. Oxford: BAR (in print)
Souvatzi, S. (2008). A Social Archaeology of Households in Neolithic Greece. An Anthropological Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Todorova, H. (Hg.) (2002). Durankulak. II. Die prähistorische Gräberfelder. 1-2. Sofia: Anubis Ltd.
Fly me to the moon: protecting the immediate past at the Apollo 11 Tranquility Base Site
Beth Laura O'Leary (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, New Mexico State University, USA)
Many of the "Space Age" artifacts and sites lie at the boundary between heritage objects and space junk. It is a large complex technological assemblage which is transient in several respects: it is thought to represent outmoded and obsolete ideas, is no longer working and is perceived as standing in the way of more advanced technologies. The preservation issues are huge in terms both of volume and of how to protect objects in space or on other celestial bodies like the Moon. The challenges faced by the Lunar Legacy Project in demonstrating the urgency and necessity of valuing the significance of the Apollo 11 landing site on the Moon are explored as well as how to find ways of dealing with heritage in off-earth environments.
The contesting of value at Prestongrange?
Phil Richardson (Department of Archaeology, Newcastle University, UK)
It recently has been suggested that in the fields of archaeological heritage and public archaeology, archaeologists have to confront the central issues of what archaeology does, what archaeology makes, and what archaeology is for. In this regard Value would appear of central importance. The issue of what is valued, why and by whom surfaced recently at The Prestongrange Community Archaeological Project (a heritage project developed by East Lothian Council Archaeological Service) near Edinburgh, Scotland. The standing remains of the 19th century colliery predominate the site but also visually disguise the fact that the site has had a lengthy and highly significant social and economic past. The excavations and documentary work were conducted by volunteers from the local community, many of whom had relatives, some not so distant, that had worked in the on-site industries. Oral history, provided by surviving former workers and local residents, was also recorded by many of the volunteers.
However, it was the volunteers’ enthusiasm to use and discuss the archaeological deposits they were excavating as a means to explain the more recent past, often understood through the oral history they themselves had recorded, that undercut the standard concept of ‘value’ in archaeology. The discovery of a 17th century glass-flue, as expected, was particularly ‘valued’ both by the archaeologists and the volunteers who took a great deal of pride in the discovery. Yet, it was the chance for the volunteers to come together, in a place where a shared sense of identity and awareness of the immediate past was associated with local social memory, that was of more ‘value’ to this project. This paper will explore these conflicting senses of ‘value’ and explore how the understanding of the archaeological layers and deposits became a contest between excavation methodologies and the replaying of memories and meanings associated with the histories of more recent relatives. Thus, the paper demonstrates how, in this instance, it was the transient nature of the excavation process itself, and not just the results of excavation, that was of real ‘value’; it created a rich working environment and added considerably to the quality and importance of the project as a whole.
The archaeology of The Battle of Orgreave
Kenneth Aitchison (Institute for Archaeologists, UK)
The miners’ strike of 1984-85 was the most significant industrial dispute in late twentieth century Britain. The strike, characterised by violent clashes between striking miners and the police, was in response to proposals which would lead to pit closures and job losses. After a year-long dispute, it ended with the miners returning to work defeated and Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government triumphant. Subsequently, the pit closure programme led to profound financial and social dislocation with continuing bitter resentment in many of the former coal-mining areas.
The most significant confrontation of the strike took place outside Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire on 18 June 1984. Subsequently, this clash has acquired semi-mythical status – “As a symbol of the broader industrial fight, community solidarity, radical intent, and a struggle against a reactionary security and police apparatus, Orgreave stands pre-eminent” (Hunt 2006) - the importance of which has been maintained by oral tradition and, in a post-modernist twist, through a televised historical re-enactment in 2001.
Following the near ending of deep-mine coal extraction in Britain, the former landscapes of the strike have changed enormously. This paper will explore the physical landscape of the site of conflict to examine whether there really is an archaeology of “The Battle”, or whether the physical traces of the past as a place of dispute and confrontation, have been deliberately reshaped and reformed in the post-industrial era.
Hunt, T. (2006). The charge of the heavy brigade, The Guardian, 4 September 2006.
Displaying prejudice and subjectivity: archaeologists’ treatment of Mesoamerica versus their lack of interest on Aridamerica (hunter-gatherer) archaeology in Mexico
Leticia González Arratia (Museo Regional de La Laguna, Torreón, Coah., México)
History of Mexican archaeology reveals a great interest in studying sites and monumental sculpture since the second part of the XVIIIth century. Since that time, both nationals and foreigners have focused their attention on large prehispanic cities, mainly those showing impressive architecture, decorated ceramics, stone steles, etc. These types of remains are found mostly in Central and Southeast Mexico in the cultural area known as Mesoamerica.
Other types of archaeological remains, such as those left by hunter-gatherer societies or small agricultural villages in the desert of Northern Mexico in the cultural area known as Aridamerica, were only acknowledged seriously as part of the study of archaeology after the second part of the XXth century. This has to do with the history of the country as well as with politics and the need to reinforce Mexican identity. It is also related to a prejudiced attitude on the part of archaeologists towards societies lacking architectural remains, stone sculpture and decorated ceramics, considered as unworthy of being studied and denying them even the possibility that they had built their own and characteristic civilization different from Mesoamerican societies.
The aim of this paper is to provide an account of this fact and propose that the archaeology of hunter-gatherer societies of the desert in Mexico have been the target of subjective and biased treatment on the part of archaeologists. The result has been an absolute silence about the importance of their technological improvements, economic, social and political strategies, as well as their ritual life, and even to ignore the monumentality of some archaeological remains such as pictographs, petroglyphs and burial places.
Heritage values in contemporary society
George Smith (Southeast Archeological Center, USA)
Discussion of heritage in the twenty-first century must include the many voices representing the heritage sector and stakeholders, including but not limited to those in archaeology (university professors as well as governmental, private sector, and public archaeologists), law, economics, historic preservation, education, tourism, and indigenous populations. Discussions should address how the past is valued and how such values can be defined and applied to public policy, spending, management, education (at all levels), education and training of heritage sector professionals, economic and sustainable development, and delivered services relating to a collective heritage in a manner that is accountable and includes public involvement.