This article addresses the relations between archaeology and social anthropology, as exemplified by archaeological research in the Middle East. It is argued that further integration between both disciplines, as well as between archaeological theories, methods and data, is necessary. As an example of such an 'archaeology of relations', an analysis of domestication in the prehistoric Middle East is presented in summary.
Relating the Past and the Present
British Prehistoric Collections and Archaeology in the Museums of the Future
Catherine J. Frieman and Neil Wilkin
Over the past 30 years, Britain’s large archaeological museums and collections have shifted their focus away from academic visitors exploring their stores and collections and toward the dynamic presentation of permanent and temporary displays. These are arranged to emphasize compelling and relevant interpretative narratives over the presentation of large numbers of objects. The shift to digitization and the online presentation of collections is a major feature of public engagement activities at many museums but also might open older and less accessible collections up to research. In this article, we consider what role digital platforms may have in the future of British museum-based archaeology, with special reference to initiatives at the British Museum. We suggest that online collections have the potential to mediate between engaging the public and allowing professional archaeologists to develop sophisticated research programs, since these platforms can present multiple narratives aimed at different audiences.
Archaeology, Ritual, and Religion
This article is an introduction to the emerging sub-discipline of the archaeology of ritual and religion. It addresses the question of how archaeologists can approach these fields: what are the challenges and opportunities? Using theory and methodology, ritual and religion are explored in the archaeological record by means of so-called framing, and an interpretation is attempted through analogy and 'ethos'. Selected Neolithic sites from the Near East that have yielded rich and important data regarding ritual and religion serve as examples.
Toward a Prehistory of Human-Animal Relations
The discipline of archaeology has long engaged with animals in a utilitarian mode, constructing animals as objects to be hunted, manipulated, domesticated, and consumed. Only recently, in tandem with the rising interest in animals in the humanities and the development of interdisciplinary animal studies research, has archaeology begun to systematically engage with animals as subjects. This article describes some of the ways in which archaeologists are reconstructing human engagements with animals in the past, focusing on relational modes of interaction documented in many hunting and gathering societies. Among the most productive lines of evidence for human-animal relations in the past are animal burials and structured deposits of animal bones. These archaeological features provide material evidence for relational ontologies in which animals, like humans, were vested with sentience and agency.
Some Examples from Spanish Museums
Lourdes Prados Torreira
Through the items in archaeological museums’ collections, it is possible to create inclusive narratives and discourses in which different social groups, ethnicities, age groups, and genders can and must be present. With this in mind, we shall focus our attention on some Spanish archaeological museums inaugurated in recent years, with the aim of analyzing how they have represented and represent women, which roles are assigned to women within the collective community, and how gender relations in past societies are illustrated.
Collections Care at the Laboratory of Archaeology
Archaeological repositories are active spaces that preserve the archaeological record for future research and care for the cultural and ancestral heritage of Indigenous communities. Repositories therefore have the potential to be sites of continued collaborative engagement between scholars and communities. The Laboratory of Archaeology (LOA) at the University of British Columbia is a repository that now works with communities to respectfully care for their cultural material, while still remaining committed to research and education. Drawing on interviews with LOA members and my own experience working at the lab, I explore the ways LOA’s practices and policies work to mitigate power asymmetry and facilitate sharing knowledge between communities and scholars.
Edgar James Banks and Early American Archaeology in Iraq
This article examines the specifically American cultural features of the archaeological expedition to Adab/Bismya sponsored by the University of Chicago from 1903 to 1906. In particular, the motivations of the University and of the University's field director at Adab, Edgar James Banks, and Banks's relationship with the University, are investigated. These factors crucially influenced what Banks found at Adab, a site we are unlikely to learn more about because of its near destruction by illegal digging after the 2003 War.
Disentangling Provenance, Provenience, and Context in Vanuatu Assemblages
James L. Flexner
The archaeological value of museum collections is not limited to collections labelled “archaeology.” “Ethnology” or “ethnography” collections can provide useful information for evaluating broadly relevant theoretical and methodological discussions in the discipline. The concepts of provenience (where something was found), provenance (where the materials for an object originated), and context (the ways an object is and was interpreted and used within a cultural milieu) are central to much archaeological interpretation. Archaeologists have often looked to living societies as analogues for better understanding these issues. Museum ethnographic collections from Vanuatu provide a case study offering a complementary approach, in which assemblages of ethnographic objects and associated information allow us to reconstruct complex networks of movement, exchange, and entanglement.
Multigenerational Perspectives on American Archaeology-Museum Relationships
April M. Beisaw and Penelope H. Duus
At the turn of the twentieth century, American museums helped to legitimize archaeology as a scientific discipline. By the next century, repatriation legislation had forced archaeologists to confront the dehumanization that can take place when bodies and sacred objects are treated as scientific specimens. Charting the future(s) of archaeology-museum relationships requires us to (1) recognize where, when, and how harm has been done, (2) confront those harmful precedents, and (3) restructure collections and exhibits in ways that heal wounds and advance research. Current research on the 1916 Susquehanna River Expedition, an archaeology-museum project funded by George Gustav Heye, provides insight into how our predecessors viewed their work. Using the expedition project as backdrop, an archaeology professor and an undergraduate student engage in a dialogue that explores the changing roles of American museums as the public faces of archaeology, training grounds for young professionals, and cultural centers for us all.
Dig Less, Catalog More
Julia A. King
Legacy collections are an increasingly valued source of information for researchers interested in the study and interpretation of colonialism in the Chesapeake Bay region of North America. Through the reexamination of 34 archaeological collections ranging in date from 1500 through 1720, researchers, including the author, have been able to document interactions among Europeans, Africans, and indigenous people in this part of the early modern Atlantic. We could do this only because we turned to existing collections; no single site could reveal this complex story. This article summarizes the major findings from this work and describes the pleasures and challenges of comparative analysis using existing collections. Collections-based research can also be used to inform fieldwork, so the legacy collections of tomorrow are in as good shape as possible. Indeed, collections-based work reveals the need for a critical dialogue concerning the methods, methodology, and ethics of both collections- and field-based research.