The other day while watching one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who the particular episode that I was watching got me thinking about how Archaeologists and Archaeology are portrayed in Science Fiction. Science Fiction has so much flexibility to change things into what ever they want but the one thing that I have really noticed in many of the SciFi shows that I have seen and watched is that archaeology is something that seems to stay very true to the archaeology that we all know and love.
The episode of Doctor Who, Silence in the Library from Series 4 is the episode that got me thinking about this, why? In a show about a time traveller, you wouldn’t necessarily think that the concept of archaeology would necessarily be approached in a similar way that we know the discipline here and now. The archaeological team still, in an episode that is supposed to take place thousands of years in the future, are still on a mission to collect data to find out what happened at the particular place at a particular point in time. They are still there as the interpreters of the past, which in a way, in a show about time travel is kind of ironic, when you spend many episodes seeing the characters actually visiting places in the past.
In many ways, I SciFi opens up many different opportunities and experiences for archaeology. Xenoarchaeology is something that comes up quite frequently in many SciFi books and TV shows. Human curiosity is one of the reasons why I think that SciFi writers include the discipline in many of their stories. The other example that comes to mind for me is the Stargate Movie and the TV show Stargate SG-1 that spun off from the movie. For those of you that haven’t seen the show, much of the basis for the storyline is the crazy theories that Archaeologist Dr. Daniel Jackson comes up with about the Egyptian Pyramids being landing sites for alien space ships. When his theory is subsequently proven to be true, Jackson becomes a member of an expedition team to act as a cultural interpreter, linguist, archaeologist. In many ways characters like this exist in every SciFi show as a kind of cheat because they always have the answers to every posed question. The cool thing about SG-1 is that in many cases, Dr. Jackson is on expiditions to learn about civilizations on alien planets and to learn about their technology which as the show progresses becomes more and more integrated into thier own technologies on Earth.
In both of these cases, I find that the idea behind what archaeologists stand for now is pulled through into the SciFi world. I also find that in the case of Stargate especially, you find that the issues behind ethics not only from the archaeological perspective but in many ways an overall anthropological perspective as well is brought forth by the archaeologist characters in dealing with alien civilizations.
I have always found the idea of parallels in SciFi archaeology versus archaeology today a somewhat interesting idea especially because of the amount of freedom and flexibility that is opened up by the SciFi universe. I’d love to hear what you all think about this.
For those of you who were unable to make it to class today, I thought I would post a brief recap of my Internet Review presentation and some of the issues that came up in the subsequent discussion.
The ensuing class discussion revolved around whether or not archaeologists should care what other people believe about the archaeological resources in question. On one side of the debate, some archaeologists believe that as stewards over the past, we have a responsibility to disseminate the ‘truth’, arrived at through rational scientific inquiry. On the other hand, others object to this idea of absolutism, particularly because the archaeologists who criticize alternative archaeologies use dismissive rhetoric which does not encourage further discussion or collaboration, silencing multiple voices.
In class, Neal mentioned that to provide more information on the subject, we should take a look at an article by Cornelius Holtorf. I’ve also discovered the rebuttal article by Fagan and Feder. You can find both in JSTOR, through the library’s website. I’ve included the reference information below to make it an easier find.
If you’d like to read through these two articles (they are short!), maybe we could have a lively and engaging discussion on them in the comments over the Easter Break? If today’s class was any indication, it would appear that a lot of you have quite a bit to say on the topic!
Holtorf, Cornelius. “Beyond Crusades: How (Not) to Engage with Alternative Archaeologies.” World Archaeology 37 (2005): 544-551.
Fagan, Garrett G., and Feder, Kenneth L. “Crusading against Straw Men: An Alternative View of Alternative Archaeologies: Response to Holtorf (2005).” World Archaeology 38 (2006): 718-729.
Our label printers have arrived and we are now able to print off artifact catalogue numbers as tiny 3.5×3.5mm DM (data matrix) codes. The codes are printed using a thermal transfer printer on custom die-cut labels made of archival-quality polypropylene. The labels encoded with the artifact’s catalogue number will be affixed to the surface of the artifact itself using Paraloid B-72, an acrylic resin. As with traditional artifact labeling methods, the acrylic resin will be applied both under and over the DM code, to both protect the surface of the artifact, and to affix the code to the artifact.
The system that Sustainable Archaeology will use for assigning and coding artifacts with DM codes has been adapted from work by Spanish archaeologists at the Centre for the Studies of Archaeological and Prehistoric Heritage at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Using DM codes, the archaeologists at UAB are able to tag and identify even tiny artifacts without having to write directly on the artifact surface.
Dr. Rhonda Bathurst and Kira Westby of Sustainable Archaeology will be presenting a poster at the upcoming SAA conference in Hawaii in April that will introduce the DM coding at Sustainable Archaeology as part of Sustainable Archaeology’s broader inventory management system for artifacts, which includes RFID tagging, as well as the DM coding of shelf locations, artifact bags, and the artifacts themselves.
The World Archaeology Congress is raising funds to make their conference accessible online this year for individuals and organizations that can not afford to make the trip to the Congress in Jordan. I suspect this is the type of activity … Continue reading → [...]
Lancaster University Friday 30th November, 2012 Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are becoming increasingly used by historians, archaeologists, literary scholars, classicists and others with an interest in humanities geographies. Take-up has been hampered by a lack of understanding of what GIS is and what it has to offer to these disciplines. This free workshop, sponsored by the […] [...]
Powered by WordPress & Atahualpa