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Subjects and Narratives in Archaeology

Subjects and Narratives in Archaeology

Ruth M. Van Dyke
Reinhard Bernbeck
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Subjects and Narratives in Archaeology
    Book Description:

    Seeking to move beyond the customary limits of archaeological prose and representation,Subjects and Narratives in Archaeologypresents archaeology in a variety of nontraditional formats. The volume demonstrates that visual art, creative nonfiction, archaeological fiction, video, drama, and other artistic pursuits have much to offer archaeological interpretation and analysis.Chapters in the volume are augmented by narrative, poetry, paintings, dialogues, online databases, videos, audio files, and slideshows. The work will be available in print and as an enhanced ebook that incorporates and showcases the multimedia elements in archaeological narrative. While exploring these new and not-so-new forms, the contributors discuss the boundaries and connections between empirical data and archaeological imagination.Both a critique and an experiment,Subjects and Narratives in Archaeologyaddresses the goals, advantages, and difficulties of alternative forms of archaeological representation. Exploring the idea that academically sound archaeology can be fun to create and read, the book takes a step beyond the boundaries of both traditional archaeology and traditional publishing.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-381-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. 1 Alternative Narratives and the Ethics of Representation: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)
    Ruth M. Van Dyke and Reinhard Bernbeck

    Traditionally, archaeologists have constructed arguments through expository texts supported with images. However, there is an increasing clamor for and interest in alternative forms of archaeological narratives, involving writing fiction, making films, constructing hypertexts, and creating media that transcend the traditional limitations of expository prose and the linearity of language. Visual art, fiction, creative nonfiction, film, and drama have much to offer archaeological interpretation and analysis, as many critics since the 1990s have made clear (e.g., Joyce 2002; Pluciennik 1999).

    Despite the hegemony of third-person expository texts in archaeological scholarship, archaeologists have long experimented with representational forms that transcend these boundaries,...

  4. 2 Creating Narratives of the Past as Recombinant Histories
    (pp. 27-54)
    Ruth Tringham

    There are narratives about history with beginnings and endings, and there are narratives with no beginning and no ending. Even as a ten-year old I was never happy with E. Nesbit’s philosophy of writing: “There are some things I must tell before I begin to tell about the treasure-seeking, because I have read books myself, and I know how beastly it is when a story begins, ‘Alas!’ said Hildegarde with a deep sigh, ‘we must look our last on this ancestral home’—and then some one else says something—and you don’t know for pages and pages where the home...

  5. 3 Authoritative and Ethical Voices: From Diktat to the Demotic
    (pp. 55-82)
    Mark Pluciennik

    In this democratic age, should archaeologists be considered primarily as conduits for putting certain kinds of data, information, and stories about the past into play for various groups to interpret as they wish? Or do the forms of their productions and interventions have more subtle and potentially political implications? If we accept that there are various ways and increasingly available different means of constructing archaeological stories, narratives, and texts, what might these alternatives mean in practice for archaeologists and consumers? I want to explore these issues initially through examining the notion of “authority” within archaeological representations, here referring to both...

  6. 4 The Chacoan Past: Creative Representations and Sensory Engagements
    (pp. 83-100)
    Ruth M. Van Dyke

    We have much to gain through scholarly, sensuous engagements with the past. In this chapter I argue this point using two short, creative projects—an “imagined narrative” with accompanying PowerPoint file, and an audiovisual clip. Imagined narratives are creative nonfiction in which the author employs archaeological information to portray imagined fragments of past lives. Through the audiovisual clip, I attempt to convey a bundled, or entangled, set of relationships (Hodder 2012; Pauketat 2013) using nontextual aural engagement. In both, I am attempting to transcend the shortcomings of descriptive exegesis by following the writer’s maxim “show, don’t tell” (Kress 2006). I...

  7. 5 Landscape: The Reservoir of the Unconscious
    (pp. 101-122)
    Phillip Tuwaletstiwa and Judy Tuwaletstiwa

    Our participation in this project respects the premise of this book: to increase archaeological knowledge by incorporating text, art, fiction, song, poetry, video, audio, and Internet links. Within this array of approaches, our chapter is a radical departure from a traditional archaeological presentation: we use fiction as an informing device. This might not sit well with people accustomed to a traditional archaeological approach. Consequently, our chapter is similar to Swift’sModest Proposal: it encourages exploratory avenues of thought outside an established tradition.

    In this chapter, our references are to Pueblo people, specifically the Hopi of northern Arizona. Overarching characteristics of...

  8. 6 Archaeologists as Storytellers: The Docudrama
    (pp. 123-144)
    Mary Praetzellis and Adrian Praetzellis

    Adrian and I have always written stories. Perhaps we are frustrated artists, lacking the talent and discipline to create from scratch. But putting aside those personal failings, it is more likely that we write stories because our career paths through the emerging discipline of late-nineteenth-century, publicly funded historical archaeology provided the means and motivation to try something different, with few to advise or admonish us otherwise. Our archaeological work proceeded in the usual sequence: the development and implementation of a detailed social scientific research design, careful historical research and meticulous archaeological excavation, consistent artifact identification and analysis, a detailed technical...

  9. 7 Constructive Imagination and the Elusive Past: Playwriting as Method
    (pp. 145-168)
    James G. Gibb

    In the 1970s and 1980s the hypothetico-deductive approach—its power and pitfalls—dominated much of archaeological discourse. Clear statement of postulates and questions, logical derivation of testable implications, and testing of null hypotheses—essentially trying to disprove one’s hypothesis—offered objectivity, replicability, and verity. The approach prompted discussions of the relative primacy of deduction and induction in the development of postulates and in research in general, and it focused interest on epistemology. The approach bespoke science. Largely omitted from the debates were the nature and role of imagination in research. The ineffability of imagination seemingly places it beyond positivist science....

  10. 8 The Archaeologist as Writer
    (pp. 169-188)
    Jonathan T. Thomas

    As anthropological archaeologists, we spend the majority of our time writing. Although we might envision our lives as ones spent working long hours in the field, the lab, or the classroom, in reality the longest hours are often spent in front of the keyboard, writing site reports, lectures, articles, books, reviews, and grant proposals—turning abstracts from last year into conference papers this year, only to turn those papers into articles or book chapters the next. The amount of daily correspondence we are expected to maintain with colleagues and students alone is staggering.

    Yet despite all this time spent writing,...

  11. 9 Eleven Minutes and Forty Seconds in the Neolithic: Underneath Archaeological Time
    (pp. 189-216)
    Doug Bailey and Melanie Simpkin

    Do archaeologists work at the appropriate timescale? The work presented in this chapter asks that question and is part of a longer, broader, multimedia output that focuses on the present and past of the rural village of Măgura in south-central Romania (Jasmin 2011; Mills 2010). A core theme is the opening up of action, people, and behavior in the past and the ways archaeology represents, responds to, and constructs those pasts. The work in this chapter is linked to a film (Twenty Minutes Inside Out: Landscape Transformation in Neolithic Southcentral Romania[]), which the lead author made in the summer...

  12. 10 The Talking Potsherds: Archaeologists as Novelists
    (pp. 217-234)
    Sarah Milledge Nelson

    “Narrative is the Other, the alter-ego of a scientific archaeology,” Christopher Tilley (1993: 1) proposed in his project to create space for interpretation in archaeology. He compared narratives in archaeology to theater performances: “Back stage is the space of theatrical machinery and direction. What is seen by the spectators on the stage is dependent on the complex support from this invisible beyond” (ibid.). The backstage analogy is particularly useful in thinking about archaeological fiction. To underpin any archaeological story, there must be actual excavations, studies of artifacts, knowledge of the environment, and much more. Putting the discoveries of the spade...

  13. 11 Limits of Archaeological Emplotments from the Perspective of Excavating Nazi Extermination Centers
    (pp. 235-256)
    Isaac Gilead

    In 2006 a student in my department, Yoram Haimi, asked me to supervise his doctoral dissertation. He suggested excavating the Nazi extermination center of Sobibór in eastern Poland. As a prehistorian, my immediate reaction was to refuse, but since I was aware that nobody in Israel is formally qualified to supervise such a dissertation, I agreed. The reason I agreed is that members of my family, including my grandparents, were exterminated at Treblinka, another Nazi extermination center in eastern Poland. Until 2009 we carried out three short field seasons at Sobibór, two of them devoted to excavations and one to...

  14. 12 From Imaginations of a Peopled Past to a Recognition of Past People
    (pp. 257-276)
    Reinhard Bernbeck

    Different paradigms in archaeology have resulted in specific narrative styles. When Kent Flannery (1967: 120) remarked that archaeologists should not search for “the Indian behind the artifact” but rather for “the system behind both the Indian and the artifact,” it was more than a statement about the content of archaeological research. It was a legitimation of processualist narratives whose human figures could remain shadowy to the point of nonexistence. The more abstract and general, the better, for two reasons. First, large-scale historical and other processes, researched by archaeology, anthropology, and history, were assumed by processualists to occur largely without the...

  15. 13 Wrestling with Truth: Possibilities and Peril in Alternative Narrative Forms
    (pp. 277-286)
    Sarah Pollock

    In fall of 2010, Binghamton University archaeologist Ruth M. Van Dyke emailed me with a curious invitation. A group of her colleagues were engaged in experimental methods of telling their research stories—“challenging the prevalence of the passive, expository style,” as she put it—and intended to present their work at the 76th meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA). Would I be willing to join their presentation and offer a critique of their work? At first I was somewhat flummoxed—I am, after all, a journalist and a professor of nonfiction writing—and it wasn’t clear to me...

  16. List of Contributors
    (pp. 287-290)
  17. Index
    (pp. 291-299)