World Archaeology

Canada > Colombia #worldinterview #16

Canada > Colombia

Interviewee: Jimena Lobo Guerrero Arenas

Has the designation of UNESCO World Heritage sites affected the recent development of Colombian archaeology?

This designation has served to make archaeological sites visible, to give them an official status and in the majority of cases, it has had a positive impact on them. In Colombia, two archaeological sites have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites: San Agustín and Tierradentro. They also hold the category of archaeological parks and are under the protection and administration of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History, ICANH. Thanks to Unesco’s designation they have received more attention from the state, which has meant a greater number of public funds for protection, outreach and research programs. In addition, there are specific archaeological management plans for each of these sites, that is, norms and regulations of what can be done and in what way.

On the other hand, many archaeological sites lie under urban centers that have also been declared Unesco World Heritage sites. Unfortunately, they have not received the attention and treatment they deserve. The historic center of Cartagena de Indias, for example, is itself an archaeological site. In this city, projects on conservation and restoration of building heritage have largely ignored the importance of the archaeological work.

Does the public have a different appreciation of the importance of pre-Colombian and colonial era archaeological sites?

To some extent archaeology in Colombia is synonymus with pre-Columbian while colonial archaeological sites are not clearly recognized. Archaeology in Colombia has traditionally concentrated its efforts on pre-Columbian sites, therefore, the importance given to historical archaeological sites is little when compared to pre-Columbian. On the other hand, legislation is stronger when it comes to pre-Columbian findings. Colonial era archaeological sites are under recognized, even if they fall within UNESCO World Heritage sites.

How do archaeologists work with indigenous and minority groups/communities when examining sensitive sites/material culture?

Human groups (whether indigenous or minority groups/communities) that inhabit archaeological sites or their areas of influence often tend to participate in archaeological projects as volunteers.In many cases, locals assist and engage in the excavation phase.According to legislation, archaeologists have to include as part of their research project a heritage management plan. Such plan must include an outreach program involving the participation of the local community. Archaeologists must raise awareness and provide information to the local community about the archaeological site, its importance, and how to protect it. Sometimes archaeologists offer training sessions to locals on issues related to protection of archaeological sites.

How does Colombia build capacity for minority groups to get involved in archaeology and museums?

Little efforts are being made on this regard. As mentioned in the previous response, archaeologists usually get locals to participate in archaeological projects. But, there is a lack of institutional programs to build capacity for minority groups to get involved in archaeology and museums. However, there are initiatives such as the Ministry of Culture, which, through the Directorate of Heritage, created the Cultural Heritage Watchers Program as a voluntary participation strategy seeking to integrate the communities interested in Cultural Heritage. Cultural Heritage Watchers are sometimes involved in archaeological projects and look after archaeological sites.

In addition, there are isolated cases of minority groups doing archaeology. I refer to the case of the Guambiano indigenous group, south of Colombia. A couple of decades ago, this group decided to do archaeology and use the results as useful tools for recognition and vindication of their identity and the territory they inhabit. Efforts are isolated but they do exist. I think there is a clear consciousness in archaeologists to make communities aware of the importance of archaeological sites but at the same time, there is a scarce or null governmental purpose of redirecting efforts towards this end.

About Jimena:

I am a Historical Archaeologist. My research interests focus on the study of material culture from late pre-Columbian and early colonial periods, particularly in Colombia (South America). I draw on theories from material culture studies and the archaeology of colonialism to explore, analyze and interpret the interaction amongst indigenous people, Africans and Europeansand the multiple cultural responses to contact encounters expressed through material culture. I have a particular interest in metals. I have experience working in Museums and enjoy exploring the different ways people can engage in the interpretation and preservation of cultural heritage. Currently, I’m working on an archaeological project, which aims at examining an exceptional collection of artifactual and biological data recently recovered in the Jesuit church of San Ignacio, a jewel of Spanish colonial art set in the historical district of Bogotá, Colombia. I received my PhD in Archaeology and Anthropology from University of Bristol (UK). I hold a MA in History from University of Los Andes (Colombia) and a BA in Anthropology and a BA in History from the same university.

https://independent.academia.edu/JimenaLoboGuerreroArenas

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jimena-lobo-guerrero-arenas-7ab968a8/

Questions from William Moss in Canada.

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Bermuda > Canada #worldinterview #15

Bermuda > Canada

Interviewee: William Moss

What is the biggest problem facing archaeology in Canada?

Canada is a federated country, similar to Australia. It is thus difficult to give a “Canadian” reply to each of the following questions as the situation varies from one province or territory to the next. There is no federal legislation specifically addressing archaeological questions though the Canadian Environmental Protection Act does include heritage resources in environmental impact assessments coming under its jurisdiction and Parks Canada has developed national guidelines. Canada has no equivalent of the European Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage (commonly called the Valetta Convention) or the National Historic Preservation Act in the USA. Each province or territory has its own legislation, thus giving a diversity of approaches with varying levels of control, which, on a general level, I would consider as the biggest problem facing archaeology in Canada. On a more personal note, I would consider the lack of formal recognition for archaeologists – similar to that of England’s Chartered Institute for Archaeologists – as an important handicap for professional practice. This, however, is far from being unique to Canada.

What role do archaeologists play in holding those in power accountable?

This is a difficult question. “Those in power” is a very large and loose term! It can refer to political power, economic power, or even cultural hegemony though these are oft-times intertwined. It can also address relations at any scale of social organization from the neighbourhood to the nation. Finally, one has to ask: “Accountable to whom and for what”? Given these caveats, I would like to examine one example, that of the management of archaeological collections by one of the country’s few national bodies that has a heritage remit and that manages territory – and consequently archaeological sites –, Parks Canada Agency. Following the growth of Parks Canada’s network of historic sites and parks in the 1970s and 1980s, a series of regional collections repositories was created to support operations in regional facilities in the Maritime provinces, in Québec, in Ontario, in the West and in Ottawa for central operations such as the underwater archaeology program. Cuts to the Agencies budgets in 2012 forced the immediate closure of some regional facilities and planned on the centralization of all collections in a single repository in the National Capital Region. There was considerable resistance to this, particularly in Québec, from the archaeological community and citizens’ groups (www.saa.org/Portals/0/SAA/GovernmentAffairs/PARKS_CANADA.pdf). Opposition to this project was renewed following the election of a new government in 2015. Archaeologists and First Nations in the Maritime provinces have been particularly alarmed at the impending closure of the state-of-the art collections repositories and laboratories and the subsequent removal of artefacts nearly 1500 km away (www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/parks-canada-archaeology-jonathan-fowler-mi-kmaq-acadian-1.4133423). The provincial legislature in Québec, the Assemblée nationale, voted an extremely rare unanimous motion in February of 2017 (www.ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1018576/motion-transfert-artefacts-quebec-gatineau). Actions by concerned archaeologists at the grass roots level have shown that collections, research and heritage are first and foremost community assets before being considered as national treasures. The final outcome of this situation is yet to be known…

How do archaeologists work with indigenous and minority groups/communities when examining sensitive sites/material culture?

Once again, the differences in provincial legislation lead to differing actions and responses. The only pan-Canadian reply to this lies with the Canadian Archaeological Association’s “Statement of Principles for Ethical Conduct Pertaining to Aboriginal Peoples” (canadianarchaeology.com/caa/bout/ethics/statement-principles-ethical-conduct-pertaining-aboriginal-peoples). Each province or territory has its own approach. For example, in Ontario, individual archaeologists have a legal obligation to consult and involve Indigenous groups having a cultural affiliation with a site under investigation and guidelines have been prepared for consulting archaeologists (www.mtc.gov.on.ca/en/publications/AbEngageBulletin.pdf). In neighbouring Québec, the provincial government determines where and when consultation of Indigenous groups is required and does so on the basis of nation to nation discussions. Some institutions are very proactive. Sustainable Archaeology, at Ontario’s Western University and McMaster University, has an advisory committee comprised of practicing archaeologists and Indigenous representatives who take under advisement all requests for the consultation of collections held in this state-of-the-art repository and research centre. Many First Nations have created their own archaeological programs. In Quebec, the Avataq Cultural Institute – the Inuit cultural organization of Nunavik in Northern Quebec (www.avataq.qc.ca/en/Home) and the Cree Cultural Institute, or Aanischaaukamikw (creeculturalinstitute.ca) – are good examples among many more. Some governments are adopting programs to deal with repatriation issues. British Columbia recently allocated two million dollars to the Royal B.C. Museum to develop a repatriation program with First Nation partners, helping to bring back items that were taken without permission, confiscated from potlatch ceremonies or stolen from graves, as early archaeological programmes sometimes did (www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/first-nations-repatriation-1.3760631).

How does Canada build capacity for minority groups to get involved in archaeology and museums?

The archaeological community is well aware of this need. The CAA created the “Weetaluktuk Student Prize”in 1983 in honour of an early Inuit archaeologist (canadianarchaeology.com/caa/about/awards/daniel-weetaluktuk-award). The Canadian Museum of History has administered since 1993“The RBC Aboriginal Training Program in Museum Practices” which offers professional and technical training for First Nations, Métis and Inuit participants. It is the only program of its kind in Canada and its goal is to develop ways for Aboriginal Nations across Canada to represent their own history and culture in concert with cultural institutions. (www.historymuseum.ca/learn/research/the-rbc-aboriginal-training-program-in-museum-practices). First Nations’ archaeologists, such as Carrie Dan, are cited as role models by British Columbia’s First Nations Education Steering Committee for her exemplary career as field archaeologist and museum curator (www.fnesc.ca/careerjourneys/). A resounding example of First Nations capacity is the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network award-winning series “Wild Archaeology”, co-hosted by Rudy Reimer of Simon Fraser University and Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw, Jenifer Brousseau and Jacob Pratt (aptn.ca/wildarchaeology/).

About William:

I have been Chief Archæologist for the City of Québec since 1985. Before that, I worked in England and, in Québec, for Parks Canada and the provincial Culture and Communications Department. A sessional lecturer at Laval University and a regularly-invited lecturer in Québec and abroad, I am active in several learned societies, such as the Society of Antiquaries of London, ICOMOS’s International Committee on Archæological Heritage Management or the Society for American Archæology’s Committee on International Government Affairs. The Society for Historical Archæology presented me the Carol V. Ruppé Distinguished Service Award in 2016. Locally, I have received awards from the tourist industry for organizing international scientific conferences. Laval University awarded mean honorary Ph.D. in 2014 for my contribution to the knowledge of, the protection and the development of Québec City’s archæological heritage.

https://sha.org/blog/2014/11/meet-a-member-william-moss/

http://www.lapresse.ca/le-soleil/actualites/le-laureat/201401/25/01-4732454-william-moss-archeologue-aux-mille-defis.php

https://www.ulaval.ca/notre-universite/prix-et-distinctions/doctorats-honoris-causa-de-luniversite-laval/recipiendaires-doctorat-honoris-causa-2013-2014/william-moss.html

Questions from Deborah Anne Atwood in Bermuda.

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Brazil > Bermuda #worldinterview #14

Brazil > Bermuda

Interviewee: Deborah Anne Atwood

In what ways is Bermudian archaeology global?

Whether as a navigational marker for early colonial European explorers or as a garrisoned island for the British, American, and Canadian forces Bermuda has played an important role in the history and development of the Atlantic World. Consequently Bermudians share cultural and historical links with North America, the Caribbean, England, Africa, and Europe and archaeological material found in Bermuda provides information on local and international history.

What is the biggest problem facing archaeology in Bermuda?

Currently there is little legislation on the island protecting land sites and although there is very strict legislation protecting underwater sites it can be very difficult to monitor and protect these sites. There are only a handful of local archaeologists working in Bermuda, so much of the research projects are carried out by archaeologists from overseas through partnerships with local institutions.

What role do archaeologists play in holding those in power accountable?

Very little. We can advise those in power about best practices, archaeological ethics and the best way to protect and record sites and promote scientific investigation.

In what way do you see archaeology changing as the 21st century progresses?

Technological advances have changed the way in which we record sites, especially underwater sites. With over 300 shipwrecks in Bermuda’s waters and only a handful of archaeologists on the island it would take years to accurately record every wreck. However, the development of affordable recording equipment like GoPro cameras and 3D model technology means that we can enlist the local dive community to assist us with mapping and surveying of sites. The possibility to perhaps use 3D printing technology to take models of wrecks and replica artifacts into local classrooms is also very exciting and could enable us to better teach the importance of preserving and protecting our cultural heritage.

About Deborah:

Assistant Curator, National Museum of Bermuda.

http://www.nmb.bm

Questions from James Dixon in the UK.

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Monte Miravete: 19th century miners-farmers communities at Murcia (Spain). An Art-Archaeology project.

Hello everybody!

I am JoseAnt. Mármol from the fieldwork at Monte Miravete site at Torreagüera (Murcia, Spain). Here we are looking for identify the remains of the mining activity of the local farmer communities, their ‘hidden face’. The site contains 100 structures (mainly gypsum kilns) and 35 quarries, making the site one of the most big archaeological site in all the entire Murcia region with the best known remains of this activity in Spain. We are working with a chronology dated back to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

This campaign we have been surveying around 23 structures and 10 quarries, and the next week we will start the excavation of one of them, the structure MMIR-E1089, which seems to be a former quarry with a kiln associated with it, later transformed into a space for storage or living. One of the aims for this excavation is to know more about the chronology and temporal phases of the site, especially before the 19th century. Will we find something medieval? That’s our dream for now!

 

The research of this site lets us know more about the farmers communities of Murcia, who represent the origins of the very identity of this region. But, the understanding of the suffering of these farmers climbing up to make lime for its houses and facilities, helps us relate to the current children lime miners in India, for example. This is a reflection also for contemporary world about the unsustainable exploitation of the landscape and the human capacity to transform and survive.

We are not only seeking for archaeological data. Since our team is an interdisciplinary young team and we don’t have so much economical support, we can be so creative as we want. So, we have done archaeological ethnography, poetry, artistic works with and at the site, and a long list of interesting papers and crazy interpretation of the site.

Maybe this is the unique project in Spain with an strong interest in developing an Art-Archaeology approach.

Our team is composed by: JoseAnt. (creative archaeologist), Manu (prehistorian interested in cinema), Javi (archaeo-botanist), Martín (interested in contemporary history), and some volunteers who will come the next week.

Here you can see a short video of the 2016 campaign:

 

Happy summer and enjoy the 2017 DAY OF ARCHAEOLOGY!!!

Best regards,

JoseAnt. Mármol

 

 

Iceland > Brazil #worldinterview #13

Iceland > Brazil

Interviewee: Artur Henrique Franco Barcelos

Do you think academic departments need to demonstrate ‘relevance’ to public audiences – if so what are the challenges?

Yes, certainly. The main challenge is to break with the academic conception of knowledge and to create strategies of dialogues with the external public.. But this will only be possible if academic archaeologists understand the importance of the debates proposed by Public Archaeology.

How do you see digital technology contributing to the interpretation and research agendas for archaeologists and anthropologists in the future?

I believe that digital tools, however advanced, continue to play the same role as drawings and photographs do in the archaeological works of the nineteenth century. Its use can never replace solid theoretical training and a capacity for reflection on the data facilitated by technology.

What role to archaeologists play in holding those in power accountable?

This depends on what power we are talking about. If it is political power, this varies from country to country, according to the local laws on the archaeological heritage, its research and its preservation. In this case, archaeologists must know the law and organize ways to participate directly or indirectly in political bodies. If we are talking about power in a generic way, it is up to archaeologists to recognize the forms and practices of power with which they are dealing, especially when dealing with fragile communities in relation to political and economic power.

In what way do you see archaeology changing as the 21st century progresses?

I believe there are two possible paths to archaeology in the face of significant changes in terms of rights and social struggles in the 21st century. And also in terms of the very issues surrounding science. On the one hand, archaeology can remain closed in its idea that it is the science that studies the past through material culture, preferably ancient. And so she will be exempt from engaging in controversial issues. On the other hand, the archaeology may see material culture as a way of understanding certain aspects of the human being, both past and present. This will lead to an epistemological revolution and will allow archaeology to escape the old concepts. In the same way, it will make archaeologists necessarily involved in the issues of their time, leaving the grid to fight the struggles of the present.

About Artur:

Associate Professor of the Bachelor of Archaeology of the Federal University of Rio Grande FURG, Brazil.

Artur wrote Espaço e Arqueologia nas Missões Jesuíticas: o caso de São João Batista (2000) and O Mergulho no Seculum: exploração, conquista e organização espacial jesuítica na América Espanhola Colonial (2013). He is also the author of many papers and book chapters on these topics. His main research interest is in Latin American History, with an emphasis on the history of the Rio de la Plata region. His other research interests include evangelization in colonial Latin America, Jesuit missions, geohistory, cartography, space, patrimony, historical archaeology, and material culture. Artur is the head of the H.E.C.A.T.E.U’s Lab (American History and Cartography: Space, Territory, and Urbanism), where he leads several projects related to Jesuit cartography.

He is also the manager of the website www.culturamaterial.com.br

Questions from Gísli Pálsson in Iceland.

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UK > Iceland #worldinterview #12

UK > Iceland

Interviewee: Gísli Pálsson

What drew you to archaeology and what path did you follow in your archaeological career?

I came to archaeology rather late. After spending years working for a civil engineering firm on construction projects, I was gripped with an irresistible urge to tear things down. I still bear the signs of those early years, as I’ve found myself specializing in fairly technological and computational ways – GIS, survey, archaeoinformatics.

What difficulties do you think students face in pursuing a career in archaeology?

One of the most significant decision is whether to choose a well-established (but probably densely populated) subfield, which may lead to more job security in the long run if they get their foot in a door somewhere, or to go for an emerging subfield (or a non-existent subfield), which will probably give them the ability to impact the discipline more radically, while being a risky proposition job-wise, particularly in academia.

Do you think academic departments need to demonstrate ‘relevance’ to public audiences – if so what are the challenges?

I think the core practices of archaeology are very relevant to public audiences, but I also think archaeology has much more to offer beyond those practices. In my experience, the public are very open to creative archaeologies and more experimental applications of archaeological practices, but the issue is that getting funding for such practices seems much more difficult than getting funding for projects in line with how archaeology ought to be practiced. So the challenge, to me, lies in convincing those with the fingers on the purse strings that archaeology needs more leeway for experimentation, but that is not going to happen when most of the people in our discipline are perpetually suspended on a budgetary knife’s edge.

How do you see digital technology contributing to the interpretation and research agendas for archaeologists and anthropologists in the future?

Digital technology has contributed to archaeological interpretation for as long as digital technology has been around in the humanities. As far as I’m concerned, archaeology has always been at the forefront of adopting digital technologies in the context of the humanities and historical disciplines, and it will continue to do so.

About Gísli:

Archaeologist, into landscape, data, networks, creative sides to the profession, as well as some other things.

http://appserver.humlab.umu.se/jardabokin/

last paper: https://smgjournal.github.io/2017/04/04/en-counter-maps/

Questions from Raksha Dave in the UK.

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Albania > UK #worldinterview #11

Albania > UK

Interviewee: Raksha Dave

What drew you to archaeology and what path did you follow in your archaeological career?

I’ve always been interested in history and archaeology as far as I can remember. I have a photo of me; I must have been about three years old trying to trowel in the back garden so I think the draw to pursue a career in archaeology has always been strong.

I studied at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL graduated in 1999 and have practised archaeology ever since. My archaeological roots are firmly planted in field archaeology having worked for commercial archaeology companies in London but this has happily deviated to a more Public Archaeology focus through my broadcasting work. I spent 10 years as a Senior Archaeologist and Presenter for the ‘Time Team’ and have since then presented a documentary for the BBC.

I’m very lucky to have had a varied career,  I’ve worked for the UK’s professional body Chartered Institute for archaeologists(CIfA) and developed and delivered community archaeology projects but now I’ve come back full circle to broadcasting and I’m currently working on a TV documentary for Channel 5 that I’m presenting which should be out in autumn 2017.

What difficulties do you think students face in pursuing a career in archaeology?

Here in the UK we have our own particular set of problems. For the commercial sector the bottom line is the lack of pay and the offer of permanent contracts in particular for those entering the profession at the graduate level.  A lot of archaeology graduates realise that a career in commercial archaeology is piecemeal, they often have to go from contract to contract, little or no training is offered, and career progression is difficult. Conversely, I also know from friends that trying to get employed into academic posts can require a lot of luck and persistence so most people look to shoehorn themselves into better paid and structured jobs in curatorial archaeology, the museums or consultancy.

The downside to this is that retention is poor and the sector inevitably haemorrhages talent. It’s not unusual for early career archaeologists in the UK to decide to re-train or move sectors because they feel the profession is unable to support a decent standard of living.

Rather frustratingly these problems have been recognised for a long time and yes, whilst there has been some move towards addressing the above we now have other issues such as attracting students to archaeology in the first instance – but that’s another discussion for another time!

What is the relation between archaeology and the public in the UK?

It’s probably been the best it ever has been – the UK has a strong public archaeology presence and year upon year the public offer is very strong. Impact is now seen as an integral output to any archaeological project whether that’s commercial, research or academic. Advancement in digital technology has made it possible to access and disseminate archaeological information and stories instantly. Public and community archaeology in the UK has emerged as a specialist field in its own right and I look forward to see how this develops further.

The main problem for the UK is finding new ways to engage those audiences we don’t reach. There’s not a year that goes by that I don’t attend a conference session discussing the lack of diversity and representation in archaeology but I haven’t seen any real progress on how this agenda has moved on. We are really good at disseminating information to audiences but only to the individuals that are ‘engaged consumers’ of archaeology, not to others who may have zero knowledge or appreciation about the subject. Archaeology as a career, sadly, is a reflection of this, we lack diverse representation within the sector at differing career levels whether that’s on basis of gender, socio-economic background, ethnicity and disability, to name a few. I’d like to see archaeology in the UK move towards addressing this issue.

There’s a debate in the UK at the moment about the lack of alternative narratives in the public history we produce and teach, that we are still reflecting white, male, colonial attitudes. Archaeologists are way ahead of the historian curve and are well aware of the dangerous pitfalls of having such a narrow outlook.I don’t want to see equality and diversity shoe-horned as a specialist interest; surely it’s in everyone’s interest to have a varied workforce that produce and curate narratives that reflect all aspects of society.

What are the challenges that archaeological theory faces in the new millennium/post-processual era?

Blimey what a question and what a minefield! I think the real question is what does archaeology theory do for us? For the majority of the non-academic sector many would wonder what relevance theory has for them in the everyday practise of archaeology in their workplace. Many would say none or not hugely but in reality their work and methodology has in some way been influenced by archaeological theory.

I’ve been very lucky to have worked with Ian Hodder and with Peter Ucko both of which left a huge impression on my ideas of collaborative working. In fact I remember feeling quite shocked that Ian had taken his time out to thank me for coming out to Catalhoyuk. It was the first time that anyone – not to mention an eminent archaeologist, acknowledged my specialism as a field archaeologist rather than, ‘just another digger’. That experience left a huge impression on me -the realisation that everyone’s contribution is valid.

It’s really important that academic institutions and the commercial sector look at ways to work towards a more collaborative economy. The time of working in silos is over and we need to think more on how to deliver projects that would benefit academia, commercial practice and impact outcomes delivered to the public. I think it would be quite exciting to see this sort of reflexive working, one where new technology, theory and methods would be tested within a commercial setting and on the other hand commercial units benefiting from larger research agendas facilitated through graduate studies. This partnership working would benefit us all I can also see further positive knock-on effects with regards to training and career pathways into archaeology.

About Raksha:

Field Archaeologist, Pubic Archaeologist and Broadcaster.

Twitter: @Raksha_Digs

Questions from Nevila Molla in Albania.

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South Africa > Albania #worldinterview #10

South Africa > Albania

Interviewee: Arbër Kadia

What drew you to archaeology and what path did you follow in your archaeological career?

The reasons are many and I can’t really remember the exact initial thought or attraction that drew me to it. To me all reasons are all valid ones because whatever it is that makes you go down the path of working in the heritage sector has to be strong enough to keep this fire burning.

In my youth I have been actively involved in associations, societies and organizations that had the preservation and promotion of all Albanian way of life in their core. This might have been one reason. Secondly, my education has played another key factor, due to some inspirational masters and lecturers as early as the A-Levels in Ancient History (Greek & Roman) at Eton College as an international scholar and then in University of Bristol. Being an Albanian in the UK during my formative years put in perspective the necessity of working hard to get Albania recognised. Although part of Europe, Albania was and is terra incognita, even to many professionals of the field.

Once fully immersed in the running and preservation of heritage, one comes to the realisation that this path is not easy one and that human patrimony needs to be seen as a whole and thus improved simultaneously in the disciplines that it is comprised of. Societal development has to run parallel to this.This all-encompassing approach unfortunately is very difficult in a developing country. This is maybe the reason why I decided to move from the field work to an administrative and policy oriented path.

What is the relationship between politics and archaeology in Albania?

To put it bluntly, everything in Albania is political. Corruption, nepotism and dilettantism are ever-present. This refers not only to the lack of funding which is vital to the field and its distribution to the wide sector but also to job allocations and the lacklustre administration of the territory which is heavily damaged by uncontrolled development projects.

Heritage specialists therefore find it close to impossible to stop the political machinery once it is set on carrying out certain construction projects. The distorted understanding of politics and power in this country makes for archaeology and heritage as a whole to be at its service and not to fulfil the constitutional requirement of protecting and improving the “DNA of the Nation”. All is not dire however as there are certain specialists that have managed to include legislation and management plans in certain territories. In general however it still remains an uphill struggle and much energy is employed to make politics understand the irreversible threats in question.

What difficulties do you think students face in pursuing a career in archaeology?

Jobs are hard to come by and badly paid. The future is not clear for students of archaeology and many of them move to other industries as a result.

Unless there is better regulation for the necessity to monitor, perform adequate studies, rescue excavations or preservation, it will be tough to attract and guarantee these students jobs in both state and private sector.

The state sector as stated in the previous question is more at the helm of politics and therefore are very limited in scope and execution. The private sector on the other hand, which should be more advanced at this stage is still trying hard to find its feet. Poverty being one of Albania’s main threats makes it hard for students to see a bright future for themselves in archaeology.

How do you see the role of archaeology in today’s society and in the future?

Albanian archaeology is deeply rooted in a very classical sense of the word. Academies of old still have not opened up to the world and state oriented institutions are playing catch up as we continue to deconstruct the past using tools which we all know won’t be the same for the future. The inscribed stones, ceramics and paper it is written on will resist the test of time. The amount of information produced by our era where most things are changeable at an unrelenting speed. The intellectual factor that distinguishes the 2nd millennium man is digital media. The biggest challenge is how this digital interchange will be preserved and passed down the line. The future archaeologist will have to sort out encrypted data and digital recycle bins which undoubtedly will be hard to process. We know that data needs to be multiplied and reproduced in order to survive time. Texts would be lost if it were not for the preservation by Muslim scholars or the fastidious copying of medieval manuscripts by monks.Therefore a new kind of archaeology is required, which one the discipline shall need to adapt to in order to sort out our present in years to come. Quite frankly I think it will be a lot of digitized.

About Arbër:

I am a British educated heritage expert with both field and administrative experience in architectural restoration and consultancy (byzantine churches, mosques, fortifications and roman mosaics, and many listed buildings in Albania etc), archaeological rescue excavations and an extensive experience in drawing up management plans, legislation and policies during experience as Director of Heritage at the Ministry of Culture in Albania. Currently working as a heritage consultant for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline assessing and mitigating impacts arising from construction activity into the wider landscape of heritage.

Questions from Keneiloe Molopyane in South Africa.

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Finland > South Africa #worldinterview #9

Finland > South Africa

Interviewee: Keneiloe Molopyane

What is your personal dream related to your profession as an archaeologist?

Well, if you would allow me to be vain for a minute, but I’d actually like an archaeology lab named after me. Lol, okay seriously though I just want expand my research field and help others along the way fulfil their own dreams.

What is the biggest problem in archaeology in South Africa right now? And what about the biggest opportunity / hope?

Well, at the very moment…as we speak discussion around my academic inner circle and around conference tables have been focused on the lack of available jobs for future archaeologists. The question that has been asked so many times is “why do we produce so many archaeologists (referring to postgraduate students) when we as academics know that the job market is saturated at the moment”? It’s a tough question to answer and I don’t think it’s a South African problem alone; it’s hard to get a job anywhere.

What is the relationship between politics and archaeology in South Africa?

Hmm, tough question that I’ve never really thought about until now. I guess we have so much going on in our country that archaeology doesn’t really feature as much in politics. Although having said that, I do remember a time during my undergraduate years when former president Thabo Mbeki gave his “I’m an African” speech and he was so interested in all things historical and archaeological pertaining to the African continent. I guess when he left office, so did interests into the past. It would be really nice to see our government provide funding into our research, as funding at the moment is so little and hard to come by (competition is rough).

How do you see the role of archaeology in today’s society and in the future?

Archaeology is a very dynamic field, constantly changing and upgrading itself, maybe not as fast as we’d like it to. To me, archaeology provides a window into the forgotten past and allows us to learn more about ourselves and possibly see where we are headed.

About Keneiloe: 

Associate Lecturer in the Archaeology division (School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies), at the University of the Witwatersrand. PhD candidate in Biological Anthropology, School of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand.

Questions from Liisa Seppänen in Finland.

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Kenya > Finland #worldinterview #8

Kenya > Finland

Interviewee: Liisa Seppänen

What is the relationship between politics and archaeology in Finland?

Seemingly, the relationship between politics and archaeology in Finland is weak today. However, the decisions related to the higher education and finance of universities and cultural institutions (National Board of Antiquities responsible for the maintenance of archaeological and cultural heritage in Finland and state supported museums practicing archaeological research) affect directly to archaeology. Today, the influence is mainly negative.

In the past, the influence has been more positive. For example, archaeology as an academic discipline was established at the same time with the rise of national romanticism, seeking “real Finnishness” and the beginning of “the Golden Age” of Finland since the late 19th century. The beginnings of and more professional and systematic antiquarian and archaeological activities started in 1870 with the establishment of the Finnish Antiquarian Society. The purpose of the society was to start the archaeological research of Finnish history, and to raise public national interest towards Finnish archaeological heritage and its protection. Prehistoric and medieval Finnishness became even more relevant to the intellectual defence of the nation during the period of Russian administrative pressure in 1890–1905, before Finland became independent in 1917.

The politics has affected the archaeological education in many ways. For example, in the 1920s, the donation was made to establish a professorship of historical archaeology in Turku University. However, the political movement related to the language strife opposed the person who was the candidate for the office and university decided to cancel the whole process. It was not until the 1990s when historical archaeology became more widely acknowledged as a subject in archaeology in Turku University. Also, the establishment of the department of archaeology in Oulu University was caused by the actions related to improvement of unemployment situation in northern Finland in the 1960s and 1970s when the state supported archaeological excavations employed people without work. There were many archaeological projects justified with employment aspect and a need for the archaeological education in northern Finland resulted in establishing the department in Oulu University.

Therefore, I would say that the politics and societal and ideological changes and acts in the academic and institutional sphere related to archaeology have been and are closely connected and mirror each other.

How do local communities relate to archaeological sites and archaeological investigations conducted in their areas and artefacts found from their land?

It really depends on individuals and their values and ideas. I would say that today the attitudes are mainly positive. Some communities have even adopted archaeological sites (on the permission of authorities) and they take care of them. Many people find archaeology, archaeological excavations and archaeological findings interesting and intriguing and they volunteer on excavations. In recent years, archaeological treasure hunting and metal detecting have become very popular hobbies to some people and this causes many challenges to professional archaeologists and authorities responsible for cultural heritage. Collaboration between local communities and individuals on local level (including politicians) is very important today and needs more and more resources which archaeology is unfortunately short of. However, archaeology is not considered important or even interesting by everybody – there are also people who could not care less about past and consider archaeological investigations meaningless and waste of time and resources. We could affect these attitudes by providing more information about archaeology and including archaeological courses in schools, too.

How global is the outlook of Finnish archaeology? Where are your archaeologists working?

When we consider the number of Finnish archaeologists (only three small departments, professors and universities providing archaeological education), I would say that it has been surprisingly global. Especially, Helsinki University has had many international research projects in Africa, South America and Near East. Not to mention classical archaeology, which has been based on international research. However, there are not that many foreign archaeologists working on Finnish material and projects based in Finland. The archaeologists in Finland are mainly working in museums, private archaeological companies and in the National Board of Antiquities or archaeological research projects in universities funded by external funding. Some Finnish archaeologists are working in Norway, Sweden, England and Italy, too.

What is the biggest problem in Finnish archaeology right now? And the biggest opportunity/hope?

I would say that the biggest problem is education, lack of money and other resources, collaboration and understanding about the potential of archaeological research (beyond archaeology). All these are related to general values related to the meaning of archaeological heritage. The biggest hope is that economy gets better and there would be wider understanding about archaeology in general in society.

Unfortunately, it seems that I personally see more problems than promises. Perhaps, the biggest opportunities are in international collaboration – hopefully in the future the collaboration is related to archaeological sites and material in Finland, too.

About Liisa:

PhD, Adjunct professor in urban archaeology in Turku University, Finland.

Presently, I am working in a project related to old urban excavations (from 1960s and 1980s) in Turku. Furthermore, I am editing a couple of books related to archaeology, writing articles and supervising students doing their MA thesis.

https://www.utu.fi/fi/yksikot/hum/yksikot/arkeologia/oppiaine/dosentit/Sivut/liisaseppanen.aspx

https://fi.linkedin.com/in/liisa-seppänen-22771749

https://utu.academia.edu/LiisaSeppänen

 

Questions from Emmanuel Ndiema

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