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Archaeology Should Resist Newswire Relevance
#1
http://scienceblogs.com/aardvarchaeology...relevance/

[h=2]From Aardvarchaeology[/h] by Dr. Martin Rundkvist, a Swedish archaeologist and journal editor

Quote:In recent years there’s been increasing numbers of archaeological research projects that reference climate change as part of what they want to study. This is at the same time wise and a little silly. It’s wise because science should serve the concerns of society, and because if you want research funding it’s a good idea to latch onto themes that people outside of your narrow speciality care about. But it’s also a little silly because it’s such transparent pandering to the funding bodies. I was taught about the threat of the greenhouse effect as a kid back in the 80s, and no archaeologist cared about climate back then. All in all, though, I think this climate orientation in recent archaeology is largely innocuous. We’re all under-funded and we follow the money.

however... if you read on... Martin goes on to mention how archaeological interpretations have started to tap into what concerns us now. - climate change - so that press releases increasingly contain content about climate change.

he wonders if
Quote:archaeologists’ interpretations of ancient societies vary with whatever occupies our interest today, then I think we should pack it in as a scientific discipline and just call ourselves miners of ancient art for museums.


so are we purists? or are we miners of ancient art?

please do go to this link... and read comments there as well.
http://scienceblogs.com/aardvarchaeology...relevance/
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#2
I have some sympathy with Martin's reservations about us jumping onto any media bandwagons. My main angst in that direction however would be archaeologists (or media interpreted archaeologists) who claim uniqueness or magnitude or magnificence for their finds (only, biggest or best). Regarding climate change though, he is wrong.

Of course archaeologists should be careful not to be come too closely allied to the extremes of the discourse. The 'media' will pick and choose those findings it best believes fit Mr Murdoch or the Daily Mail's agenda, but I have always thought that perspective is what is lacking in the whole debate about climate variation. Archaeologists, or scientists adopting archaeological methods. are the ONLY folk who can put climate change into perspective by adding a longer time frame to the data collected over the past 50 years. We have the tools and methods that can interpret past incidence of climatic variation, be it through dendrochronology, soil micromorphology or a multitude of other techniques and add a chronological dimension far in excess of the time span that present day data collectors have at their disposal. In addition we can point to incidence where both natural variance and human manipulation has affected climate and show evidence of the outcomes of those interactions. Both at a macro and micro level.

Martin's blog is full of good things, but in this instance his Swedishness perhaps shows through. Scandinavians in general have a slightly different perspective on climate change to the rest of us in Europe, let alone the rest of the world.....greeting the arrival of their mini ice-age every winter with the glee of pigs let loose in the orchard, whilst at the same time whacking the thermostat up to 23 degrees and in general not really giving a hoot whether another one of the Maldive Islands becomes uninhabitable. Norway, for example, has recently eschewed wind-power as an alternative 'clean energy' because its unit cost is higher in Norway than other 'free' sources of fuel i.e gas, petrol or hydro-electrical power, whilst at the same time investing heavily in buying up British sectors of the North Sea and effectively creating a fossil fuel monopoly in western Europe....

My view is that if the climate variation debate brings archaeology into the public eye as particularly pertinent to everyday life, that has to be a good thing.
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
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#3
Quote:If archaeologists’ interpretations of ancient societies vary with whatever occupies our interest today...

I don't think it's so much about "whatever occupies our interest" as "this topic is saturating the media so it readily comes to mind as a possible interpretation for evidence recovered through archaeology." Archaeologists will, to a certain degree, always interpret the evidence based on what they know and are thinking about, but so long as they're not applying an interpretation that isn't supported by the evidence, what does it matter? If they're doing the job right, then the evidence will be recorded for alternate interpretations anyway.

Quote:...then I think we should pack it in as a scientific discipline and just call ourselves miners of ancient art for museums.
This part's just rubbish. Smile

The problem really lies with the media reporting (and possibly whoever writes the press releases).
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#4
Well, speaking as an old meeja hoower... It's not unusual to see press releases from sites accentuating the spectacular or unusual (The London Gladiatrix, the Sutton Common 'ghost town' for instance - both were published as something completely different to what they were said to be in the press releases which the media hooked on to). In my experience, developers and university bureaucrats get terribly excited when their names appear on telly/in the papers etc, and so brownie points are scored with the management/funders by the coverage ('look, were not p*ssing the department's money up the wall on a drunken jolly, we've found something really important'). Mind you, I've seen press stories covering some things I was involved with where the truth was twisted by the press to make the story a lot more spectacular than it actually was. You won't be surprised to know that the Sun newspaper was probably the worst for this.
\"Whoever understands the pottery, understands the site\" - Wheeler
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#5
Greetings to you all and Happy New Year in advance!
Interesting thread.......Historically, Mankind has suffered from an unquenchable desire to be recognised and/or held aloft by the masses for millennia. Media exposure can be positive but unfortunately, our collective failure (as an industry) of reaching out to society and providing them with factual narrative has led to an environment just gagging for sensationalism and wildly inaccurate dialogue. Hold on a minute........ actually, as a profession, we do provide factual narrative in the form of reports and submit them to Local Government repositories. Is our obligation to the wider public not met by these submissions? Could it be as simple as directing media representatives to Local Government for their stories? If contractual Archaeology is to be bound by the dictat of Planning Law then surely, any wildly inaccurate reporting by a media agency should be taken to task in the interests of the Client. The excavation reports are a legal document duly strained through quality control systems (ahem), accepted by the Client and Local Government Officers (ahem) before storage. Whilst "control" of the media is a moot point at the minute, there has to be some mileage in the concept that where a media agency deliberately misrepresents a legal document from a controlled system then there can be due process.
"Research" excavations by Universities around the world are a different matter mostly as they have a very different legal standing but also as professional standards can vary from absurdly incompetent to vaguely coherent. In my humble opinion, when "Research" excavations find themselves amidst a media cartoon flurry, they often deserve everything they get. No doubt this can be quite embarrassing for the University and the host nation who issued excavation licenses but there is usually no contractual Client in this equation. I still believe that media games could be curtailed by using available Law as it currently stands.
The alternative is to accept the way things are and carry on producing Press Releases instead of directing the media to the final reports. I have absolutely no doubt that Archaeology has an awful lot to say about climate change and if the media are interested, perhaps they should take the time to read before going down the "28 Days Later" route and stating that the earth will be overrun by ferocious and distinctly miffed Polar Bears by March. On a personal note, I didn`t get into archaeology to take part in fabrication and neither did I sign up to assist in the career progression of those clearly challenged by the thrill of fantasy. In short- I have fulfilled my obligation to the masses (under current archaic Laws) by submitting and storing a legal document through due processes. Should a media agency choose to wildly misrepresent that document I would advise my Client to take appropriate action. The longer we allow unqualified, work-shy hacks to define what we do, we will perpetuate the myth that archaeology is just a game of make-believe. :face-stir:
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#6
Happens all the way down the system - how many archaeological reports at all levels 'jolly up' the results and leave out inconvenient truths like the clients/contractors (and sometimes archaeological consultants) behaved like ****s throughout the project and prevented the site being dug properly or destroyed stuff without record, that's happened to all of us. Thats all an important part of an archaeological site record, but if you put it in you don't get paid Sad
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#7
Oooooooooooooh.....do I see an underground "Black Ops" website coming on where accurate (but painful) archaeology reports are released? Wink
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#8
Sadly have too much to do as it is without spending my entire life in court - unless of course I win the Euromillions tomorrow }Smile
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#9
pdurdin Wrote:[/FONT][/COLOR]
I don't think it's so much about "whatever occupies our interest" as "this topic is saturating the media so it readily comes to mind as a possible interpretation for evidence recovered through archaeology." Archaeologists will, to a certain degree, always interpret the evidence based on what they know and are thinking about, but so long as they're not applying an interpretation that isn't supported by the evidence, what does it matter? If they're doing the job right, then the evidence will be recorded for alternate interpretations anyway.


This part's just rubbish. Smile

The problem really lies with the media reporting (and possibly whoever writes the press releases).

much sense here p durdin but i would contend that the problem, if indeed there is a problem, is all ours. if we dont tell the best story possible then we should expect others to distort it for their own ends. ther is no use in saying that the majority of our work is boring, which it is, unless we expend a little more time and effort in showing why it is relevant. you cant blame the media for our own failings - they are just the media
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers
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#10
The media will always favour reporting more currently "relevant" or topical news: that's the problem I referred to. Archaeologists still have a responsibility to provide the best story/information, no argument there.
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