Prompt Part 1: Before this class, I like to believe that I knew that real Archaeology was different than the perceived notion of Archaeology I had in my head. That being said, the things that always would pop into my head were things like Indiana Jones, treasure hunting, and exploring the world for lost/ancient civilizations. The media packaged up the idea of the big/easy/sexy finds like this was the norm and my brain seemed to eat it up. But…I also have very distinct memories of visiting Fort Michilimackinac when I was younger and seeing a dig site there. This was followed by a brief explanation of how and why the archaeologist there were doing what they were doing. So again, in my head there was some knowledge of what Archaeology actually entailed, but the part at the forefront was the Hollywood-driven, Adventure-based Archaeology.
Prompt Part 2: From the video, the easiest way to describe the purpose of modern day Archaeology is with the shift in ideology. Previously, Archaeology was done for purely research purposes with less regard for any historically social or cultural relations. Even before then most Archaeology was more similar to treasure hunting with the early antiquarians. Now, as was the case with the sites along the Colorado River, the purpose of the Archaeology being conducted is for preservation purposes, with the research opportunities these digs present being a nice byproduct.
If we take the dig discussed in the video as an example, it is apparent that archaeologists today are trained in a way that promotes the importance of taking the local community into account and not just “treasure hunting” the same way that it was done in the past. The leaders of the project alongside the Colorado River were well aware of the history of the area that the digs would be taking place in. Due to that areas connection with Native American tribes, the archaeologists were sure to consult all of the tribes that felt they had ties to the area and any artifacts that may surface from the digs. One tribe member was even interviewed saying that they were hesitant to allow these digs to happen and only changed their mind when the problems that arose from erosion were so bad that all the history would be lost were they not to dig.
This brings up another point about modern Archaeology: they wait until it’s absolutely necessary to dig instead of going in whenever they feel like it. Additionally, when they do go in, they use that opportunity to not only further research, but also present the public with their process as well as their findings. The video made it very clear that Public Archaeology was very important for all involved with the project. This part of Archaeology is important because it shows the everyday person what is being done, and because of the meticulous methodology being used it is made clear to everyone who passes by that there is a scientific purpose behind all that is being done. Gone are the days of simply showing up to a site and sneaking in to it during the middle of the night (a la Carter and Carnarvon at Tutankhamun’s Tomb).
The archaeologists presented in the media seem to be more similar to archaeologists of the past. People like Giovanni Belzoni most likely wouldn’t be seen anywhere near a dig site today. The people presented as archaeologists in the video we watched were instead passionate scientists who were just as worried about preserving/honoring the past as they were finding cool and interesting items.