A Semester in Review

What’s the most interesting thing we’ve covered in archaeology?  What a question!  This doesn’t seem fair to me, since everything we’ve gone over has seemed ridiculously fascinating!  The pyramids have always been a bit of a puzzle, and everything I’ve learned from there has come terribly in handy because I’m doing a project on Egypt right now.  So the information about Giza and The King’s Valley I’m putting to use again.  I feel like you can’t ignore the Moundbuilders, since they’re so close to home, and the mounds and their meaning to Native Americans still raise questions over how to best do the practice of archaeology.  The Franklin Expedition was too cool- I’d heard of it before but never really looked into the whole matter.  The fact that they actually found this ships is phenomenal- it really makes me question what they’ll find in the future.  Stonehenge was interesting, because I didn’t even know where that was until this class (pretty sad, I know.  I knew it was in Great Britain, but beyond that…).  It’s impossible to pick one subject!

But if I must, I would say that they Pyramids and the work we looked at in Egypt have been the most useful since- particularly since I’ve been looking at African Colonization in other classes, and the development of archaeology and anthropology through history.  Anthropology didn’t have a particularly noble start, and archaeology’s roots aren’t particularly saint-like either, and it leaves the question of “What do you do now?”  Many Egyptian artifacts are everywhere except in Egypt- most particularly in the British Museum.  While it’s all well and good to preserve artifacts, we do still have to fight with the idea of who they really belong to.  Do the British get to keep the Egyptian artifacts because they’ve had them for so long and are taking good care of them, or do they belong to the Egyptians themselves?  This isn’t a problem exclusive to Egypt in any way, and it’s something that will have to be dealt with in the long run.  It might not seem like a particularly important topic, but when you have a people’s collection of artifacts that hold meaning to them, problems are going to arise over where they are kept.  It also raises the question of who the artifacts belong to- do they belong to the person on whose land it was found?  Does it belong to the researcher who learned of its location?  Does it belong to the person that excavated it?  Does it belong to the government?  If it was lost for thousands of years and only just recently discovered, to the people of the area have any claim to it?  These are tricky questions, but questions that we are going to have to deal with.

I think modern day limitations on excavations on Egyptian soil (or sand, I suppose) are a good example of what happens when a country has had enough of people pillaging their artifacts and holding them as their own.  It’s a pity that countries are driven to the point where they have to forbid excavations in fear that the artifacts found will end up somewhere else in the world.

All in all, this course has been fascinating though.  I have plagued my friends and relatives with facts and questions about ancient sites, and I have been inspired to look further into cultures and what meanings may be attributed to certain things.