The statues of classical antiquity do not come down to the present standing on their original plinths, unaltered for two millennia. Over the centuries, their identities were often changed with judicious chisel work, or they might be redisplayed as parts of new monuments. Eventually, they were toppled—by earthquakes, insurrection or irrelevance: repurposed as building materials, packed into lime kilns and burnt, or abandoned along with the cities over which they once presided. All too often, the later lives of these statues are obscured by a tendency—in the Western imagination at least—to assume a direct connection between the classical and the contemporary. In the process, not only are culturally specific practices normalised, but we also focus on only one episode of longer histories, such as the putting up rather than the pulling down of these statues. It is also easy to forget that memorialising individuals for their ‘heroic’ deeds is neither inevitable, nor even typical, in past societies. In the newly founded USA, for example, there was great suspicion of commemorative statues and structures. Aside from memorials to the god-like Washington, the new nation was to be built on the enlightened values sustained by literacy and education; John Quincy Adams observed in his diary in December 1831 that “Democracy has no monuments […] Its very essence is iconoclastic”. Yet, in the decades after the Civil War, the young nation set about monumentalising its past, fixing its competing visions in stone and bronze, reshaping historical narratives and seeking to make its values eternal. Over the subsequent century and a half, the fascination with such statues and monuments in the USA has grown to such an extent that Erika Doss has described a culture of ‘memorial mania’, freighted with emotions of grief, fear, gratitude, shame and anger.Footnote 1 The events of June 2020 well illustrate her analysis.
Over recent years, campaigns around the world have sought the removal of statues and other forms of commemoration to imperialists, slave traders, eugenicists and racists. Some of these campaigns have been successful: the removal of the statue of the imperialist Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town in 2015 and that of the Catalan slave trader, Antonio López, Marquis of Comillas, in Barcelona in 2018. Other campaigns, however, had stalled: the removal of the equestrian statue to the Confederate Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, had become entangled in legal proceedings; and in Bristol, UK, wrangling over the wording of a plaque to be affixed to a statue of the slave-trader Edward Colston had reached a stalemate. Within two weeks in June, the fates of both statues—and many more around the world—were sealed.
In Birmingham, Alabama, and Washington D.C., Confederate statues were pulled down by protestors; in Boston, Massachusetts, and Saint Paul, Minnesota, Columbus was toppled; in London, a statue of the slave-owner Robert Milligan was removed; in Edinburgh, graffiti daubed on a statue of Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville, declared him: “Son of slaver. Colonialist profiteer”; in Rome, red paint was thrown over the marble bust of Antonio Baldissera, the Italian governor of colonial Eritrea; the examples, and the protests, go on (Figure 1).
In the UK, attention focused on the figure of Edward Colston. The name of Colston, a late seventeenth-/early eighteenth-century merchant, politician, philanthropist—and slave- trader—is woven into Bristol's cityscape through buildings, memorials and street names. Recently, several institutions have voted to remove Colston's name to distance themselves from his legacy. In the latest protests, attention focused on a prominent statue in the city centre. Significantly, this memorial was not put up by grateful citizens in the immediate aftermath of Colston's death, or even during the five generations that followed; in fact, it was erected some 175 years later in 1895, when city, country and empire, all grown rich on the back of slavery, were at their zeniths. On 7 June, protesters toppled the bronze statue, rolled it across the city and dumped it into the harbour. Similar stories played out around the world: lists of statues and monuments were circulated online, and opposing groups formed themselves to either protest or protect these memorials.
Back in Bristol, Colston's statue has been fished out of the harbour and is destined to be redisplayed, and recontextualised, in a museum. That context connects Bristol to places such as Bunce Island, in the Sierra Leone River, a base of the Royal African Company of which Colston was a shareholder and eventually Deputy Governor, and which facilitated the company's monopoly on English slave-trading. It also includes the plantations of the Caribbean and the southern USA to where many thousands of Africans were transported to produce cotton, rice, sugar and tobacco. But such context is not all about the flows of anonymous individuals, commodities and capital across the wide ocean. In a cemetery in the suburbs of Bristol is a modest memorial—a headstone and a footstone—marking the grave of Scipio Africanus, the servant of Charles Howard, 7th Earl of Suffolk. Little is known about the life of Africanus and how exactly he came into the Howard household, but we do know that he died less than a year before Colston; the latter died aged 84, Africanus was just 18. It is unlikely that the two men ever met, but their stories have intertwined. In the days after the toppling of Colston's statue, Africanus's headstone was smashed and a chalked message was left at the scene demanding the restoration of the slave-trader's statue. Such actions suggest that recontextualising Colston's statue in a museum will be an important start, but, clearly, there is urgent need for additional wider and more profound steps to address such racism.
Meanwhile, several existing campaigns for the removal of colonial monuments have regained momentum and seen their causes advanced. Oriel College, Oxford, for example, voted in June to remove a statue of its former student and benefactor Cecil Rhodes and to set up an inquiry into the wider issues of decolonisation and the societal and institutional barriers experienced by ethnic minority students and staff. The latter is a reminder, if one were needed, that removing statues is rarely the principal objective of campaigns such as Rhodes Must Fall. They are about colonial legacies and the economic, institutional and ideological structures ingrained in society that privilege some and discriminate against others. In the light of recent events, institutions as varied as universities, banks and brewing businesses are beginning to investigate and acknowledge how they may have benefited from slavery and how they might make reparations.
At Antiquity, like many other journals, scholarly societies and research institutions, we have also begun a process of reflecting on how we can become more inclusive of the full diversity of archaeological researchers and more representative of the variety of archaeological pasts that they are researching. In recent years, we have sought to attract and support a wider range of contributors, for example, through participation in mentoring initiatives such as the workshop ‘Bringing the Past to Print: Archaeology for and by West African Scholars’, and we also look forward to delivering a writing workshop at the (COVID-19-delayed) Society of Africanist Archaeologists meeting in Oxford.Footnote 2 Nevertheless, we recognise that much more work is required in order to identify the barriers within the discipline and within our own publication processes that may prevent or dissuade authors of different backgrounds from submitting their research. More importantly, we must also develop tangible actions to encourage and support these scholars. Some changes might be relatively straightforward—such as commissioning articles or ensuring that a more diverse range of authors and reviewers is included in our book reviews section. Other actions will require slower and longer-term strategies to reduce barriers and dismantle systems of oppression within our discipline, working alongside scholars of diverse backgrounds to build capacity and confidence. We do not pretend to have all the answers, and we will be looking to educate and inform ourselves, to reflect and to formulate plans. Events such as the ‘Archaeology in the time of Black Lives Matter’ webinar organised by the Society of Black Archaeologists on 25 June have provided an invaluable starting point,Footnote 3 and, of course, we welcome the suggestions and support of the whole Antiquity community in this important endeavour.
From Minneapolis to Tulsa
The June protests that swept the streets of North America, Europe, Australia and beyond were sparked by the police killing in Minneapolis on 25 May of yet another unarmed Black man: George Floyd. Within days, Black Lives Matter demonstrations had spread to hundreds of cities across the USA and dozens of countries around the world, protesting against police brutality and systemic racism. Most gatherings started as peaceful protests, but a few were incited to violence after confrontations between protestors and police were escalated by the latter's use of tear gas and rubber bullets. In some U.S. states and cities, curfews were declared and the National Guard called in to quell the civil unrest. The White House response was less than conciliatory, denouncing protesters as vandals and anarchists, threatening to deploy the military, and also in its choice of the location and timing of a rally to restart the 2020 presidential election campaign. In the turbulent atmosphere of an ongoing pandemic with (at that time) 120 000 U.S. citizens dead, impending economic recession and racial tensions at rock bottom came the announcement that the president's first post-lockdown rally would take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on 19 June.
The date is significant because it marks Juneteenth, the annual holiday observed in most U.S. states to celebrate the emancipation of enslaved persons on 19 June 1865 after plantation owners in Texas were forced to free those that they still illegally held in bondage. Coming within two weeks of Floyd's death, news of the rally's proposed date provoked an outcry and the event was postponed to the following day. The choice of location, however, was no less controversial. In 1921, Tulsa was the scene of one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history. In the early twentieth-century context of Jim Crow laws, racial segregation and regular lynchings, what began with the arrest of a Black man for the suspected assault of a White woman rapidly spiralled out of control. Amid newspaper headlines in the Tulsa Tribune calling for the suspect to be lynched, an armed White mob gathered outside the Tulsa Courthouse demanding the man be handed over. Shots were fired and an explosion of violence was directed against the population and property of the affluent Black district of Greenwood: despite resistance from Greenwood's community, residents were shot, shops looted, and houses, churches and schools burned; eyewitnesses even reported small aircraft dropping turpentine bombs. By the time order was restored the following day, some 35 city blocks had been razed to the ground and 10 000 of Greenwood's residents had been left homeless; to add insult to injury, several thousand Black Tulsans were temporarily detained under martial law. Hundreds were hospitalised with injuries, many were missing or dead, others had fled the city in search of safety elsewhere. In the years that followed, the residents of Greenwood rebuilt their community and neighbourhood, but no one was ever held accountable, nor any compensation paid, and a public silence grew up around the events.
By the 1990s, as the number of survivors with direct memories decreased, a commission was formed to collate testimonies, establish the facts and to make recommendations. One important question, among many, concerned the number of those killed. Official records listed 36 dead (26 Black and 10 White), but multiple oral accounts from survivors detailed the mass burial of Black victims at a number of locations around the city. As part of its inquiry, the commission organised non-invasive archaeological investigations at three potential mass burial sites, but the data were inconclusive and the initiative was closed down before further investigations could be conducted. The final report provided estimates of the number killed, ranging as high as 300, along with a series of recommendations for financial reparations for survivors and descendants as well as economic support for the wider Greenwood community.Footnote 4 The resulting Act, however, did not authorise any reparations, focusing instead on the recommendations for the provision for scholarships and the creation of a new public space, the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park.
Questions inevitably remained about both the past, including the true numbers of those killed, and the future of Tulsa's Black community. The impending 100th anniversary of the massacre has provided the context for the formation of a new group to coordinate institutional and community efforts to find answers. The objectives of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission are wide-ranging, both continuing investigations into the past but also looking forward with a programme of projects and events to commemorate and educate, as well as plans for the economic regeneration of the Greenwood District through support for Black businesses and the promotion of tourism. Alongside the commission's work, the City of Tulsa has renewed archaeological investigations to identify the location of possible mass graves associated with the massacre and solicited the help of the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey as well as forensic anthropologists and archaeologists from across the state of Oklahoma. Investigations commenced last year, surveying a number of possible mass burial sites using ground-penetrating radar, magnetometer survey and other non-invasive methods. One of these locations has produced potential signs of a large pit, a signature consistent with a mass grave, but further testing is required to confirm its contents and whether or not it is connected with the events of 1921. Earlier this year, the presentation of these results to the Public Oversight Committee, which is comprised of descendants, educators and local leaders in the Black community, led to agreement for limited excavations to investigate further. That work was due to start in April, but has been pushed back into late summer because of COVID-19.
Tulsa's search for mass graves is one of many restorative justice and reconciliation projects investigating missing persons in countries around the world, including Bosnia, Chile, Cyprus, Iraq and Spain. Such forensic enquiries require slow and detailed work, and sustained engagement with the affected communities. These investigations are not well suited to high-pressure situations such as that in which Tulsa found itself during June. Yet, in the end, after all the hype, the presidential rally was underwhelming and, distress and upset notwithstanding, the global spotlight cast on the city may well have helped to bring greater national and international awareness of the events of 1921. Now that the political bandwagon has moved on, Tulsa can return to the detailed and careful work of dealing with its past in preparation for next year's centenary and the longer-term revival of Greenwood.Footnote 5
My thanks to Dr Alicia Odewale of the University of Tulsa for invaluable comments and advice on this section.
Juukan Gorge rockshelters
On 29 April 1770, Captain Cook landed at Kamay Botany Bay on the south-east coast of Australia. Plans to mark the 250th anniversary had already stimulated much public debate over the colonial legacy of European settlement; COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter have added to the mix. Long-planned events have been scaled back, and instead of restoring monuments to Cook, the authorities have felt compelled to protect them from demonstrators. Indeed, from Sydney via Anchorage, Alaska, to Whitby near his childhood Yorkshire home, statues of Cook have been a focus of protest over the structural legacies of empire and racism. As if to exemplify the wider issues raised, in late May came news of the destruction of two rockshelters in the Pilbara region of Western Australia in advance of the extension of the Brockman 4 iron ore mine. The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 aims to protect sacred Aboriginal and cultural heritage sites, but under Section 18, landowners can apply for permission to disturb or destroy these sites. In 2013, the mining giant Rio Tinto sought and received consent from the federal Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Committee to destroy sites in the Juukan Gorge. Subsequent archaeological investigations, however, indicated that one rockshelter had a long and, unusually, continuous history of activity stretching back 46 000 years. What followed earlier this year was, at best, a series of miscommunications between Rio Tinto, the state and federal authorities and the traditional landowners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura peoples; on 24 May, the rockshelters were dynamited.
Even with COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests dominating the news, the outcry over the destruction seems to have taken Rio Tinto, and other mining companies, by surprise. Under the global spotlight and under pressure from shareholders, Rio Tinto apologised for the distress caused and launched an internal review. Meanwhile, the Australian Senate agreed to an urgent federal inquiry into the destruction and the BHP mining group suspended its own plans to move ahead with the destruction of dozens of sites at the nearby South Flank mine.
The Aboriginal Heritage Act, under which consent to destroy the sites was granted, is the subject of an ongoing consultation with an intention to reform. Events at Juukan Gorge have illustrated many of the inadequacies to be addressed. There is limited requirement for consultation with traditional landowners, and consent is rarely withheld; of the dozens of applications under Section 18 submitted each year, almost none have been rejected over the past decade. Once permission to destroy a site has been granted, there is no right of appeal, except on procedural grounds, and then only to delay. Nor is there any provision for reassessing a decision in the light of new information, such as the results of archaeological assessment.
Fundamentally, the Act makes no allowance for the imbalance of power and money between mining companies and traditional landowners. Hence, although the former invest large sums into local economies and support programmes, and despite the fact that Aboriginal groups have become more effective at negotiating with these companies, the multinationals inevitably have greater leverage and agency. Similar stories play out around the world; in New Mexico, for example, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is looking to lease land near Chaco Canyon for fracking, pitting energy companies against Indigenous, environmental and archaeological groups. The Juukan Gorge fiasco has put the mining companies on the back foot, but the real nature of the relationship between government, traditional landowners and the multinationals will be revealed by the outcome of the review of the 1972 Heritage Act and by the trade-offs reached between rights and revenues as the global economy heads into recession. Already, the first signs of the loosening of regulations to boost economic growth and the slashing of budgets are apparent. In the USA, for example, the president has signed executive orders directing federal agencies to use emergency powers to hasten the completion of infrastructure projects by potentially suspending various regulations, such as the National Historic Preservation Act. Over the border in Mexico, deep budgetary cuts are proposed, including a 75 per cent reduction in funding for the National Institute of Anthropology and History, which oversees research and the protection and promotion of the country's cultural heritage. In the new world of COVID-19, there will be hard choices to make.
Each year, the Antiquity Trust recognises the two best articles published in the previous volume through the award of the Antiquity Prize and, for the runner-up, the Ben Cullen Prize. The latter is named in memory of Ben Cullen (1964–1995), a young Australian scholar whose life was cut tragically short. A quarter of a century after his death, Ben's research has assumed new resonance.Footnote 6 Influenced by neo-Darwinism, he sought comparisons between genetic and cultural transmission, advancing cultural virus theory to explain the spread of ideas and practices such as megalithic monument building in prehistoric Europe. Twenty-five years later, in our hyper-networked, globalised world, the metaphor of contagion has grown from strength to strength: tweets go viral, influencers change the behaviour of people on the other side of the world and financial contagion brings down global markets. The metaphor of contagion is itself contagious.Footnote 7 But with COVID-19, the metaphorical has become reality, so much so that we are forced to seek metaphors to conceptualise it: a silent killer, an invisible enemy, a battle to be fought, a victory to be won. Alongside renewed interest in previous pandemics, as archaeologists reformulate their research questions in response to the coronavirus, might we also expect a shift in thinking about cultural transmission? Whether lithic industries or the capitalist mode of production carried by European colonialism around the world, questions about the spread, adoption and modification of material culture and ideas lie at the heart of our discipline.
To identify this year's two winners, our editorial advisory board drew up a shortlist of articles published in 2019 and then a panel of Antiquity Trustees and Directors cast their votes. The 2020 Antiquity Prize goes to Mark Knight, Rachel Ballantyne, Iona Robinson Zeki and David Gibson for their article on ‘The Must Farm pile-dwelling settlement’.Footnote 8 The authors describe the environmental context of a Late Bronze Age site in the Cambridgeshire Fens and the evidence for its construction, brief occupation and destruction by fire. The exceptional preservation conditions and tight chronological controls provide a unique insight into the quantity and variability of material culture from a domestic context from Bronze Age Britain.
Also on the theme of prehistoric Britain, the 2020 Ben Cullen Prize goes to Alan Williams and Cécile Le Carlier de Veslud for their article: ‘Boom and bust in Bronze Age Britain: major copper production from the Great Orme mine and European trade, c. 1600–1400 BC’.Footnote 9 Located on the coast of north Wales, the Great Orme copper mine was one of the largest in Bronze Age Europe, but the extensive workings have generally been considered to be the result of small-scale exploitation over many centuries. Based on the geochemical characterisation of ores, objects and production waste, the authors argue for a briefer, more intensive and larger-scale use of the mine in the mid second millennium BC, indicating full-time, specialist mining and greater integration into the exchange networks of Bronze Age Europe. Congratulations to the authors of both articles, and our thanks to all of the contributors whose research featured in the many other articles published in the journal last year. All of the current and previous prize-winning articles are free to access via our website: http://antiquity.ac.uk/open/prizes.
Before signing off, a quick update on the Antiquity editorial team. For the past two and a half years, Rebecca Gowland has been working hard as our Associate Editor, dealing in particular with peer reviews and looking to attract more archaeological science. Recently, Rebecca has taken on additional university responsibilities and now needs to focus more fully on her new role. In her place, we are pleased to introduce our new Associate Editor, Robin Skeates. Many readers will be familiar with Robin and his research, which focuses on Central Mediterranean prehistory using a range of approaches to material and visual culture. Our thanks to Rebecca, and a warm welcome to Robin.
In this issue, you will find our usual mix of research and reviews, including a new Inca ritual deposit from Lake Titicaca and a fresh look at healing sanctuaries in ancient Greece from the perspective of disability studies. We also consider the prospect of archaeology ‘without antiquity’—but not archaeology without Antiquity!—as part of a reorientation of the discipline to focus on the present and future, as much as on the past. The global events of the last few months amply illustrate the timeliness and importance of such a change of perspective.