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The ‘anthropologization’ of archaeological heritage

  • Jan Kolen

With the growing impact of postprocessual orientations, archaeologists have become increasingly aware that the production of values resides in all aspects of archaeological research. This awareness has also paved the way for a more encompassing concept of archaeological heritage, which of course not only includes the management of material traces but also the transmission of values through archaeological practice, method and theory. Many archaeologists and heritage managers now propagate the belief that reflecting on value production will better equip archaeology for ethical concerns or that it will improve its engagement with society, and that adopting anthropological perspectives and key notions may help to achieve this goal. This contribution explores the opposite proposition: that an anthropologically informed reflexive attitude is important to understand present-day heritage practices, but in most cases it is desirable for archaeologists to tell stories about the past, not about themselves, in order to be really engaged with public and ethical issues. Arguments for this proposition can be derived from the discipline's specific articulation of discovery, difference and time depth (including the ‘long term’), which traditionally shape archaeological research and narrative to a high degree, not only within academic discourse but also in a wider social setting.

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Archaeological Dialogues
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