Shannon Dawdy has presented us with a provocative dialogue on the question ‘is archaeology useful?’ In it, she forecasts a rather bleak future for our field, raising doubts about whether archaeology should be useful and whether it is ‘threatened with its own end-time’. Woven throughout her paper are major concerns about the use of archaeology for nationalistic ends and heritage projects which she deems fulfil the needs of archaeologists rather than those of the public they serve. In the final section of her paper, when she asks, ‘can archaeology save the world?’, Dawdy recommends that we reorient our research ‘away from reconstructions of the past and towards problems of the present’ (p. 140). In my contribution to this dialogue, I introduce an issue that reflects on cultural heritage, antiquities and artefact preservation, which, though they may seem antithetical, are closely aligned with Dawdy's concerns. As a prehistorian with a focus on the third millennium B.C. in the Near East and South Asia, I consider these issues to be the ‘big stories’ that have emerged in the early years of this third millennium, and those that speak directly to the usefulness of archaeology. Of course, it is not the only thing we do, but it is ‘useful’.
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