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 What is History and Who Decides?

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: What is History and Who Decides?   Thu 20 Sep 2012, 11:20

Recent excavations in Turkey has revealed two Roman statues that were used as building rubble in the ancient city of Aphrodisias and an ancient floor was uprooted to free the find.

Isn't the use of the statues in the floor a part of the natural evolution of their history? Shouldn't the statues remain where and as found? And isn't the destruction of floor itself also a destruction of history? So who decides what is history and what isn't, or indeed, what is history worth saving and what isn't?

There are 14 photographs of the excavation here http://www.livescience.com/23256-gallery-roman-headless-statues.html .

PS. I'm having difficulty putting thoughts into words with this, but I hope you get my drift, so to speak.


Last edited by Islanddawn on Thu 20 Sep 2012, 17:32; edited 1 time in total
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: What is History and Who Decides?   Thu 20 Sep 2012, 11:34

It is a question frequently presented in historical excavations for which there is no one good answer. The nearest one can get to a rule-of-thumb guideline is to concentrate not on the comparative historical value of either artefact (in this case the floor versus the statues) but on as accurate a recording of context as is possible while retrieving the maximum amount of data.

All archaeological excavation is, by definition, a disturbance of the natural historical process through which the subject matter was lost to view. All artefacts once removed have been separated from their historical context. Where part of that context must be destroyed in order to attain as much data as possible then the sad truth is that the best that can be done in the circumstances is to record it as best one can before it is lost.
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PostSubject: Re: What is History and Who Decides?   Thu 20 Sep 2012, 12:14

Quote :
What is History and Who Decides?
Good question.

Coincidentally, I've got 'Destruction and Conservation of Cultural Property' open on the table right now and I'm reading the chapter on 'Politics of the Past'.

The actual archaeological excavation is possibly the simplest, or at least best methodologically generally accepted, part of this, it's when the political or Political, interests come to bear on the results that things can get messy. What is or is not deemed appropriate to be destroyed in the course of excavation can be fraught, particularly so when religious or nationalist interests come into play.

In this case it appears that the statues were used as footings for a medieval wall and so a judgement has been made that the statues have priority but the recording process should allow the retention of the original configuration and an understanding of the changing values and decisions which existed at the different times of the building's history.

http://blog.shangrilahawaii.org/wordpress/?p=562
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: What is History and Who Decides?   Thu 20 Sep 2012, 12:26

What is increasingly the case, and even sadder, is that the decision to destroy has already been made in advance of the archaeology. 90% of all archaeological excavation in Ireland in 2001 to 2010 was preliminary to the total destruction of the historical context due to road or building development.
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PostSubject: Re: What is History and Who Decides?   Thu 20 Sep 2012, 12:54

True, and then there's the whole issue of Grey Literature although the OASIS
project is helping.
That's one of the reasons that I get het up about the R3 business, there's so little money for research projects and so much to do that I can't help but feel that this one is not the best use of the cash.
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PostSubject: Re: What is History and Who Decides?   Fri 21 Sep 2012, 04:57

Yes, I think the RIII business is more about boosting Channel 4s ratings than history or archaeology.

On a slightly related subject to the topic, I was shocked at the treatment of this find in China by supposed experts. It seems more of a free for all amongst the archaeologists, depsite the word 'careful' being used in the captions. I thought the opening of sarcophagii and the removal of bodies (and the unwrapping) was done in the controlled conditions of museums and laboratories?

Wonderful preservation of the woman and the textiles though
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/worldnews/8361635/Archaeologists-find-Ming-Dynasty-mummy-in-China.html
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