An Ethnography of Archaeology

Exploration of engagement with the archaeological process

The archaeological process begins as the archaeologist conceives a question about the past that is going to be answered in the present through practice. This is a non-linear recursive process and involves many steps, from fieldwork and interpretation to conservation and exhibition. In fact, the archaeological process may be conceptualized as a spiral along which are located actions, reactions and decisions that go beyond the archaeologists’. Aside from rare exceptions, awareness of these ‘hermeneutics’ is not frequent in the archaeological agenda. Nor is the role of local communities in the implementation and continuation of the archaeological process along the spiral taken fully into account.

This network will explore different stages of engagement with the archaeological process and the stakeholders involved through a combination of approaches that include critical thinking, micro-history and the use of film as documentation.

The research being undertaken begins with two case studies, the first of which is a pilot (Fabriano). Following the outcome of these two case studies, it is intended to pursue others from Italy, Brazil and the UK, the focus being on the ethnography of the archaeological process (as defined above) and its impact on the present, specifically:

  • How the past is interpreted and who has participated in these interpretations; how these interpretations are translated into conservation interventions and exhibitions.
  • How negotiated interpretations impact on the way different users understand and talk about the past in their daily lives
  • Whether and how this process fosters archaeology discourse amongst different stakeholders (‘archaeology-talk’)
  • Conceptual and moral issues involved in these interpretations
  • Interests of different groups involved
  • Analysis of conflicts of interests
  • Participatory processes and their implications
  • Film making as documentation
  • Process as product

Related outputs

  • This is a newly-established research network. Details of outputs will be added as soon as they are available while exhibitions engaging local communities are envisaged.

Network Coordinator:

Network Members:


Further information:

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