Strait Street in Malta’s capital Valletta is an extraordinary street, and one that has fascinating stories to tell about its resident population and visitors over nearly 300 years. For Strait Street (part of which was also known as The Gut) was a focal point for visiting navies, from Nelson’s time until the departure of the British Royal Navy in the 1960s and early ’70s. But such was the contradiction between this street’s activities and Catholic society that the street has remained empty post-abandonment. This situation is only now beginning to change. This chapter briefly summarizes a project which set out to record, interpret, and present Strait Street to diverse audiences, focusing here on the field methods used in the investigation. While this is primarily an archaeological study, the methodology also incorporates ethnographic and historic components to construct a complex narrative of coexistence and tolerance in the heart of the Mediterranean.
William E. Boyd
In the archaeological context, a sense of the evolving landscape becomes especially important where there is considerable time depth or cultural sequencing inherent in a single site. The prehistoric occupants of that site used and related to the landscape in very different ways throughout time. However, archaeology is a modern endeavour, a form of enquiry directly related to post-Enlightenment and modernist conceptions and constructions of knowledge, place, and society, enacted within a complex of social-administrative and political constraints. The physical existence of an archaeological site reflects its multi-contextual conceptual identity. The concept of cognitive ownership has tended to be couched in relatively simple pragmatic terms: observing behaviour and drawing categorization of individuals and groups engaging in a cultural place as a management tool. In some studies, this has led to deeper understanding of cultural values, while in others, to more pragmatic management or activist conclusions.
Severin Fowles and Kaet Heupel
Archaeological methodologies direct our attention towards the study of present, material things. This is frequently praised as its greatest contribution to social theory. But humans cultivate relationships with absent things as well, and these absent things can be marked and assertive, exerting a powerful influence on society despite their immateriality. How, then, to engage in an archaeological study of absent things? And how might we undertake this project without slipping into the romantic notion that absences are necessarily mournful, in the sense that so many authors now write of the absence of the past as tragedy of the present? Here, it is argued that this issue has a special relevance to the archaeology of the contemporary past, and the authors draw upon recent excavations at the New Buffalo Commune-a 1960s and 1970s hippie commune in New Mexico-to explore the shifting relationships between modernity and absence on the one hand, and between absence and desire on the other.
The chapter contributes to unravelling how Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) as a method of inquiry might inform the archaeological understanding of the contemporary world. To illustrate this, the author engages in an inquiry on Shin Takamatsu’s architecture following Guattari’s fascination with his architectural machines in the 1980s. Drawing on two epistemological figures-the hasty sightseer and the slow ethnographer-the chapter demonstrates two different approaches to contemporary architecture. It is argued that ANT methodologies can help to create a space in which the past, present, and future are combined and are still in the process of becoming. Equipped with ANT-inspired methods, contemporary archaeologists can engage in explorations of vibrant processes and emergent world-making techniques.
Michael Brian Schiffer
This chapter develops and illustrates the concept of afterlife artefact, an important domain of modern material culture. A human that died or an artefact that lost functions or its integrity may have an afterlife. During the afterlife the original entity lives on in memories created and perpetuated by afterlife artefacts that represent, mimic, commemorate, allude to, or incorporate part of the original entity. The Great Eastern, an English steamship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was broken up in 1888. The ship has a rich afterlife, represented in many kinds of artefacts ranging from mouse pads to refrigerator magnets. A brief history is given of the Great Eastern’s interesting life, and its afterlife is illustrated by discussions of trading cards and postage stamps; both kinds are targeted at hobbyist collectors. The belief that postage stamps uniquely embody political ideology is debunked.
Stephen Trow and Jane Grenville
This article describes the complex and ever-changing institutional, legislative, and academic framework relating to the management of nature and culture in the English landscape. It highlights the current debate over future land use, which stems from the competing demands being placed upon it, particularly by agriculture, forestry, nature conservation, and archaeology. Under this, the article examines the interaction between the heritage and nature conservation sectors in the context of rural land use, particularly agriculture and forestry, drawing particularly on the situation in England. It also considers the institutional, legal, policy, and academic frameworks within which engagement takes place; the implications of policy changes driven by social, economic, and climatic change; and the increasingly radical debate on the future use of land. Finally, the article addresses the current attempts by archaeologists to respond to this agenda, the adequacy of the research base, and future challenges to achieving greater integration.
This chapter examines how the light yet strong metal aluminium shaped modern material cultures around practices and ideologies of speed and mobility. Aluminium-based light modernity became definitive of the twentieth century through both military air power and innovative civil applications, informing modernist visions of a streamlined future. The archaeology of metallic modernity opens up a space for thinking about the material remains that contemporary cultures of mobility have left on the Earth, and beyond, in outer space. By tracing the infiltration of this unique metal into the material cultures of modernity the chapter uncovers a layer of modern artefacts-buildings, aircraft, vehicles, appliances, satellites-that express a certain moment in human existence, and also express that period’s hopes for the future of humanity.
Hilary Allester Soderland
This article examines the importance of the first consolidating legislation on National Parks in the development of America's national heritage. It considers the ‘public’ in its focus on the legal regulation of United States archaeology and asserts the enduring significance of the 1916 legislation that created the National Park Service. Utilizing a legal-historical approach, the article explores the societal ideals, values, and sentiments critical in the law-making process of the 1916 National Park Organic Act, and subsequently situates these mores within the legal historiography of American archaeology. In so doing, it addresses the importance of the 1916 Act in expanding the legal regulation inaugurated by the 1906 Antiquities Act, thus providing a foundation from which subsequent regulatory measures were to be constructed, and in safeguarding an untold number of archaeological sites through the extraction of vast areas from the public domain.
This chapter explores the place of materials in contemporary anthropological research. Moving away from semiotic approaches to material culture, the focus is on the diverse ways in which the vitality of materials is invoked in different analytical traditions and diverse ethnographic settings. Phenomenological approaches to craft practice emphasize the intrinsic relationality and vitality of materials over and beyond the capacity of human intention to impose form. This celebration of the vital force of materials is contrasted to a darker and more explicitly material politics that emerges from contemporary studies of waste disposal and resource extraction where toxicity and deathly effects characterize the transformational force of material life. Anthropological investigations into material agency and the personhood of things also attend to the immaterial and affective dimensions of material relations and pose ontological questions about the social consequences of material life.
The Anthropology of Archaeology: The Benefits of Public Intervention at African-American Archaeological Sites
Cheryl Janifer LaRoche
Archaeology occupies an important place in historicizing the African American experience – principally where little historical evidence survives. The nature of African American archaeology is such that archaeologists are continually challenged by the unexpected and hampered by the unknown. These are the qualities of the field that alternately inflame and inspire the public. This article examines the constructive outcomes, lasting societal benefits, and enduring commemorative legacies that arise when individuals act collectively to define historical value and meaning through archaeology. Public intervention-shaped research and eventual outcomes at the four sites are discussed, namely: The President's House in Philadelphia; the Henrietta Marie; the Freedmen's Cemetery in Alexandria, VA; and New York City's African Burial Ground. For each site, the public has played a major role in reclamation, scholarly and public interpretation, and, finally, monumental recognition.