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date: 14 April 2021

(p. 827) Wetland Archaeology and the Public


Wetland archaeology has long had enormous potential for public outreach, education, and communication, well beyond the academic or professional archaeological sectors. Wetland archaeology can help to promote the entire discipline. If you ever get the opportunity to walk around a museum exhibition of bog bodies from northern Europe, you will probably witness it: people seem to fall into a reverent silence as they gaze into the faces of the long-dead, awe-struck by the survival of a human body despite the annihilation of the centuries and made, for a moment, reflective by a sense of revelation about our common humanity with our ancestors. Wetland archaeology has the capacity to surprise, intrigue, and awaken people's imagination.

This is all the more important as global economic concerns place archaeology in a difficult place, entirely dependent on the public's appreciation of its role in society. In this section, Marc-Antoine Kaeser (Chapter 49) writes about wetland archaeology in the media and popular literature since the subject's origins, recognizing that public communication is critical. He is also optimistic, noting that the successful ‘application of the “Prehistoric Lake-Dwellings around the Alps” for UNESCO World Heritage status…compelled professionals to actively demonstrate the global impact of wetland sites for general archaeology’. Urs Leuzinger (Chapter 50) also optimistically explores how wetland archaeology, open-air museums, and living-history television programmes can bridge the gap between experts and enthusiasts. Gunter Schöbel (Chapter 51) also writes about how open-air museums and living-history (p. 828) events can create a dynamic and active dialogue between professionals, the media, and the general public, to the benefit of all. Finally, Bettina Arnold (Chapter 52) provides some reflections on how wetland archaeology offered the basis for the origins of antiquarian collections and museums across the world, connected to a central European diaspora moving to the Americas, and the professional and ethical debates that these collections continue to inspire today. All these chapters have a common theme: the role and importance of wetland archaeology in public communication, and the care and thoughtfulness that needs to be devoted to this critically important aspect of the discipline.