, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 1–6 | Cite as

Archaeology on the Global Stage

  • John Carman
  • Jan Turek

WAC on the Global Stage

As readers will know, our host organisation the World Archaeological Congress has a global reach and represents us to other global organisations. Key areas for WAC’s concern are of course the treatment of archaeological remains and engagements with communities, especially Indigenous communities. Most recently, WAC has engaged with the World Bank in commenting on the latter’s policy on development as it affects archaeological resources and engagements with communities. This is not the first time WAC and the World Bank have had conversations: representatives of the World Bank have attended and spoken at several WAC Congresses and been well received.

What is shocking in the most recent contacts has been the disregard for and ignorance of archaeological and Indigenous interests shown by the World Bank in its policy-making. As Editors, we wish to put on record our support for WAC initiatives in engaging with issues that affect our community and maintaining the ethical standards WAC has set in these areas. We urge other organisations whose work engages with or affects archaeological material or the communities they represent to ensure that organisations such as WAC are approached for advice in policy and that advice is fully incorporated into policy and practice.

Alexander the Great’s Heritage, and Dispute Over the Descendants of His Two Sons

The Macedonia naming dispute is a political dispute over the use of the name “Macedonia” between the southeastern European countries of Greece and the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. The specific naming dispute, although an ongoing issue in Yugoslav–Greek relations since World War II, was reignited after the breakup of Yugoslavia and the newly gained independence of the former Socialist Republic of Macedonia in 1991. Since then, it has been an ongoing issue in bilateral and international relations. The dispute arises from the ambiguity in nomenclature between the Republic of Macedonia, the adjacent Greek region of Macedonia and the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon (which falls mostly within Greek Macedonia). Greece opposes the use of the name “Macedonia” by the Republic of Macedonia without a geographical qualifier such as “Northern Macedonia” for use “by all and for all purposes”. As millions of ethnic Greeks identify themselves as Macedonians, unrelated to the Slavic people who are associated with the Republic of Macedonia, Greece further objects to the use of the term “Macedonian” for the neighbouring country’s largest ethnic group and its language. The Republic of Macedonia is accused of appropriating symbols and figures that are historically considered part of Greek culture such as the Vergina Sun and the glory of Alexander the Great’s heritage. Both capital cities have created monuments with Alexander’s equestrian statue, emphasising the glorious heritage of their forefather. Some Macedonians even with exaggeration suggest that Alexander had two sons, one Greek and one Slavonic. The Skopje statue, erected almost 7 years ago, is very similar to the statue of Svatopluk in Bratislava, that was unveiled just few months earlier and the nationalist dispute over the heritage of both historical figures is similar (see Turek in this volume).

Tutankhamun’s Tomb Mysteries and Conservation Reality

Three years ago Reeves (2015) sparked a heated debate about the possibility of another, yet undetected space in Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, suggesting that the high-resolution laser scans of the tomb seemed to indicate traces of passageways and door openings that had been plastered and painted over during the preparation of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber. In his theory, there may be the tomb of queen Nefertiti neighbouring the burial complex (KV 62) discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter’s team. Reeves’s paper was dismissed by many Egyptologists, and it is likely that there are only natural cracks and cavities in the rock detected by the radar scanning. There are, however, some other remarkable things going on in the KV 62 right now. The Getty Conservation Institute (Los Angeles USA) announced that a nearly decade-long restoration of King Tutankhamun’s tomb aimed at preserving one of the world’s most important archaeological sites is close to complete (Figure 1). The project has added a filtration system to keep out dust, humidity and carbon dioxide and a barrier to keep visitors from continuing to damage the tomb’s elaborate wall paintings. Other amenities include walkways and a viewing platform and new lights are also scheduled to be installed this autumn. Over the years, humidity and dust contamination carried in by visitors have caused considerable damage. Humidity promotes microbiological growth and may also physically stress the wall paintings. The project was launched in 2009 by the LA Getty Institute in collaboration with Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities.
Figure 1

Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV 62) in November 2016 (photograph: J. Turek)

More Open than Usual

As contributors to the journal will know, we offer the opportunity for contributions to be published as Open Access in order that a wide community can read what we have offer. Open Access to academic work is something now required in a number of countries; and universities in particular are keen to provide it for publications by their staff: indeed, in the UK where one of us is based, it is a requirement for any publication deriving from public research funding.

The principle is now being extended to the data that provides the basis for publications. As Editors, we have been required to make a decision as to how we provide for that for our contributors and readers. There were four options, and we chose the one that seemed to us to provide the most flexibility: which is that data sharing and data citation is encouraged but not required. Accordingly, we recommend to contributors to deposit their data in an accessible location and to provide a citation in their publications to where the data can be accessed. We appreciate that those countries and institutions already requiring open access to data will already meet and surpass this recommendation, but we are aware that as a journal with a global reach we owe a duty to our readers and contributors elsewhere in territories and institutions where data sharing may be difficult or may disadvantage them. We nonetheless hope that as many of our contributors as can will take advantage of the chance to share their basic data with others in order to benefit all of us engaged in research. For further advice on opportunities, see:

This Issue

There is a strong pan-American theme in this month’s issue. Out of seven papers, five come from the Americas: three from the USA, and one each from Canada and Argentina, providing case studies from all those countries and Mexico. We are especially pleased to offer the two relating to Latin America, an area less well represented in our pages. The remaining two articles hail from Europe.

Thematically, the five from the Americas provide valuable examples of relationships between archaeological and Indigenous knowledge systems. This reflects one of this journal’s aims and a strand of well-represented work in our pages. The two from Europe tackle different issues: the political uses of archaeology in the Czech Republic; and how ideas of property influence heritage management practice globally. While apparently quite different and diverse, underlying all our contributions are issues of who has the right to make claims on the past and how those claims affect our interpretations and understanding. Individually and collectively, they address issues relevant to all archaeologists everywhere, reflecting our global reach and concerns.

In reference to our avowed aim of encouraging academic writing in nonstandard formats, we present Natasha Lyons and her colleagues’ interpretation of agricultural developments among Native North Americans in the form of a love story. The love under examination is that of a community for a food plant and is expressed in the manners in which the relationship between people and food staple is revealed through time. The authors—a collective comprised of European and Native Americans—use archaeological evidence to support the construction of a narrative following a well-known path in the literature from initial encounter, through growing familiarity and affection, to the end of the affair and final parting which creates new beginnings.

Three papers expressly address the mutual benefits of collaborations between archaeologists and Indigenous communities. Félix Acuto and Hilda Corimayo engage in a dialogue which combines archaeological methods with Indigenous knowledges to build an approach to understanding the designs on prehistoric pottery from Argentina. While the archaeologist applies methods and systemic knowledge derived from the Western model, the Indigenous knowledges include oral traditions, practical skills and lived experience. Together, it is argued, they provide a powerful means to access past worldviews. In similar vein, Benjamin Barnes and Bradley Lepper draw upon modern practices among Native Americans to provide a lens through which to interpret particular prehistoric material. The case study concerns stone spheres deposited at the base of an ancient mound previously understood as ritual shamanic objects: reinterpretation based on Barnes’ Indigenous knowledge suggests instead that they are part of a drum, which indicates the presence of such objects much earlier than previously believed. Sara Gonzalez and her colleagues describe a community-based participatory research project between University-based researchers and a local Indigenous group. They emphasise its outcomes in terms of encouraging low-intensity investigatory techniques and the inclusion of oral traditions and local knowledges which in combination serve to protect and preserve the resource while at the same time contributing to a more democratic form of archaelological practice.

Moving us away from collaboration and towards issues in the politics of heritage management, Fernando Armstrong-Fumero offers a perspective on the development of heritage management practices in Mexico by comparing changing attitudes to prehistoric remains and those towards the Mayan language. He examines in particular the processes by which members of the Yucatan élite developed an appreciation of both leading to the development of formal means for their preservation and management. He focuses on the development of a particular aesthetic—‘the archaeological sublime’—and how this informs current approaches to the pre-colonial Mexican past and Indigenous populations.

Jan Turek provides a warning against denying the role of politics in archaeology by a consideration of how it figured in his home country of the Czech Republic and how this relates to constructions of Czech, Moravian and Slovak identities. The communist-era emphasis on culture history, he argues, weakened the capacity of Czech archaeologists to develop a solid approach to their past, apart from such figures as Evžen Neustupný who could show a way forward.

Finally, John Carman looks back at the impact of his work on property relations as they apply to heritage. He finds that there has been considerable progress in terms of how archaeologists engage with others, few due to the influence of his work. Nonetheless, we are still bound to practices that impede any progress towards abandonment of disciplinary authority and a full recognition of our role as servants of the greater good rather than providers of it.


  1. Reeves, N. (2015). The burial of nefertiti? In Amarna royal tombs project, Valley of the Kings, occasional paper no. 1 (pp. 1–16), University of Arizona, Tuscon.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© World Archaeological Congress 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, School of History and Cultures, College of Arts and LawUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  2. 2.Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of SciencesPrague 1Czech Republic

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