History and Tradition, Archaeology and Authenticity

  • Christopher N. Matthews
Part of the Contributions to Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA)


This chapter explores what an archaeology of history and tradition is by locating these cultural traits within social discourse and practice. To illustrate the ideas I introduce the chapter with two examples of contemporary archaeology that demonstrate its problematic relationship with the past. The first, an extract from Michael Crichton’s recent book Timeline (1999), is about a story of time travel made possible through the application of sophisticated theoretical quantum physics. The destination is the medieval French countryside during the era of knights and nobility. Crichton employs archaeology and archaeologists to enliven the plot as they study the remains of the castle and monastery at the principle site, Castelgard. The real issue in the plot is not what they are finding as much as why they are doing the work. The group is funded exclusively by a high-tech company, International Technology Corporation, who seem to be good-hearted about their love of archaeology and their faith that the archaeologists are doing a good job. In other words, the company pays little attention to what the archaeologists are actually finding. As the plot thickens, a reporter makes it known that the company has recently and without much fanfare bought up the property surrounding the site. Only then do we learn that the company’s primary interest is time travel and that they have been experimenting with a new technology that can send people (time tourists) back to Medieval Castelgard. As you might imagine in a book like this (Crichton is best known as the author of Jurassic Park), things go very wrong and the archaeologists, as experts, are sent back in time to rescue stranded travelers.


Native People Historical Process Archaeological Record Cultural Distance Historical Archaeology 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher N. Matthews
    • 1
  1. 1.Hofstra UniversityHempsteadUSA

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