Post #6: Archeological Recovery and Repatriation

While we sat in the museum for a long, but fruitful, seven hours, there were many interesting things I learned. One of those things that Peter and a few others touched on and that I was reminded of throughout the trip was the amount of work and effort put into archeology, preserving artifacts, and essentially being the safekeeper of history/culture. It was fascinating to understand more fully the amount of work as well as gain a deeper appreciation for the things that archeologists and historians do. Archeology had always seemed to be somewhat of a dying field to me and I could not have been further from the truth. Another thing that was interesting to see was the amount of paperwork done to release reports on all types of things and how each agency had to read through a book full of reports before responding. I’m sure there is a massive amount of legal documents archeologists have to deal with just to mark a site for excavation or discovery, and that’s just the beginning.

Repatriation is another thing I got to see at a personal level, I had heard about the importance of it in locating artifacts but to see it adding to the history and being a key in preserving O’odham ways was fascinating. When Peter told us there was something coming in from Princeton and how many O’odham artifacts were scattered due to colonialism I couldn’t help but wonder how many artifacts were still in hiding or lost and how finally the O’odham were claiming their history back. Although by the end of the seven hours I was just straight up not having a good time, the information was very pertinent and all of it was worth it.

2 Replies to “Post #6: Archeological Recovery and Repatriation”

  1. I had the same experience when I came to college and started doing Archaeology. My initial reaction to the amount of documentation and bureaucratic red tape before, during and after a dig was understandable- complete and utter desperation. I thought that I was a good person, I could dig with the permission of a land owner and then put what I found in a museum or archive. However, even though most archaeologists are good people with morals, propers documentation ( to the point of redundancy) is essential to be able to establish a provenience of an artifact. this had legal, ethical and cultural implication.

    I now see that the difference between an archaeologist and a grave robber is not just asking for permission (As many legitimate archaeologist did in the Arab spring and were denied for nationalistic reasons at the expense of cultural treasures) but rather documentation. Being able to do the proper paperwork, the mountains of it, is what really makes a good archeologist.

  2. Repatriation was definitely a prominent and recurring theme on this trip, and personally, I viewed the issue as who has claim to ownership of these artifacts. What first comes to mind is the ancient struggle of land ownership and property rights – who really has honest claim to the land and its belongings and what dictates that claim? Next, I wonder if repatriation as it pertains to Indians is based on the pattern of having ownership that is controlled and manipulated by their colonizers? Overall, it seems to me that one of the biggest issues that American Indian tribes face today is receiving respect.

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