ZEITGEIST: Stuart Eve

Dr. Stuart Eve, Research Associate at University College London

This post is written as part of the Call for Papers over at ThenDig, looking at Zeitgeist in archaeological research and how to follow it, keep up with it, or create it. As will be clear from the previous posts on my blog, I am interested in using Mixed and Augmented Reality to aid in archaeological research. Augmented Reality (AR) is currently just over the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ of the Gartner Hype Cycle meaning that it has been hailed previously as the next Big Thing, but has not quite lived up to the hype and so now needs a lot of work to make it a sustainable and useful technology – I have previously written about what this means in terms of archaeology here.

As I have just finished editing the final version of my PhD thesis on the use of AR in archaeology I decided to write this post to give some brief reflections on what it has been like trying to surf the Hype Cycle, whilst still producing 85,000 words of scholarly research on the topic.

Twitter is your enemy

Perhaps a controversial statement, but for one attempting to sit down and write intelligently about something that is currently the zeitgeist Twitter is not your friend. I don’t say this because of the many wasted hours of procrastination that goes into reading and obsessively checking a million and one tweets (although this is certainly true), I say it because when working on something at the bleeding edge of tech Twitter provides hundreds of teasing snippets of the amazing research that other people are doing. This isn’t just other researchers, but also companies and hackers who seem to have all the time (and money) in the world to make cool proof-of-concept videos. While initially amazing and a great source for early ideas and ways in which to give your research the ‘wow-factor’, it quickly becomes disheartening – seeing what other people are achieving whilst you are stuck still making sure your bibliography is formatted correctly. It provokes the need to be blogging/creating/making/hacking almost continually to keep up with everyone, and show that you are somehow simultaneously surfing the Hype Cycle. In my experience there is always going to be someone who has done it better so for anyone who wants to have a life outside of their research, my advice is keep your Twitter usage limited to finding new dubstep tracks and getting irate at the state of the world today.

Remember your roots

One of the key things to remember when using new tech is that no matter how deeply you immerse yourself in the tech world, when you emerge you need to convince other archaeologists that what you have been doing is useful. Archaeologists are notoriously wary of new technology and will be your biggest crtics – and this is A Good Thing. Every new digital method or gadget should only be developed to further archaeological method/theory and our knowledge of the past – not simply for wow-factor or as a result of a ride on a Hypegeist bandwagon. If it won’t work outside in the rain or you can’t convince a colleague of the usefulness of it without resorting to fancy videos or Prezis then don’t bother.

Every surfer loses a wave

Be prepared to fall off the wave, and watch other people riding. It is going to happen anyway and by being patient, sitting back and watching other people ride the wave you can learn just as much as you can by constantly doing. It is less tiring and often very much more rewarding. I have found that acknowledging you are always going to be behind the curve promotes a feeling of calm reflection that is vital for properly researching what you are doing, and gives you the knowledge to choose the right time to jump back on the crest.

Take your time

Whilst blogs are great for working through ideas, writing academically makes you consider every word and sentence and forces you to find other research that backs up or challenges your claims. As someone who researches new technology everyday, a digital detox is almost unheard of. However, taking the time to unplug everything, sit down and write the paper or thesis makes you critically examine everything you are saying or promoting with a clear unhindered perspective.

I am convinced this is the reason that baking is so zeitgiest at the moment. People are craving time away from the digital world to watch their sourdough grow and savouring the time it takes for a loaf to prove and bake puts you back in the real world. Sadly, however, they are tech-ifying sourdough too.

PEER RESPONSE: James Stuart Taylor, University of York

Initially I wondered whether I might be the correct person to offer peer comment on Stuart’s Zeitgeist post. I do not blog (no time!) and I rarely tweet, maintaining a belligerent cynicism about the usefulness of this particular social media (this may be softening as I increasingly find I’m not averse to live-tweeting at conferences – which for me has the joyously irreverent feel of passing notes in class). But I am not a technophobe and I do get it. As a field archaeologist I have always maintained a deep interest in applied computational technologies, amongst other things they help us in our work as tools for data acquisition, analysis and dissemination – and in this sense I’m very open to the ‘bleeding edge’. I found myself smiling wryly at Stuart’s commentary on the problems of balancing popular hype and academic engagement of bleeding edge technologies, and at the same time nodding in agreement, reflecting upon the deeper issue here.

My research focuses upon applied GIS as a tool for getting to grips with intra-site spatiotemporal data from archaeological excavations. Being a computing technology that had its genesis nearly 50 years ago, GIS is far from the bleeding edge. My tech is well over the crest of its hype wave in archaeology (clawing its way out of the trench of disillusionment I’d say!). Indeed GIS is now a well-established technology in archaeology. Yet I am researching a fundamental that has never been satisfactorily addressed in the development of GIS: the interconnection (or lack thereof) of space and time. Important for GIS you’d think – critical for archaeologists; but rarely considered academically. Surely people should have solved this problem a long time ago? – apparently not! Why? – because it’s complicated…

Complexities and the challenge of overcoming them is ultimately whatdrives research, but a fundamental from an academic perspective is often low priority from a technical perspective. As a discipline it is easy to lose focus upon more tricky issues as we ride the tide of technohype that Stuart is alluding to: lidar, laser scanning, 3D modeling, drones, hyperspectral cameras, ‘space archaeology’, are part of a seemingly endless list of technological applications which vie with augmented reality (and the now passé GIS) to take a turn on the crest of the hype-wave. And like the stereotypical surfer that the metaphor alludes to, these technologies tend to be trendy, fun, immediate, impressive, but ultimately can be shallow in their application – this is a shame.

Stuart’s final message is important – as a discipline we do need to take time to think academically about the technology we apply, to reflect upon the theory that drives these new methodologies (or which they recursively help generate), to look for meaningful and practical applications which will outlive the zeitgeist, so that they can stand the test of time and answer key research questions. Perhaps moving away from the endlessly cloned variants of that ‘pointless’ conference paper we’ve all seen a thousand times: “Look at the Size of my Point Cloud”.

PEER RESPONSE: Dr. Holly Wright, Archaeology Data Service, University of York

As someone who wrote a PhD a few years back on the Semantic Web and archaeology, I feel Eve’s pain in trying to create a nuanced, scholarly understanding of a technology that has now entered the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’. Only now do I feel we are starting to face the reality of what it’s going to take to make Semantic Web technologies useful for archaeologists, and just how much hard slog will be involved in realising it. Those riding the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ headed for the hills long ago, giving those of us who are left a quieter place to work, and that’s no bad thing.

The deeper tension I feel Eve has hit upon here, is one I think is pervasive in the realm of digital archaeology, but seems to be rarely discussed: the fact that we sit between two very different disciplines and have to try to make sense of both. Archaeology is so interdisciplinary; I know we all feel the ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ anxiety at one point or another. When manifest in its negative form, archaeologists don’t engage with the wider external discipline they are incorporating into their work, lest they be proven less than competent practitioners. For example, if we ask a statistician to look at our use of statistics in archaeology, we might find out we aren’t very good at statistics, so best not. For most of us however, we do our best to stay abreast of current good practice, and make sure we consult or collaborate with those who know the realm better than we do.

As Eve has pointed out, for archaeologists working with digital technology, the pace and chatter of the technology realm feels unrelenting, and it’s easy to get caught up in the hype that creates, to the detriment of the archaeological research we are trying to serve. I would argue we need to spend more time understanding and articulating the value of choosing to sit in between these disciplines, to both sides, and to each other. Understanding how to bridge two very disparate things is as much an area of deep expertise as knowledge of Roman fortification or Linked Data. Virtually all of my colleagues here at the ADS are both archaeologists and digital practitioners. I go to work every day with a group of people (all with very different backgrounds), for whom sitting between these two disciplines is our profession, but I think that is rare. We tend to be scattered and embedded in other groups, and I think that makes it even more difficult to resist hype and find useful and sustainable balance, so all the more reason to explore ways to come together and value this work. We can also share our favourite bread recipes.

ZEITGEIST: Burcu Tung

Only Time Will Tell: Some musings on archaeology, heritage and preservation

Dr Burcu Tung, University of California, Merced

Recently a good archaeologist friend of mine asked me for some references on heritage for her work. She wanted more grounding in how archaeologists consider heritage as a field of study as she considered the connections of her palaeobotanical work to food heritage. We discussed our colleagues who have recently turned to heritage studies (including myself) and wondered if it was a means to an end or an end in itself.

Is heritage the emerging zeitgeist of 21st Century Archaeology?

In practice, legislation surrounding cultural heritage, in the United States and other developed countries from the 70s onward, provided a solid foundation for the application of specialist knowledge, thereby creating the greatest number of jobs in our field. In the academe, an increasing number of archaeologists draw on heritage issues and opportunities to justify the relevance of their research to assure funding. And archaeologists now make up much of the faculty within heritage programs across the world.

Recently Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg (2013) criticized the lack of futuristic insight within heritage studies at large, despite the common mantra of “preserving the past for the future” used both by practitioners and institutions alike. They note heritage may be more relevant for the future if we actually begin assessing the effects of our policies and practice over different increments of time. How will future generations cope with the nuclear waste they have inherited from us in the next thousands of years, they ask? They wonder about rogue radio waves that have been transmitted in the last century and those that continue to be transmitted today. How might they affect possibilities of extraterrestrial communication thousands of years later?

 

1. Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy clusters and colliding galaxies some 8 billion light-years away, giving some perspective to our own delicate existence.

To me, these discussions evoke a sense of heritage as being nestled out of time. In discussion of what heritage is, Holtorf and Högberg connect it to the human pursuits of self-enrichment, altruism and ever sought after immortality (2013, 741). While they raise important concerns surrounding superficial decisions on preservation, little acknowledgement is given to the socio-political realities of these decisions, or heritage in time.

Identity, interpretation, tourism, access, use and copyrights are important issues within heritage practices and sites. All of these issues are highlighted at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük where I direct the excavations within the North Shelter. Just like my colleagues and the students that work there, I have had to learn to be oblivious to the gaze of tourists that have exponentially increased since the site was inscribed to the World Heritage List. The creation of this World Heritage Site has started to spark the local economy and at the same time continues to provide local politicians and archaeologists a stage for their professional development.

2. Tourists visiting the North Shelter at Çatalhöyük. Photo, Jason Quinlan.

Admittedly an oft-cited case, Çatalhöyük exemplifies how archaeological practice is embedded in global networks, and how in time, sites take on meanings and realities often not anticipated. While a 9,000 year old Neolithic site might be considered out of context in the construction of Turkish national identity, it is clearly part of some consciousness: in the introduction of the new constitution of the country, which is still under debate, Çatalhöyük is referred to as a site ‘inherited’ by the nation.

Decisions on the use of such sites to meet certain political ends or economic needs can’t simply be monitored and controlled. Forty years after our discipline’s “loss of innocence”, there should be no question of our work’s malleability. Perhaps our incessant desire to preserve is due to this malleability, since as the saying goes, time will tell.

3. The Church Trap, created by Rebekah Waites with Scott Froschauer, Jena Priebe, and Tom Pine in 2013. Photo, Scott London

But will each instance tell us something different? And what if our preservationist obsession is obstructing other forms of development? The communities and networks surrounding Black Rock City, a permanent city formed for an annual event called Burning Man, have only grown larger with the burning down of more than a dozen temples and hundreds of art installations. The ephemerality of the moment expressed by destruction has produced some of the most impressive collaborative modern art works of our times. In the production of this active heritage, thousands of individuals take part in an experiment of expression.

What are some of the insights such an experiment can provide to our ‘conservation ethos’? How can we resolve some preservationist dilemmas, particularly with our position in an unfettered capitalist expansion causing the destruction of cultural resources and yet opening new avenues of cultural production? Finally, in the spirit of heritage, as we accept the malleability of our field, and the uses to which it is put, can we ever just do archaeology? Only time will tell.

References Cited:

Holtorf, Cornelius, and Anders Högberg 2013 Heritage futures and the future of heritage. In Counterpoint: Essays in Archaeology and Heritage Studies in Honour of Professor Kristian Kristiansen. S. Bergerbrant and S. Sabatini, eds. Pp. 739-746. Oxford: Bar International Series 2508.

PEER RESPSONSE:

Dr Sara Perry, Lecturer, University of York

I think we are at a point (and arguably we have been at this point for a while now) in heritage studies, and more specifically in archaeology, where critiques of the retrograde nature of our practice—or its lack of progressiveness or forward-thinking orientation—are somewhat misguided. As Tung begins to hint at here, there are plenty of active projects that not only have avant-garde vision, but that attend to the realities of the ‘now’, the everyday and the immediate, and that therein have the potential for directly impacting on how we live and understand our lives in the present and near future. Burning Man itself is already subject to a large-scale integrated archaeological/anthropological line of enquiry by a team at the University of Nevada-Reno, which has been working over the past couple of years to promote and otherwise publish (e.g., see Carolyn White’s chapter in Graves-Brown et al. 2013) ongoing research into the ephemerality and dynamism of these temporary gatherings.

Far beyond Burning Man, however, the heritage sector is also deeply invested in probing matters of surveillance, homelessness, undocumented border crossings and human rights, global warming and sustainability, organised crime, unpaid labourspace, nuclear technologies, disaster zones, war and checkpoints, neo-liberalism—effectively most of the topical issues of the contemporary world. Some of this research has a relatively long history, and is concerned not so much (if at all) with preservation, as with cultural critique and social change. Heritage policies themselves, and heritage thinking more generally, increasingly incorporate or respect what Tung calls the malleable nature of the archaeological/historic record (also refer to the conscientious efforts of Networked Heritage). This is an important development that effectively just returns the discipline to the more fluid and flexible set of practices that characterised archaeological work prior to its institutionalisation in the early to mid 20th century.

As I see it, heritage is a space of innovation and experimentation that allows us the opportunity to invest in different methodologies (excavation, ethnography, archival study, cartography, conservation, visual and computational data production, etc.) for varied intellectual purposes, with different forms of material culture providing the nuclei of these investigations. In its current conceptualisation, not only is heritage historically-oriented, but so too is it eminently relevant to the current-day. Given the changeable nature of our disciplinary cultures, we cannot be sure what to expect in the years to come—but what I do believe to be true today is that we can make a difference in the past, present and future through contemporary forms of heritage practice.

ZEITGEIST: Dawid Kobialka

Star Trek into Archaeology: Captain James T. Kirk and Heritage from the Future

Dawid Kobialka, PhD Student, Adam Mickiewicz University

Definitely, it was not a good day for Theodor Adorno (2005: 25), otherwise great German philosopher, when he honestly admitted in Minima Moralia: ‘Every visit to the cinema leaves me, against all my vigilance, stupider and worse’. What Adorno despised was not only Hollywood movies, but generally, popular culture per se that was part of culture industry. However, it can be said that today there are many interesting things taking place in cinema that can inspire archaeologists. One of them concerns heritage; the subject that is very close to our hearts.

For many decades cultural heritage was seen through the lens of great monuments/buildings from the past (e.g. Stonehenge). Nonetheless, some new trends have been recently observed within the heritage sector. That is to say, more and more ordinary, day-to-day things are recognized as cultural heritage. This is one of the faces of spirit of our time (Zeitgeist): even an ordinary object has its own historical and cultural value (figure 1). By the same token, cultural heritage seems to be everything what we inherit from the past. Popular culture gives conceptual tools to slightly correct this point of view. To put it paradoxically, cultural heritage is also everything what we inherit from the future.

Figure 1 (1)
Figure 1: Heritage from the recent past: a bottle of vodka (author Dawid Kobiałka).

Star Trek is, without any doubt, one of the greatest cultural goods created in the US. It is a series of novels, comic books, TV series and movies, about the crew of the starship Enterprise and its different stories that happen during the exploration of the universe. The Captain of the starship is my beloved hero from childhood: Captain James T. Kirk. And he might be the key to understanding archaeological Zeitgeist, so to speak.

In Riverside, Iowa is a small plaque (figure 2). It commemorates the fact that captain Kirk will be born in this town on March 22, 2228. The plaque is very ambiguous. It does not concern with some true event from the past as it is usually in the case of such monuments. On the contrary, it says about a fictional, future event. The usual logic is turned around here. The plague might embody some trends of crucial significance for today’s archaeology. In other words, instead of focusing on hard data and heritage from the past, archaeologists need to focus also on the role of fiction (popular culture) and heritage from the future for contemporary society.

Figure 2 (1)
Figure 2: Heritage from the future(1).

The Captain Kirk plaque is not the only example that indicates the increasing role of popular culture heritage from the future. Another one that was also extremely popular on the Internet is Rä di Martimo’s pictures took in the desert of Tunisia and Morocco (e.g Gorence 2013). What made the pictures so intriguing is the fact that they present buildings and other facilities from George Lucas’ Star Wars. One is seeing in them ‘real’, ‘material’ buildings from the planet Tatooine. It is as if reality and fiction became one. The point to be made here is very simple: these buildings, although belonging to a different universe (as it is known to every devotee of Star Wars, Taooine is located in Outer Rim Territories), are our common heritage. But this heritage comes from the future….

Archaeology is a social and cultural practice. In accordance with that, to be important for contemporary society, archaeology needs to address topics of general interest. One way of doing it goes, in my opinion, through the links between popular culture and heritage (from the future). The heritage of popular culture is the one that we as archaeologists should more carefully reflect upon. Who knows?: perhaps contemporary archaeologies and the heritage sector should be more about the future than the past (see also Holtorf & Högberg 2013).

Notes:

[1] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Future_Birthplace_of_Captain_James_T_Kirk.jpg [accessed October 1, 2013].

Bibliography:

Adorno, T. 2005. Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life, trans. by E. F. N. Jephcott. London & New York, Verso.

Gorence, A. 2013. Remnants of abandoned Star Wars Sets in Morocco and Tunisia reminiscent of ancient ruins. Feature shoot, February 1, 2013. Available at: http://www.featureshoot.com/2013/02/remnants-of-abandoned-star-wars-sets-in-morocco-and-tunisia-reminiscent-of-ancient-ruins/ [accessed October 1, 2013].

Holtorf, C. &  Högberg, A. 2013. Heritage futures and the future of heritage. In: S. Bergerbrant & S. Sabatini (eds.), Counterpoint: Essays in Archaeology and Heritage Studies in Honour of Professor Kritisian Kristiansen, BAR International Series 2508. Archaeopress: Oxford, pp. 739-46.

PEER RESPONSE:

John Roby, Assistant Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania

As a lifelong science fiction fan, I was fascinated to read Dawid Kobiałka’s thoughts on a sort of “future heritage” pinned to the delightfully anachronistic, extant material culture of Star Trek and Star Wars. I would like to briefly raise one concern and one point of expansion.

Leaving aside the vision of Theodor Adorno sitting in on the latest Star Trek film, the Frankfurt School’s criticism of the culture industry runs deeper than mere dislike. To Adorno and others, the troubling thing about a cultural production like a film was its ability to create a false sense of choice and freedom in the viewer, while reproducing the structural conditions within which that viewer was enmeshed (Horkheimer and Adorno 1982). A material object, of course, has a use-value, while a cultural production has value only in the way it instills prestige and knowledge in its consumer. The culture industry manipulates those created needs, thus appearing to provide what consumers want, while actually training them to want more things that are of less value. Just as “the diner must be satisfied with the menu,” (Horkheimer and Adorno 1982: 139), the viewer must be satisfied with the film. So goes the criticism.

Yet I have trouble accepting that as the end of the discussion. To me, the best science fiction articulates a hopeful vision of human possibility. This is particularly true for Star Trek, with its celebration of unity in diversity and its future history in which we have moved beyond superstition and want and war. To that end, I find the memorialization of Captain Kirk’s future birthplace to be, as Kobiałka notes, quite compelling. I agree that the concept of heritage can, and perhaps should be, extended to a vision of the future, and I suggest that memory offers a way out of the “hard data” bind to which Kobiałka makes reference.

The immateriality of fiction appears to be a hurdle to using a certain vision of the future to organize praxis in the present. But this hurdle is itself illusory: Archaeology is in the business of presencing the absent, “enfranchising it as an object of social discourse” (Buchli and Lucas 2001: 174). Fiction’s locations are by definition absent, but monumental buildings and memorials can concretize that absence, serving as foci for remembrance. Moreover, as Joan W. Scott (2001) makes clear, history (and, I would add, heritage work) constructs its object, it does not discover it. In light of this, there is no particular reason an object or locus inspired by a work of fiction cannot serve as a site of cultural memory (Connerton 1989, 2009).

My concern is with what memories and memorial practices would be foregrounded at such a site. Kobiałka suggests greater attention to the heritage of popular culture. The term itself is too vague to suit me; I tend to lean toward the Frankfurt School’s critique of popular culture and the capitalism-serving consumption that it engenders. Star Trek, though, is different. A monument that serves to recall the values it lauds and suggests concrete practices to achieve them is a small step to making that future less fictional and more possible.

References:

Buchli, Victor, and Gavin Lucas. 2001. “Presencing Absence.” In Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past, edited by Victor Buchli and Gavin Lucas, 171-174. London: Routledge.

Connerton, Paul. 1989. How Societies Remember. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Connerton, Paul. 2009. How Modernity Forgets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. 1982. Dialectic of Enlightenment. New York: Continuum.

Scott, Joan W. 2001. “After History?” In Schools of Thought: Twenty-Five Years of Interpretive Social Science, edited by Joan W. Scott and Debra Keates, 85-103.

Princeton: Princeton University Press.

ZEITGEIST: Cornelius Holtorf

I saw this ad in an in-flight magazine the other day and took it home with me:

Screen shot 2013-10-28 at 9.50.24 AM

The  two-page ad made me think whether the same slogan could not also apply to the way we look at cultural heritage. Is not heritage possibly too “a material of hope” and an “advanced material” that drives the future?

Too often we see heritage discussed in apocalyptic visions of imminent doom: destructive scenarios in which heritage is seen as put at risk by various present and future threats. We are told that we need to take urgent action in order to safeguard the heritage for future generations.  Heritage appears as very fragile and vulnerable, helplessly subjected to the destructive forces of history brought to bear on it. In this common view, the best we can apparently hope for is that, with out help, the heritage continues to exist for a bit longer. But there is hardly ever a positive vision of how heritage can actively contribute to specific future scenarios of a better society.

This debate is slowly changing now as the contribution of heritage to sustainable development advances from a catchphrase to a meaningful concept.  But there is still a long way to go until heritage will generally be seen as a material of hope; as something that does not in the first place need to be protected from various threats of the present and the future but that indeed drives the future:

Screen shot 2013-10-28 at 9.50.41 AM

 

PS: Toray is a chemical industry group using organic synthetic chemistry, polymer chemistry and biotechnology as its core technologies to produce materials for other industries, e.g. cars. http://www.toray.com. This image was used with good intentions but without formal permission. 

COMMENT: PAUL MULLINS

Hope, Shape, and Heritage

Holtorf’s reconfigured advertisement is less about heritage as change than as the possibility of change.  In its invocation of an aesthetics of heritage as weathered if not eroded ruins, Holtorf’s brick structure seems to represent potential.  It is not clear if his weathered structure is an abandoned shell or a stylistically unvarnished ruin set apart from the new by its unfinished brick; in either case, its historical traces imagine a novel material transformation.

In contrast, Toray’s own ad confirms the future has already arrived in the form of an absurdly stylish eco-friendly sports car fashioned from Toray’s innovative chemical fabrics.  Heritage rhetoric routinely is reduced to desperate preservation lobbying that revolves around the potential of salvaged material spaces, ruins, and things.  Yet Toray delivers hope right now, innovation made possible through chemicals that are “giving shape” to the future.

Heritage materially provides shapes for the future, the literal structural remains, landscape expanses, and scattered objects that attest to visible histories.  However, in much of the world heritage is a sober term for checking development, desperately saving select material presences, or accepting the inevitable march of development that attempts to co-opt heritage planners.

This may well seem “apocalyptic” because heritage planning may hazard being an administrative mechanism that approves development, gathering up traces in the path of the bulldozer.  Ideally heritage refers to a social practice that uses preservation management, spatial interpretation, and historical narrative to weave tales that could reasonably be activist and forward-thinking.  Yet preserving a fragile heritage may be inevitably dystopian in the face of global development.  Perhaps that dystopian message about what could be lost is more critical than the forward-thinking message of hope.

COMMENT: Sarah May

I like the way Holtorf is investigating his concept of Archaeology as a Brand here and stretching it so that it does the work Heritage claims to do. And as always, its a positive vision of the discipline, which is sorely lacking more broadly. Its really important for us to imagine these kinds of concrete engagements with the future.

The question that this piece raises for me is, “who does Heritage give hope to?” The Toray ad is reassuring wealthy consumers that they can continue to have their lifestyles in the face of environmental change. Holtorf’s reworking retains that same feel. “Don’t worry”, it purrs, “there may be changes, but you can still live in castles.” Of course, this is exactly the kind of hope that draws funding, whether public or private. And in many ways its an explicit statement of the kind of hope that Heritage has been trading on for most of the 20th century.

But Heritage can give hope to a much wider constituency, hope for a future which is not just an adjustment of our present, but actually alters some of the power structures which leave most of the world disenfranchised. It offers this hope on the basis that the past has been different from the present, and even the present is more complex, more strange than schools, and indeed brands, tell us.

It was this hope that was most powerful for the students I taught in the late 1990’s. They lived in Dundalk, on the border of the Republic of Ireland, a place full of fortifications old and new. The Heritage they had learned at school was all about a glorious past. They had learned the strength that comes with unity and resistance. The narrative was full of repelling invaders. But the image was surface, the details of life that make it real were missing. As they explored those details they realised that, while connected, they were truly different from their ancestors. They could choose their future, it was not preordained.

How can this kind of hope be encapsulated in the kind of frame Holtorf uses? I need to stretch myself as well. Most of my experience with billboards and advertisements has involved graffiti which undermines, rather than appropriates, their message. I suspect the ‘brand value’ which expresses this hope is the sense of adventure. Archaeology and Heritage offer the freedom to imagine a different better world, not just an eco-friendly mirror of this one.

Adventure brings as much baggage as castles, but I’d rather climb that mountain than patch the old fortifications.