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Archaeological Ethnography:
A Multitemporal Meeting
Ground for Archaeology
and Anthropology
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2011.40. Downloaded from
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Yannis Hamilakis
Archaeology, School of Humanities, University of Southampton, Southampton,
SO17 1BJ, United Kingdom; email:

Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2011. 40:399414 Keywords

The Annual Review of Anthropology is online at materiality, temporality, heritage, reexivity, modernist archaeology

This articles doi: Abstract

Archaeology and anthropology, despite their commonalities, have had
Copyright  c 2011 by Annual Reviews. a rather asymmetrical relationship, and the periodic attempts at closer
All rights reserved
collaboration resulted in mutual frustration. As both disciplines have re-
0084-6570/11/1021-0399$20.00 cently undergone signicant changes, however, with anthropology em-
bracing more fully materiality and historicity, and archaeology engag-
ing in contemporary research, often invoving ethnography, the time is
ripe for a new rapprochement. Archaeological ethnography, an emerg-
ing transdisciplinary eld, offers such an opportunity. Archaeological
ethnography is dened here as a transcultural space for multiple en-
counters, conversations, and interventions, involving researchers from
various disciplines and diverse publics, and centered around materi-
ality and temporality. It is multitemporal rather than presentist, and
although many of its concerns to date are about clashes over heritage,
this article argues that its potential is far greater because it can dislodge
the certainties of conventional archaeology and question its ontological
principles, such as those founded on modernist, linear, and successive


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WORLDS APART? concerned with patterns of verbal categories;

INTRODUCTION categories which belong to the realm of
language and which can have no meaning at
The time was the mid-1990s; the place, a
all which is independent of the living beings
seminar room at a British University. The
who use that language. (Leach 1977, p. 166)
discussion had touched on the links between
archaeology and sociocultural anthropology
when one anthropologist colleague, who was And also,
known for his unusually open attitude toward
collaborations and engagements with archae- [A]rchaeologists need to appreciate that the
ologists, commented, the thing I like most material objects revealed by their excavations
about archaeology is that, unlike anthropology, are not things in themselves, nor are they
people cannot talk back. I was reminded of just artefacts,made by men,they are rep-
that comment very recently, as we witnessed resentations of ideas. (p. 167)
the launching a number of initiatives, meetings,
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2011.40. Downloaded from

and publications, which seemed to indicate that Archaeologists always felt that there is funda-
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there is renewed interest among practitioners mental asymmetry between their eld and that
in both elds to reignite the discussion on the of anthropology because they themselves were
nature and character of their respective schol- (and still are) engaging regularly with anthro-
arly endeavors. The aim in this recent move is pological ideas, whereas anthropologists, with
not necessarily to bring about any sort of con- a few exceptions (e.g., Kirch & Sahlins 1992),
vergence or even closer collaboration. Rather, would rarely see the need for archaeological in-
it is motivated by the need to perform a kind put into their work (see Garrow & Yarrow 2010,
of comparative auto-ethnography, which may Gosden 1999). Flannery (2006), in the pages of
lead to a better self-understanding in both elds the ARA reminisced, for example, that during
(see, for example, the 2009 Bristol meeting of his formative years (1960s and 1970s),
the UKs Association of Social Anthropologists,
entitled, Anthropological and Archaeological
We were never convinced that the ethnolo-
Imaginations: Past, Present, Future; see also
gists felt they needed us the way we needed
Garrow & Yarrow 2010, among others). One
them. . .we on the other hand, felt that the
could say that there is nothing new in these
only conceivable purpose for ethnology was
periodic rituals of collective soul-searching
to provide archaeologists with descriptions of
among archaeologists and anthropologists,
living cultures, helping them to interpret the
which, more often than not, end in mutual
evidence of the past. (p. 5)
disappointment, retrenchment, and further
border policing. Recall, for example, the
Yet there are reasons to believe that the current
well-known dismissive comments by Edmund
wave of reection and thinking holds more
Leach in 1977, at the end of such a meeting:
hope than similar such attempts in the past. For
a start, archaeology and anthropology overall
The real stumbling block which inhibits are radically different today compared with
useful collaboration between archaeologist 15 or 20 years ago. Most archaeologists today
and anthropologist seems to me to lie just would not recognize themselves in Leachs
here. When archaeologists resort to model description, and in view of much current
making, the structural system (by whatever theorizing on the agency of objects and on the
jargon you choose to describe it) is ultimately properties of materiality (see Gell 1998), they
represented by a set of material, lifeless things; would contest the claim that material objects
when anthropologists engage in a compa- are static and lifeless. Moreover, they would
rable type of operation they are ultimately counter the idea that anthropologys primary

400 Hamilakis

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archaeological use is to provide analogies for Lucas 2010), scholars are increasingly realizing
the interpretation of past material evidence. that such an assumption is a fallacy, and one
Equally, both elds have left behind rep- with serious consequences and not only of
resentationist, structuralist, and linguistic in- epistemological nature (see Zimmerman 2008).
terpretive schemes, or at least have theorized The assumption is certainly false in all these
and problematized their application and useful- cases of the archaeology of the contemporary
ness. As recent commentators have noted (e.g., past (on which more below). This assertion
Yarrow 2010), the perceived asymmetry be- of absence is based on the fact that when
tween archaeology and anthropology may have archaeologists investigate certain time periods,
had positive effects because it has forced archae- the ones they call prehistoric for example, they
ology to think deeply about the potential and often rely on material traces alone. Leaving
properties of its immediate object, i.e., mate- aside, for the moment, the assumptions behind
rial things, and on its genealogy, its historical this premise (that archaeology is almost exclu-
and sociopolitical underpinnings, and its gen- sively the pursuit of knowledge about the past),
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2011.40. Downloaded from

eral role and purpose. Anthropologists, on the one could note that even in those cases our
other hand, have started paying much more at- contemporary archaeological practice, more
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tention to material objects (revealing perhaps often than not, involves living people, as well as
an unacknowledged debt to archaeology, along materials: the fellow researchers and other spe-
with cultural history and microhistory), plac- cialists; the people who live near and in some
ing themselves at the center of the emerging cases within or on the top of what we designate
eld of material culture studies. The trend is an archaeological site; and the people who
an outcome of the general move in humanities stake claims on and express allegiances with
and social sciences away from textualism, cogni- the material past, which we have named (often
tivism, and constructionism, and toward things problematically), archaeological record.
and materials and their sensuous properties Even for archaeology, therefore, and not just
and effects (see Brown 2004, Domanska 2006, for anthropology, people are around, and they
Fahlander & Kjellstrom 2010, Hamilakis et al. can and often do answer back, challenging not
2002, Henare et al. 2007, Hoskins 1998, Latour only the archaeologists stories and interpre-
2005, Miller 2009, Myers 2001, Turkle 2007). tations, but often their legitimacy and their
Anthropologists have also shown a renewed in- self-proclaimed exclusive right as stewards
terest in history, following the thriving, at least and interpreters of the material past [see
since the 1980s, tradition of historical anthro- Comaroff & Comaroff (1992, p. 15) for a
pology (e.g., Cohn 1990, Comaroff & Comaroff critique of a similar anthropological miscon-
1992, Sahlins 1985); more pertinently, the ex- ception of history].
ploration of the diverse social modes of popular This paper aims to demonstrate that the
and vernacular historicization has gained new transformed elds of archaeology and anthro-
impetus (see Hirsch & Stewart 2005). pology now have the opportunity for a lasting
Most importantly, however, and to return to and much more fruitful rapprochement, in
the anecdote above, it is the belief that archaeol- the emerging shared ground and space of
ogy deals with dead people who cannot answer archaeological ethnography. At the same time,
back and contest our account of them that has this transdisciplinary eld also constitutes the
been heavily eroded and problematized. Al- space for transcultural encounters and provides
though even in sophisticated treatments today, the arena for the meeting of practitioners from
we often hear and read that a fundamental other elds, from history to contemporary
attribute of archaeology that distinguishes it art. More importantly, as the invocation of
from anthropology is absence, the absence of ethnography denotes, this transcultural space
people, that is, who are present only through facilitates multiple coexistences, encounters,
the material traces they have left behind (e.g., conversations, and dialogues, and also critical Archaeological Ethnography 401

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engagements and creative tensions between including their objects of study and their re-
scholars and diverse publics and social actors. lationships with time and with matter. Further-
Materiality and temporality are at the center more, archaeological ethnography may consti-
for this transdisciplinary and transcultural tute an appropriate and effective way through
space. The methods for this new eld are still which both parent disciplines can contribute
forming, but they appear to combine both to the broader scholarly and public debates on
archaeological and anthropological practices. modernity, temporality, and materiality, as well
At the same time, practitioners of archaeo- as the intersection among them.
logical ethnography are also experimenting
with new methods that have been devised to
serve specically this emerging eld. Although PAVING THE WAY FOR
archaeological ethnography is my chosen name ARCHAEOLOGICAL
for this eld, several other studies within it have ETHNOGRAPHIES
adopted other names, including ethnographic Some readers will have already noted that the
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2011.40. Downloaded from

archaeology (Castaneda & Matthews 2008) and term archaeological ethnography has a long
ethnocritical archaeology (Zimmerman 2008). history. It originates within ethnoarchaeology,
by University of Southampton on 07/04/11. For personal use only.

This discussion will not review a similar and the use of ethnography by archaeologists to
valuable development, which has been called aid interpretation of past material traces (e.g.,
ethnography of archaeological practice (e.g., Watson 1979, 2009), and is still used by archae-
Edgeworth 2003, 2006, 2010), the exclusive ological works that operate within, or originate
focus of which is the detailed ethnographic un- from, the ethnoarchaeological paradigm (e.g.,
derstanding of the workings of the archaeolog- Forbes 2007, Parsons 2006). Ethnoarchaeol-
ical discipline and profession itself and its ways ogy was linked to 1960s and 1970s new ar-
of producing knowledges as well as material ef- chaeology and was seen as a way to animate
fects. I hope to show below, however, that such the static remnants of the past, by collect-
a valuable effort cannot fulll its potential if it ing ethnographic data from communities living
is carried out in isolation, if it ignores the mul- near the archaeological sites under investiga-
tiple encounters between scholars and various tion or from societies that, owing to their per-
publics in and around archaeological spaces. ceived premodern way of life, were deemed
Likewise, rather than reviewing and com- appropriate to be compared with archaeological
menting on the very wide range of uses and contexts. Analogical inferences and the princi-
applications of ethnography within archaeol- ples of uniformitarianism lie at the basis of eth-
ogy (compare Hollowell & Nicholas 2008), the noarchaeology, which came under severe criti-
aim here is to limit the discussion only to the cism by more recent interpretative and critical
eld of archaeological ethnography. This arti- archaeological approaches on both epistemo-
cle does not simply review the key ideas and logical and ethical-political grounds. This crit-
developments within this emerging eld (for icism focused on the epistemic problems with
other reviews and assessments, see Castaneda the use of analogy (e.g., Wylie 1985), the al-
2008, Hamilakis & Anagnostopoulos 2009b, lochronization of contemporary people (Fabian
Hollowell & Mortensen 2009b, Hollowell & 1983), and the ethically problematic, often im-
Nicholas 2008). Its ultimate aim is to show plicit assumption that the primary archaeolog-
that archaeological ethnography, far from being ical function of contemporary communities is
simply an additional method and practice in the to act as proxies for the people in the past
already rich armory of archaeology, constitutes and sources of useful (for the archaeologist) in-
a fundamental challenge for both archaeology terpretative information (Fewster 2001). De-
and anthropology: It forces both to reconsider spite or perhaps because of this criticism, some
their ontological and epistemic certainties and strands of ethnoarchaeology have developed in
to rethink their foundational charter myths, a more critical and reexive manner and have

402 Hamilakis

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expanded the range of issues to be investigated archaeology, the ethnographies of heritage, and
and the analytical concepts used (see Fewster the archaeologies of the contemporary past.
2006; and for a more general review, David & The diverse intellectual developments of the
Kramer 2001). 1980s and early 1990s known as the interpre-
More importantly, earlier critics did not ap- tive, postprocessual turn are well known by
preciate perhaps the diversity of ethnoarchaeo- now. One of its largely undeveloped compo-
logical applications and did not anticipate that, nents had been the belief in the political di-
despite the epistemic frame and the founda- mension of archaeological practice (Hamilakis
tional logic of ethnoarchaeology, the process 2007a). This belief was not simply a result of
of engaging with contemporary communities the realization that archaeological objects and
and local people acquires its own dynamic and nds as well as archaeological knowledge are
harbors an immense transformative potential. often deployed within various political agen-
Archaeologists who engaged in ethnoarchae- das; more importantly, it was an outcome of the
ological research with the initial aim to solve understanding of archaeological practice itself
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2011.40. Downloaded from

(with the help of local people) specic archae- as historically contingent, rmly rooted in the
ological problems came progressively to val- present, and thus inherently political. Internal
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orize ethnographic research in its own right scholarly developments, however, would not
and often produced informative and powerful have been enough to force archaeology to con-
accounts of contemporary social practices that front its political character, and inevitably its
may or may not be of any direct archaeologi- colonial and nationalist heritage. Social and po-
cal use (see Fewster 2006; Forbes 2007, 2009; litical pressures, from the struggles by indige-
Halstead 1998). In doing so, they also implic- nous peoples resisting their (and their ances-
itly and perhaps unintentionally challenged the tral traces) scientic objectication, to calls
(modernist) epistemic foundations of archaeol- for the repatriation of ancient objects housed in
ogy, especially the rigid separation between past metropolitan western museums, and for archae-
and present, or between prehistoric and historic ology to align itself with major political battles
periods. This is particularly true for projects op- such as the antiapartheid struggle (Ucko 1987),
erating within the framework of multiperiod, contributed immensely to the loss of archae-
regional surveys. Some key studies and publi- ologys political innocence. As a result, vari-
cations carried out within the broader ethnoar- ous forms of community and collaborative par-
chaeological tradition but focusing on the study ticipation in the archaeological process were
of contemporary, urban material culture as op- developed, which involved direct engagement
posed to traditional contexts (e.g., Gould & and face-to-face interaction with local com-
Schiffer 1981, Rathje 1979) also paved the way munities and indigenous groups (see Colwell-
for the more recent eld of the archaeologies Chanthaphonh & Ferguson 2008, Derry &
of the contemporary past (see below). Ethnoar- Malloy 2003, Kerber 2006, Marshall 2002,
chaeology should be seen as one of the ances- Silliman 2008a). Studies on the contemporary
tral elds of archaeological ethnography, and political economy and sociopolitics of archae-
its history, but also contemporary insights, es- ology (e.g., Boytner et al. 2010; Gathercole
pecially the ones resulting from reexive and & Lowenthal 1990; Hamilakis & Duke 2007;
critical engagements with living communities, Kane 2003; Zorzin 2011a,b) including those on
should be of immense value in constituting the nationalist and colonialist archaeology (Abu El-
eld of archaeological ethnography. Haj 2001, Hamilakis 2007b, Lydon & Rizvi
More instrumental in bringing about ar- 2010, Nicholas & Hollowell 2007, Stefanou
chaeological ethnography, however, have been 2008), on indigenous perspectives (cf. Allen &
other scholarly developments, the most im- Philips 2010, Smith & Wobst 2005, Watkins
portant being the emergence of critical- 2005), and more recently on the involvement
interpretative or postprocessual approaches in of archaeology in contemporary armed conict Archaeological Ethnography 403

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and warfare and in the war on terror (e.g., space (Herzfeld 1991), a space that sits uncom-
Albarella 2009, Crossland 2009, Emberling fortably in the broader national discourse that
2008, Hamilakis 2009, Myers 2010, Perring & prioritizes the classical past (Hamilakis 2007b);
Linde 2009, Price 2009, Silliman 2008b, Stone the ethnographic study of the most iconic mon-
2009) have proliferated, challenging further the ument of that same Greek national discourse,
temporal distanciation upon which modernist the Athenian Acropolis, as the embodiment
archaeology was founded. of simultaneously national and global value
Although these intellectual-cum-social (Yalouri 2001) and as a puried and purifying
developments prepared the political landscape space that seeks to displace all matter out
for archaeological ethnography, the ethnogra- of place around it, including the dilapidated
phies of heritage and the archaeologies of the neighborhood of Anaphiotika on its foothill
contemporary past gave it further impetus. (Caftantzoglou 2001); the clash between the of-
The former foregrounded the contested nature cial projection of that other iconic monument,
of heritage as a site of selective remembering, Stonehenge in England, especially in its land-
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whereas the latter valorized the detailed study scape connotations, and its unofcial and con-
of contemporary material culture, often involv- tested renderings by other groups, from object-
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ing directly ethnographic research among the ing archaeologists to Druids (Bender 1998); the
social actors responsible for its production (see intersection and articulation of colonialism, na-
Dawdy 2010; Gonzalez-Ruibal 2008; Harrison tional imagination, tourism, and local interest
& Schoeld 2009, 2010; Holtorf & Piccini in several other prominent sites such as Chichen
2009; for some recent attempts, and Buchli Itza and other sites in the Yucatan (Breglia
& Lucas 2001 for an early pioneering publi- 2005, 2006; Castaneda 1996), Great Zimbabwe
cation). Ethnographies of heritage have been (Fontein 2006), and Knossos in Crete (Solomon
carried out mostly by anthropologists and often 2006); and the production of a seamless national
involved sites of discord between dominant past that glosses over power inequities through
ofcial apparatuses, such as state heritage and certain heritage and museum discourses, as in
archaeological authorities, and local residents Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia (Handler &
or social groups and individuals who claimed Gable 1997) and in the Bronze Age (Minoan)
allegiance to a certain iconic monument and sites in Crete (Duke 2006, 2007).
projected upon it a discourse and a practice A nal group of studies that provide a direct
different from the ofcial one. In other cases, link between broader ethnographic approaches
an ethnographic study of a major monument and archaeological ethnography as a distinct
and site has investigated its role within the eld is the ethnographies of looting: the attempt
domain of archaeo-tourism and/or exposed to investigate the low end of the phenomenon
its multiple meanings and dispersals in local, and move beyond the blanket condemnation
regional, and global contexts. And in other by archaeologists of the (often illicit) unofcial
cases, the commodication of the material past, engagements with the material past by ordinary
and the performance of authenticity in the people, which do not always involve nancial
service of the capitalist experience economy transactions. The aim here is to understand the
and of the heritage industry, became the motivations behind such engagements and the
focus of ethnographic study and critique. multiple meanings that people often attribute
Examples here include the clash between to material objects and to their own actions.
the state archaeological service and local inhab- Recent examples here include the study among
itants of the medieval (Venetian and Ottoman) the local residents of St. Lawrence island
quarter of the town of Rethymno in Crete, in Bering Strait, Alaska, who engaged in
who deployed a series of strategic and tactical mining archaeological sites for artefacts to
moves to cope with state restrictions and sell (Hollowell 2009, p. 218). This detailed
regulations while living within a monumental and sensitive ethnography showed a distinctive

404 Hamilakis

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standpoint on the part of local people, who see properties of this space, and they need not
these artifacts as gifts from their ancestors and be rehearsed in full here. Briey, they include
emphasize the strengthening of the connection its reexive nature, meant not so much as the
with the past that the act of digging creates individual researchers self-positioning, as the
(Hollowell 2004, 2006, 2009); another example situation and contextualization of the project
is the ethnography among the villagers of as a whole (Castaneda 2008). We have also
Kozani in northern Greece, who illicitly collect dened it as total (but not totalizing) ethnog-
antiquities not in order to sell them, but as a raphy: Although things from various times
way of creating their own material histories (and their scholarly and public renderings and
outside the ofcial ones produced by the state. meaningful deployments) constitute the core
These are histories that stress a felt intimacy and focus of archaeological ethnography, we
with material objects and a pride in ones have argued that these need to be explored
own locality, as opposed to the homogenized within the broader social context and can be
national space (Antoniadou 2009; for other understood only if the researcher is attuned to
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2011.40. Downloaded from

studies, see Colwell-Chanthaphonh 2004, the materiality and temporality of social life in
Matsuda 1998, Thoden van Velzen 1996). general. As such, archaeological ethnography
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requires long-term commitment to and linguis-

tic and social familiarization with the specic
DEFINING THE SPACE OF context. Such long-term, total ethnography
ARCHAEOLOGICAL needs to be multisited, given the dispersal
ETHNOGRAPHY of past materiality in diverse, often global
Some recent attempts at archaeological ethnog- domains, but without losing the analytical
raphy dene it as a novel, hybrid practice, force that a sustained focus on a dened and
a method that combines archaeological and delimited space, such as an archaeological site,
anthropological procedures and ideas. Such a for example, can offer (Candea 2007). Materi-
denition, however, limits the potential of ar- ality acts on people through bodily senses and,
chaeological ethnography and prevents its prac- for an archaeological ethnography to do justice
titioners from exploring not only the epistemic to it, will need to be multisensory and sensitive
but also the ontological implications of this to the political economy of affect that material
emerging eld, for both archaeology and an- things generate and are a key part of (Richard
thropology. I argue instead that archaeological & Rudnyckyj 2009). Political contestations
ethnography is (and can be) much more than a of various kinds are ever present at heritage
practice and a method. It is rather a transdisci- spaces, and archaeological ethnography cannot
plinary and transcultural space, a locality and a but adopt a politically sensitive perspective
ground that allows for multiple meetings, con- beyond the managerialism that characterizes
versations, and interventions to take place. The much of the scholarly discourse on heritage
production of this space is possible because of (Hollowell & Nicholas 2009), working thus
the epistemic and interpretive transformations against the bureaucratization of ethics in ar-
that its parent disciplines, archaeology and an- chaeology and anthropology (Hamilakis 2007a,
thropology, have undergone in the past 20 years Meskell & Pells 2005). Finally, archaeological
or so and because of the social interventions ethnography will have to sail between the rock
upon scholarly work and practice by disenfran- of presentism and homochronism (inherent in
chised people and groups. Materiality and tem- ethnographic attempts; see Birth 2008) and the
porality are the two dening features of this hard place of allochronism and escapism that
novel space; archaeological ethnography is con- comes from the archaeo- of archaeology (and
stituted at the intersection of these two features. can also be found in some earlier anthropo-
Elsewhere (Hamilakis & Anagnostopoulos logical accounts). Archaeological ethnography
2009b) we dened in some detail the key should be multitemporal, attuned both to Archaeological Ethnography 405

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AN40CH25-Hamilakis ARI 21 June 2011 12:18

durational and multitemporal properties of & Anagnostopoulos 2009a; Hollowell &

matter and to the various social-vernacular Mortensen 2009a; Stroulia & Buck Sutton
modes of temporal perception and histori- 2010; and Bartu 2000; Bartu Candan 2005;
cization. Archaeological ethnographies are Lane & Herrera 2005; Meskell 2005, 2007;
designed as such from the moment of a projects Mortensen 2005; Shankland 1996, 2005;
inception, rather than being a late add-on to a Stroulia 2002).
largely conventional archaeological agenda. Castaneda (2009), building on long-term
They are also about borders, seen not as ethnographic research at the archaeological
fences and separation barriers but as fertile site of Chichen Itza, has combined his more
meeting points, as contact zones (Pratt 1991, conventional ethnographic methods of in-
2008). The borders among scholars from terviewing and participant observation with
diverse backgrounds and between researchers archival research on the history of archaeologi-
and various publics may become a point of cal interventions in the area and, more recently,
tension but can also work as a locale where cre- has brought everything together to carry out
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2011.40. Downloaded from

ative negotiations and revelatory performances a series of practices that he calls ethnographic
of various kinds can be enacted (Clifford 1997, installations: Photographic, archival, and
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2003). An archaeological site, for example, is ethnographic material is returned to the

a perfect such borderland and an ideal zone community in the shape of a series of carefully
of contact. Here, the border very often takes staged exhibitions. This has been conceived and
the physical manifestation of a metal fence executed as a performance inspired by, among
delineating the expropriated land and dening other things, the theater of the oppressed of
its heterotopic status. Within it, it can also take Agosto Boal. In addition to their ethical role
the shape of a cordon put up by archaeologists in making public hitherto inaccessible for the
to protect sensitive areas, or keep visitors local communities materials that were part of
out, so that an active archaeological excavation their history, these practices also serve as a
can go on undisturbed. Yet local people and stage for further ethnographic research and
tourists alike, longing for intimacy and a closer information, leading to a novel process of col-
encounter with the materiality of the past, laborative knowledge production. Levinasian
sometimes cross these physical barriers, creat- ethics prioritizing face-to-face interaction
ing tension and confrontation, but which can were some of the guiding theoretical ideas,
also lead to a detailed, sensitive, ethnographic and elicitation, evocation, and ethnographic
discourse and perhaps subsequent dialogues triggers were some of its underpinnings.
and collaborations. Marshall and colleagues (2009) take ar-
chaeological ethnography into a different
dimension by working through the concept of
WHAT DOES AN autoethnography, seen as an in-depth, reex-
ARCHAEOLOGICAL ive, ethnographic exploration of the researcher
ETHNOGRAPHY MEAN herself, an exploration which then becomes
IN PRACTICE? an integral part of the research process. Their
Rather than listing an exhaustive series of context was the Cold War (1980s), women-
instances and cases in archaeological ethnog- only, peace camps at Greenham Common in
raphy, and an equally long array of methods southern England, at the site where the United
deployed, I instead discuss a few key studies States had constructed a military base for nu-
that are paradigmatic of this emerging eld. clear missiles. Some members of the research
Through this discussion, the kinds of method- team were actively involved as peace activists in
ological procedures currently in operation the camps, whereas others were directly or in-
will also emerge (for other cases, see papers directly implicated in other ways, e.g., one was
in Castaneda & Matthews 2008; Hamilakis a daughter of a peace activist. This started as a

406 Hamilakis

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conventional archaeological project (within the the most important archaeological site for the
recent trend for an archaeology of the recent island, yet there seemed to be an active dis-
and contemporary past, and the archaeology missal of its value among local people, whereas
of the Cold War/military archaeology; see local intellectuals and others seemed to want to
Schoeld 2009, Schoeld & Anderton 2000), promote more the nineteenth-century heritage
but it soon became evident that it had to of the island (which linked it to the Greek
change course radically. The autoethnographic War of Independence) rather than the Greek
endeavor helped researchers realize that their national golden age, the classical past (see
propeace, feminist political convictions had to Hamilakis 2007b). Our colleagues who were
become an essential part of the research enter- excavating the site and who had invited us to
prise, something that did not sit comfortably carry out ethnography did everything they
with the seemingly neutral and apolitical could to facilitate our research, but they were
stance adopted by heritage organizations such at the same time occasionally nervous that
as English Heritage. In addition to autoethnog- they were being watched, and they could not
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2011.40. Downloaded from

raphy, ethnographic interviews with women always understand our insistence in collecting
who were active at the camps convinced the broken glass and rusty nails, the material traces
by University of Southampton on 07/04/11. For personal use only.

researchers that they should abandon their of the farmstead that was demolished to make
planned archaeological methods of excavation way for the excavations. Intensive archival and
and collection of artifacts and concentrate ethnographic research among local communi-
instead on surveying and on recording objects ties (including the workmen and workwomen
and features in situ. In this transformed process, employed by archaeology) and visitors, lasting
ethnography and oral history, as well as the for three years, and carried out by a team
direct involvement in eldwork of the women of scholars (archaeologists, anthropologists,
protagonists, became extremely important. As photo-ethnographers and photo-bloggers),
researchers recognized that Greenham Com- indicated the existence of a series of parallel and
mon was not simply a peace camp but rather often conicting discourses about the site. It
a feminist space for radical experimentation, also revealed a longing for an intimate connec-
they also decided to constitute their project tion with ancient objects and their materiality,
as a space where politics, reexivity, memory, objects that are subject to access restrictions
and archaeology came together. imposed by ofcial archaeology; furthermore,
In one of my own archaeological ethnog- it exposed a desire on the part of our inter-
raphy projects, the one centered around the locutors to understand the political economy
archaeological site of Kalaureia (known for of archaeological practice (who sponsors you,
its ancient sanctuary of Poseidon) on the and why do they pay for all this?) and the
island of Poros Greece (see Hamilakis et al. inner workings of archaeology. Excavation
2009, Hamilakis & Anagnostopoulos 2009b), workmen, for example, were attempting to
I entered a eld lled with tension right from trace the subsequent social life of the objects
the start: The land upon which the sanctuary of they themselves brought to light, and they were
Poseidon was located had been expropriated by disappointed when they could not nd them in
the state archaeological service through a long the local museum, fueling further the mistrust
and acrimonious process involving the family against ofcial archaeology. It soon became
that, until the start of the recent excavations, clear that, although our ethnography was not
was living among the ruins, reusing the ancient designed to investigate archaeological practice
buildings for their own, day-to-day needs. State and the workings of the discipline as such, it
archaeology had also caused much resentment inevitably had to include all social actors who
in the area owing to the strict application of engaged with the site in whatever capacity,
antiquities legislation and also because of its including archaeologists and archaeological
inherent bureaucratic problems. Kalaureia was workwomen and workmen, because their Archaeological Ethnography 407

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AN40CH25-Hamilakis ARI 21 June 2011 12:18

interaction with various publics was constant, simply an arena of transcultural encounters
often resulting in many revelatory moments. among archaeologists, anthropologists, artists,
Furthermore, we staged site tours and school scholars from various disciplines, and diverse
projects on site as ethnographic performances, social actors and publics, and where the of-
often choosing objects that embodied different cial, modernist archaeology comes into contact
times and ones that were evocative of the with the various alternative archaeologies, de-
diverse social life of the place (e.g., an ancient ned as multiple discourses and practices on
block with grafti on it, made by the children of things from another time (see Hamilakis 2008,
the family who used to play among the ruins). Hamilakis & Anagnostopoulos 2009b). It does
Within our broad methodological appara- not merely provide a way of confronting and ex-
tus, photo-ethnography and photo-blogging posing to critical scrutiny conicts and clashes
acquired prominence. In addition to documen- over heritage and of understanding nonofcial,
tary photography, we took many creative pho- popular valorizations of the material past. It
tographs, treating the photographic process as does not only render archaeological knowledge
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2011.40. Downloaded from

an opportunity for ethnographic encounters production a collaborative endeavor, valorizing

and as a way of eliciting responses from the ar- at the same time dialogic processes and face-
by University of Southampton on 07/04/11. For personal use only.

chaeological team and from visitors and local to-face, transformative encounters in their own
people. Our photographs were not representa- right, rather than seeing them simply as instru-
tions but evocative material objects that reen- ments in knowledge production. It does not
tered ethnography through local exhibitions only confront head-on the fallacy that, unlike
and through an ongoing photoblog (http:// anthropology, archaeology deals with absence,, thus con- the absence of people whose traces is called on
stituting ethnographic installations. to recover, record, curate, and interpret. It does
The San Pedro Valley ethnohistory project all the above, but its potential is far greater.
in southern Arizona can be described as another Archaeological ethnography is not an archae-
pioneering effort in archaeological ethnogra- ological methodological tool, nor is it purely
phy (Colwell-Chanthaphonh 2006, Colwell- a research apparatus within the domain of
Chanthaphonh & Ferguson 2004, Ferguson & heritage.
Colwell-Chanthaphonh 2006). Its value does In a recent paper, originally delivered as a
not lie simply in bringing into direct dialogue keynote speech at the 2009 Bristol meeting on
and collaboration archaeologists and Native the interface between archaeology and anthro-
American people from different tribes, nor in pology referred to in the introduction above,
its methodologically innovative practices con- Ingold (2010) imagines the elds of archaeol-
sisting, among others, of peripatetic dialogues ogy and anthropology in the year 2053. In do-
where the land and its features become the pri- ing so, he conjures up an image of two closely
mary mediators. Its most important contribu- linked but transformed disciplines, whereby ar-
tion rests in the effort to question long-standing chaeology has abandoned its obsession with
ofcial archaeological premises, including the the archaeo-, that is with a certain concep-
archaeological-ontological principles that pri- tion of time as genealogical, and the mod-
oritize the linearity of time and the notion of ernist insistence on linearity and temporal suc-
temporal succession, principles that have been cession, whereas anthropology has abandoned
at the basis of the western modernist canon. the anthropo-, that is its exclusive preoccupa-
tion with humans, embracing instead all organ-
isms, humans, plants, animals, as well as mate-
BEYOND HERITAGE: rial things: in other words, a discipline that has
CONCLUSIONS become a principled inquiry into the condi-
The emerging transdisciplinary space of ar- tions and potentials of life in a world peopled
chaeological ethnography does not constitute by beings whose identities are established not

408 Hamilakis

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AN40CH25-Hamilakis ARI 21 June 2011 12:18

by species membership but by relational accom- stone? Objects and artifacts, owing to their du-
plishment (p. 160). rational qualities, constitute material memories
Archaeological ethnography is an endeavor that embody and project time as coexistence
that can help make this futuristic image become rather than as linearity or succession: They
reality. Far from denigrating objects and mate- are multitemporal (see Hamilakis & Labanyi
rials in favor of the ethnographic, as some would 2008; Olivier 1999, 2008). As such, they are an
fear, it places the thingness of things and the anomaly for a modernist conception of time,
properties of materials center stage. In doing complicating ofcial archaeologys chronomet-
so, it also recognizes, after Bergson (1991), that ric devices, which, more often than not, prior-
a fundamental property of matter is its dura- itize one moment in the life of the artifact. But
tion, its ability to last, its insistence in disrupt- this anomaly also constitutes the great trans-
ing the temporality of the present, and the on- formative potential of objects and things: They
tology of linearity and succession (see Al-Saji throw into disarray modernist temporality, pro-
2004, Deleuze 1991). Take, for example, an ar- gressive sequential time (see Dawdy 2010).
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2011.40. Downloaded from

chitectural stone block removed from its geo- Although one could claim that such philo-
logical context sometime in the sixth century sophical reection does not need archaeological
by University of Southampton on 07/04/11. For personal use only.

B.C. and carved in a certain shape to become ethnography, only the objects and artifacts
part of a building in a sanctuary. A modernist, themselves, I insist that it is through multitem-
conventional archaeologist would date it in the poral archaeological ethnography that such
sixth century, thus prioritizing a specic mo- rethinking and reconceptualization acquire
ment in its life. But the object in question con- potency and import: by witnessing ethno-
tinued to live and became a feature in some- graphically multiple, alternative perceptions
ones house in the twentieth century A.D. and a of materiality and temporality; by making the
drawing panel upon which children would carve properties and qualities of objects and things
their initials, contributing thus to its ongoing (things that are often arrangedand thus
transformation. The carvings would eventually nished within chronometric, typological,
become less prominent, as lichens would colo- functional, or formal taxonomies), their thing-
nize their grooves, but being still visible would ness and materiality, a fundamental point of
attract the attention of the twenty-rst century. inquiry; by attending to the traces of their con-
A.D. archaeological ethnographers, who would tinuous lives and existences, their patina, their
make the stone an object of ethnographic in- reworking by human and nonhuman agents in
quiry (creating, based on the carved initials, a different times; by inquiring ethnographically
genealogical-relational chart of the family who about their agency, today and in the past; and
lived there, before archaeology arrived), a by enabling such presence and agency to be
touchstone and a stop-over point in visitors enacted through the staging of contemporary
tours, a stage for further ethnographic per- performances, where humans, other beings,
formances and engagements. How old is that and objects and things are all key protagonists.

The author is not aware of any afliations, memberships, funding, or nancial holdings that might
be perceived as affecting the objectivity of this review.

I am grateful to all my colleagues at the Kalaureia Research Program, archaeologists, workwomen,
workmen, and guards, for everything they did to facilitate our archaeological ethnography work;
and to my closest collaborators in this endeavor, Aris Anagnostopoulos and Fotis Ifantidis. Above Archaeological Ethnography 409

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AN40CH25-Hamilakis ARI 21 June 2011 12:18

all, I am indebted to the people of Poros and the surrounding area, and to the countless visitors
to the site, for their warm response and the many revelatory moments. An anonymous referee
provided helpful comments and suggestions.

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