“Archaeology from Reel to Real”

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

IJ_reel_to_real_titleTo compare the archaeology of Indiana Jones and of “real” archaeologists, the National Science Foundation presents a web experience called “Archaeology from Reel to Real: A Special Report.” For the activities of “real” archaeologists, the presentation draws on the research projects the NSF has funded.

In the Introduction, the NSF website accurately notes:

Unlike Indiana Jones, there is nary a fedora to be found in their field kits and their grants certainly don’t cover the costs of Webley revolvers or bullwhips, but it could be convincingly argued that in some respects NSF-funded archaeologists are “shadowy reflections” of their big-screen counterpart.

And yet, they go on, there are parallels between what Jones does on-screen, and what professional archaeologists do in real life. They teach, they study vanished civilizations, and they also “seek rare and precious artifacts that tell important stories about the past.” And:

Rather than relic hunters and adventurers, they are scientists, whose work is aimed at answering key questions about the past, answers that may even inform policy about contemporary problems such as how societies adapt to climate change, ecological shifts, political upheaval or mass migrations.

Most of the pages you can click through detail how archaeologists do research, including field methods, and what kind of data they recover.

The final page is a list of useful on-line resources, although the “Special Report” does not seem to have been updated since spring 2008.

Click here to visit the NSF web experience about “real” archaeology.