The March 2012 issue of The SAA Archaeological Record includes an article on Speaking Up and Speaking Out: collective efforts in the fight to reclaim the public perception of archaeology.

This article is, in part, a summary of the papers presented in a symposium at the 2012 Society for American Archaeology annual meeting held in Memphis at which I was a participant. The focus of the session was a consideration of how archaeologists should respond to pseudoarchaeology.

The authors, archaeologists David Anderson, Jeb Card, and Kenneth Feder, argue persuasively that it should be an explicit priority of all archaeologists to speak up publicly regarding both the logical, factual problems presented by pseudoarchaeological claims and the way that they deeply impact contemporary social and political ideologies.

They present two complementary strategies for the future. The first is confrontational-reactive, which the authors characterize as a game of intellectual whack-a-mole in which archaeologists respond to pseudoarchaeological claims as they pop up.
The second is a proactive strategy of promotion and explanation in which archaeologists attempt to satisfy the publics interest in the human past and do a better job than the producers of pseudoarchaeology.

I am gratified to report that the authors cite my work, including this very blog, as useful examples of both approaches:
Examples of the proactive approach can be seen in the work of Ohio Historical Society archaeologist Brad Lepper, in his popular book on Ohio archaeology (Lepper 2005), his regular column in the Columbus Dispatch, as well as his blog on the Ohio Historical Society website. Most of Leppers pieces are proactive, sharing the discoveries of genuine archaeology, exemplifying how the mysteries of the past are addressed through archaeological research. From time to time, Lepper is also confrontational-reactive, responding to specific, popular, and current claims that fall outside of mainstream science, but here his readers can view those responses in the broader context of how archaeological research in general can answer questions about human antiquity.

As delighted as I am by this great compliment, I must hasten to clarify that this is by no means solely my blog and the compliment should be extended to all the members of the Archaeology and Natural History Unit here at OHS who regularly contribute blog posts: Bill Pickard, Linda Pansing, and Bob Glotzhober. In addition, there are occasional guest contributors, including Ken Feder himself, that enliven these pages with their special perspectives.

I am grateful to David, Jeb and Kenneth, for their kind notice of my work, but I also gratefully acknowledge the many contributions of my friends and colleagues to this blog and to all our joint efforts to share the wonder of the human past with the broadest possible audience. May we long continue to speak up and speak out together on behalf of Ohio’s many millennia of unwritten history.

Brad Lepper

Posted April 6, 2013
Topics: Archaeology

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