Ancient Muses: Archaeology and the Arts

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Known widely in Europe as "interpretive narrative archaeology," the practice of using creative methods to interpret and present current knowledge of the past is gaining popularity in North America. This book is the first compilation of international case studies of the various artistic methods used in this new form of education—one that makes archaeology "come alive" for the nonprofessional. Plays, opera, visual art, stories, poetry, performance dance, music, sculpture, digital imagery—all can effectively communicate archaeological processes and cultural values to public audiences.

The 23 contributors to this volume are a diverse group of archaeologists, educators, and artisans who have direct experience in schools, museums, and at archaeological sites. Citing specific examples, such as the film The English Patient, science fiction mysteries, and hypertext environments, they explain how creative imagination and the power of visual and audio media can personalize, contextualize, and demystify the research process. A 16-page color section illuminates their examples, and an accompanying CD includes relevant videos, music, web sites, and additional color images.

In their Introduction, the editors invoke the ancient muses to inspire the modern presenters and interpreters of archaeological research. They aptly quote George Santayana, from his poem "The Power of Art":

". . . may our hands immortalize the day

When life was sweet, and save from utter death

The sacred past that should not pass away."

John H. Jameson Jr. is an archaeologist and John E. Ehrenhard is Director at the National Park Service's Southeast Archeological Center in Tallahassee, Florida. Christine A. Finn is research associate at the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Oxford in England.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A useful introduction to an important trend in contemporary archaeology."
Southeastern Archaeology

"This provocative, thoughtful compendium will interest scholars of science and pedagogy as well as archaeologists."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817312732
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2003
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Plates
Introduction: Archaeology as Inspiration - Invoking the Ancient Muses 1
Why We Were Drawn to This Topic 6
1 More Than Just "Telling the Story": Interpretive Narrative Archaeology 15
2 The Archaeologist as Playwright 25
3 Archaeology Goes to the Opera 40
4 Archaeology in Two Dimensions: The Artist's Perspective 49
5 Art and Imagery as Tools for Public Interpretation and Education in Archaeology 57
6 Archaeology as a Compelling Story: The Art of Writing Popular Histories 65
7 Poetry and Archaeology: The Transformative Process 72
8 Reflections on the Design of a Public Art Sculpture for the Westin Hotel, Palo Alto, California 82
9 Pompeii: A Site for All Seasons 84
10 Evoking Time and Place in Reconstruction and Display: The Case of Celtic Identity and Iron Age Art 92
11 Art and Archaeology: Conflict and Interpretation in a Museum Setting 109
12 The Archaeology of Music and Performance in the Prehistoric American Southwest 120
13 Archaeology's Influence on Contemporary Native American Art: Perspectives from a Monster 128
14 From Rock Art to Digital Image: Archaeology and Art in Aboriginal Australia 136
15 Archaeology in Science Fiction and Mysteries 152
16 RKLOG: Archaeologists as Fiction Writers 162
17 Capturing the Wanderer: Nomads and Archaeology in the Filming of The English Patient 169
18 Is Archaeology Fiction? Some Thoughts about Experimental Ways of Communicating Archaeological Processes to the "External World" 179
19 Crafting Cosmos, Telling Sister Stories, and Exploring Archaeological Knowledge Graphically in Hypertext Environments 193
References Cited 205
Contributor Affiliations and Contact Information 231
About the Editors 233
Index 235
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