FITTING THE PIECES TOGETHER:
The Power and Politics of Archaeology in the Modern Middle East
An address given by Neil Asher Silberman, Archaeological Institute of America, at the WAC Forum: Exploring a Shared Past in the Modern Middle East (sponsored by the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and the Institute for Contemporary Islam of the University of Cape Town) on Friday 15th January 1999.
I have not come all the way to Cape Town to repeat the obvious: that representations of the past and the modern political claims explicitly or implicitly drawn from them have enormous power throughout the Middle East. At this Congress, others have and others will speak of the same situation in other regions. It is not my intention to suggest that in terms of politicized archaeology, the nations of the Middle East are in any sense unique. In fact, there is much that archaeologists working in this region can be proud of: over the last two centuries few other areas of the ancient world have been so intensively studied—from the monumental remains of highly complex and long-lived civilizations, to the ephemeral traces of the earliest settled farming communities, to the enigmatic interplay of material culture, history, scripture, and myth. Of course there are still many things missing; countless pieces of the puzzle of human society in the vast expanse between the Nile and the Zagros Mountains have yet to be found—much less fitted into their appropriate place.
But what I’d like to discuss with you this afternoon in my admittedly selective survey of Middle Eastern Archaeology on the eve of the 21st century is not so much archaeological facts as archaeological behaviors—the social anthropology of Middle Eastern Archaeology if you will. I want to talk about the particular constellation of attitudes, beliefs, routines, stunning scholarly successes and mindless destructions that have been committed over the last two hundred years in the name of “rediscovering” the Middle Eastern past.
No one who has ever dealt seriously with the archaeology of the Middle East can claim to be completely innocent in this political and ideological saga, be they western or local scholars, politicians, land developers, businessmen, tour operators, museum directors, or cultural philanthropists. Each have made their contribution and each must take a certain measure of blame. I have no interest in engaging in tabloid archaeological critique here—rehearsing the details of old vendettas, airing dirty laundry about specific ideologically inspired interpretations, biblical wishful thinking, or grandiose modern political ambitions strutting in ancient costumes. What I would rather suggest is that there is a common look and feel to modern archaeological business-as-usual whether we speak of the archaeology of Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, or the Arabian peninsula and gulf.
Put most simply, it is this: modern Middle Eastern Archaeology has—while discovering countless valuable, interesting, and surprising facts about the ancient societies in the region—effected a profound and painful rupture between the Middle Eastern present and its past. The traditional relationship of the region’s Muslims, Jews, and Christians to the stories, landmarks, and even message of their communal histories has been irreversibly altered by official state and institutional sponsorship of scientific archaeology. That transformation is far from over and there is no telling—in light of the appeal and power of radically conservative religious factions in the region—where the balance of power between archaeologists and clerics may eventually end up in the coming years.
We are still learning about the social, political, religious, and even economic effects of archaeology in the Middle East, but today I want highlight the following themes:
1.) The unprecedented destruction of archaeological remains throughout the region—its various causes, implications, and effects.
2.) The gradual transformation over the last 200 years of archaeology as an institutionalized activity, conducted by specially trained professionals working under the direct or indirect auspices of national governments.
3.) Something I like to call the “literary history” of Middle Eastern archaeology, namely the fairly limited repetoire of “stories” that are used to interpret archaeological remains to the general public—both tourists and Middle Eastern nationals.
4.) The history of religious opposition to archaeological work—and the more pervasive conflict between archaeologists and clerics over the ultimate authority to interpret the past.
5.) The uneasy connection between modern communities and excavated archaeological sites within their immediate surroundings. That is to ask: where do modern communities fit into the presentation and interpretation of the past?
6.) And finally, a brief, idealistic, if not utopian vision of the social behavior called Middle Eastern archaeology in the 21st century, in which some of archaeology’s jagged fragments may be fitted together—and some of its yawning holes—may at last be filled.
Let’s start with the shattered landscape of the present. Today we behold a Middle Eastern landscape that is in so many places painfully, tragically degraded. War, displacement of populations, runaway industrial development and urban expansion—accompanied by continuing environmental damage are transforming many of the region’s modern societies and posing an unprecedented danger to its archaeological remains. Of course countless impressive tells still rise throughout the rich and once-rich agricultural districts. Classical and Islamic monuments still dominate many cities—and spark the romantic imagination of both locals and visitors. But what of the sites and archaeological deposits that do not merit a ticket booth, souvenir stand, or accepted place in the routes of the school groups and tourist guides?
Any one who has worked in the Middle East in recent years knows the answer. Ephemeral sites of prehistoric occupation are routinely scraped clean by bulldozers clearing the paths of new highways, suburbs, and settlements. Skyscrapers and office buildings rise over ancient cities, scouring the underlying remains so thoroughly that hardly a trace of an archaeological deposit is left. Of course Departments of Antiquities and Universities throughout the region do their best to test and at least partially excavate the deposits before they vanish—and in a few extraordinary cases they have been able to preserve some of the excavated remains for posterity. But priorities being what they are in a world in which nations cannot afford not to constantly expand their infrastructure and industrial base, the virtue of the conservation of archaeological sites—preserving them in a natural state, undug and undamaged, ranks far lower on the global list of ecological priorities than saving the whales.
That is because, being archaeologists, conservationism—true conservationism—does not represent a very efficient pathway to professional success. In the Middle East, regional surveys and remote sensing are rather recent and subsidiary tools of investigation. In a world of ancient empires and imposing city mounds, the instinct has always been to dig. Even now the great expeditions continue at massive sites, in a sort of self-sustaining industry. When summertime comes, student groups and volunteers flock to the expedition camps, and, down in the trenches, produce tons of material culture remains, digging through the deposits (of course with careful techniques of recording and registration) as if it were some great open pit bauxite mine. I know that I may sound a bit flip in this characterization of large scale excavation—but I often wonder how many of the great, ongoing Middle Eastern excavations are motivated by definable, solvable archaeological problems, how many by the fame of the site and the chance to uncover evocative historical relics, and how many by the natural tendency of archaeologists to want to dig.
“I dig, therefore I am” may be archaeology’s truest and least proudly recited slogan. The countless bags of excavated pottery, the boxes of small finds, bones, and soil samples lying neatly shelved, unpublished in expedition storehouses and departments of antiquities laboratories are the material evidence of digging gone out of control. Naturally universities and departments of antiquities attempt to control the unrestricted digging that is not properly published. Recently, funds have been set up to subsidize the publication of long-dormant excavations throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Has this made a difference? I think that you all know the numbers of the sites involved and the scale of the problem. We may half-jokingly shrug our shoulders and feel confident that even a moderate sized tell cannot be totally destroyed by even the most enthusiastic expedition. But don’t we have a moral responsibility to condemn the widespread and needless loss of irreplaceable material heritage?
So much for the great tells—which are badly in need of at least a temporary ceasefire in the digging. We may like to deceive ourselves that the remains of the Middle Eastern past have survived wars, earthquakes, floods, invasions, and the truly massive 19th century expeditions with their battalions of basket boys and yawning trenches. Yet I ask you to look around and consider that within our own lifetimes—our own professional lifetimes—more damage has been done to the remains that the ancient peoples of the Middle East have left behind them than in the entire course of human history. And archaeologists have played their part in the process. Under the pressure of time, funding, and the political power of development projects, hard choices have had to be made about what sites and what periods are more relatively important. And archaeologists—being merely human—have tended to snatch the tastiest, most beautiful cherries off the top of the cake.
Now of course that begs the question of how archaeological priorities—or should I say tastes—are determined, and I do intend to touch on that in a few moments. But suffice it so say for the meantime that there are clear archaeological preferences that differ throughout the region. And one thing unites them all. In our age of unprecedented development and digging, the ideological orientation of today’s archaeologists will have a profound, if ironic effect on that of their successors in the not-too-distant future. Because of the intensity of the digging at specially favored sites, today’s scorned sites—whether of a certain historical period, supposed ethnic identification, or material character—will be come a relatively plentiful archaeological resource in the years to come. And for all we know, today’s intense digging at certain sites and tomorrow’s digging—by default—at others may play a strangely corrective role in the transformation of each nation’s interpretation of its past as we look toward a new millennium.
One more observation on destruction—of a kind motivated by the most primitive greed of all: the buying and selling of antiquities. The very success of archaeology in making the past seem alluring, exotic, spiritual, or even stable has helped exacerbate the problem of the antiquities trade. Now I am not talking primarily of great works of art sawn off palace walls or hacked from mosaic floors. I’m talking about small oil lamps, juglets, common coins, and small glass vessels that can be purchased freely in the antiquities shops of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and in the rather more upscale boutiques of “affordable” ancient art in London, Geneva, New York, and Beverly Hills.
Many solutions have been proposed for the problem of illegal digging and selling: ban the trade outright, or alternatively make the trade entirely legal thus driving down the prices and lowering the incentive to loot. The thoroughly plundered ancient cemeteries throughout the region are ample evidence of the extent of the problem and the complete loss to posterity. But even the most aggressive and violent attempts by police and antiquities authorities to put an end to tomb digging as a cash crop activity in rural Middle Eastern villages has largely failed. The reason is threefold: 1.) the vary same archaeological authorities who are attempting to preach conservation to rural villagers quite obviously allow themselves a free hand when they decide on a place and time to dig; 2.) the market demand for antiquities has grown enormously because of a virtual modern cult of Middle Eastern relics, in which ownership of an ancient oil lamp offers an individual connection to the past that public interpretive programs obviously have been unable to give; and 3.) most telling of all, the economic crisis of rural areas throughout the region is so profound that new sources of cash must be found. And it is highly significant that antiquities robbing has become such a popular avocation. Of all things that one might want to plunder, the choice of antiquities—the remains and possessions of the ancient people who once lived there betrays the depth of alienation that has severed any emotional link between living communities and their own archaeology. That plundered oil lamp, even if it were made from the same local clay used by the village’s modern potters—and even if it were made by an ancestor—is considered a foreign obsession, a plaything for tourists with cash.
So far I have spoken of how entirely archaeological destruction is based on larger social trends. I want now to turn to the administrative structure of modern archaeology, which is largely dependent on social and political trends itself. And so I want to begin with a bit of historical background on what I would like to call “a brief military history of Middle Eastern Archaeology.”
I suppose that Napoleon Bonaparte, the would-be conqueror of Egypt and the Ottoman Empire never imagined that he would become the father of the region’s rather stodgy archaeological bureaucracy. That was only one of his bitter historical disappointments. Standing on the windswept mound called Tell el-Fukhkhar, the “hill of the potsherds” precisely two hundred years ago—in January 1799—he looked down toward the heavily fortified Ottoman port of Akka—today’s Akko in northern Israel—which had by the time of his arrival been further protected by the timely arrival of a British expeditionary fleet. Napoleon’s plan to conquer Akka and march northward to Istanbul ended in the horror of bubonic plague among his siege forces and a bloody repulse of all of his army’s attempts to storm Akka’s walls. But being the man of his time and of the spirit of colonial reason, he had brought along to Egypt and then to Palestine a special corps of savants—his famous Artistic and Scientific Commission—to catalogue, describe, and lay intellectual claim to the scientific knowledge of the region’s antiquities.
Up to Napoleon’s time, the pursuit of the past in the Middle East had been primarily a pious undertaking—of pilgrims in search of penance and health- or fortune-giving relics who had traversed the standard routes of holy places established as early as the Byzantine period. A few diletantti had made their way as far east as the Levant but they found the pickings in moveable statuary or classical artworks rather thin. Most, like Napoleon’s countryman, the traveler Volney, came away with only melancholy verse on the decline of the great civilizations of the East. Others, like Niebuhr, Seetzen, and Burkhardt came in search of lucrative new trade routes, recording ruins and natural curiosities along the way. But Napoleon’s catastrophe in Egypt and particularly Palestine opened the floodgates to a new kind of antiquarian with new axes to grind. The British allies of the Ottomans brought their own savants to study the ruins—and for those largely Protestant scholars their first glimpse at Egypt, the Holy Land, and the wider Lands of the Bible had a particularly catalyzing effect.
Ever since the Reformation, with the discontinuance of the practice of physical pilgrimage in much of northwestern Europe, the world of the Bible—to us the Ancient Near East—had become more of a spiritual metaphor than an actual place. Zion, Bethlehem, Hebron, Salem, Damascus, Edom, Nineveh, and Babylon had all become theological concepts—elaborated in hymns, sermons, imaginative works of art, and in the names of new colonial outposts all over the world. Thus the late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Protestant encounter with the biblical past, as maintained and represented in the icon-laden shrines of the Latin and Greek churches, was jarring. The modern landscape of pashas, mamluks, fellahin, and effendis had nothing of the character of the idealized biblical images of sowers, gleaners, heroes, judges, and prophets they had become so accustomed to. So shock was followed by determination—the determination to overlook the present and discover the real biblical past.
The names of the early pioneers have become legendary—Reverend Edward Robinson of my own state of Connecticut, Charles Wilson and Charles Warren of the British-sponsored Palestine Exploration Fund. The element I want to stress is that these antiquarian explorers all had a very explicit ideological agenda—they sought to undermine and disprove the authenticity of the traditional holy places and wipe away the disturbing scenes of the present. They did so by privileging empirical observation and study over accepted tradition. It did not matter that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem had been unquestioningly identified as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection for 1400 years. It did not matter that a bedouin woman at the well was not Rachel or that a rabbi in Jerusalem was not a New Testament Pharisee. These new explorers believed that their own researches and erudition in historical sources proved the time-honored, local traditions to be what they considered “ecclesiastical” or simply superstitious fairy tales. And if the sacred traditions were nonsense, then the entire modern society that covered the landscape was just so much late accumulation that overlay the true Holy Land. I have written elsewhere of the bitter political competition that went on throughout the 19th century between rival European powers over the privilege of bringing the authentic antiquities of the Near East to light. Layard and Botta fought over the huge winged cherubs of Assyria; the Germans staked a claim on Babylon; and the British, French, and Americans squabbled over excavation concessions in Egypt and throughout the Levant.
The point I am trying to make without getting too much deeper into the details of this century-long Gilbert-and-Sullivan-style comic opera of intrepid diggers and prestige giving biblical relics was that the Middle Eastern past perceived by these first modern archaeologists was a field of battle and a campaign of conquest in which genuine antiquity could be recognized only by a certain class of professionals. All the other modern-day characters—clerics, poets, and fellahin—were really just in the way. The past they believed in was an idle fantasy or a backward superstition. It certainly was not the genuine one—which was, of course, that of the explorers—no matter how faithfully or piously it was believed.
And there is another point with continuing implications: the modern peoples of the Middle East were not considered to be meaningfully connected to the ancient heritage at all. At most they were seen—as I have already mentioned—in their quaint agricultural customs, festivals, and daily habits as fossilized remnants of how the past inhabitants of the region might have appeared. Of course it was believed to be only a superficial resemblance, not a genuine pedigree. The European and American archaeologists were not only the experts on the glories of the ancient Near East, they believed that they, not the Egyptians, Arabs, Jews, or Eastern Christians, were also the legitimate heirs.
And here is the point that still affects us directly and politically. With the end of European rivalry in the Middle East in World War I and the establishment of varieties of European colonial rule over the Middle East—attitudes hardened into governmental structures. As the various colonial authorities set about reforming, modernizing, and improving their colonial charges, the past was given its own clearly defined place in the imperial bureaucracy not unlike—say—mining or forestry. Religion was self-contained in the institutions of approved ecclesiastical bodies– Muslim, Christian, and Jewish. Religious beliefs about, say, history were accorded no authority beyond the shrines that the waqf, rabbinical council, or patriarchate already possessed and maintained.
The material past came under the purview of the Antiquities Service, whose officials had the sole power to divide the particular country into districts, designate sites of antiquarian or historic significance—and most important of all—to regulate their permissible use. Specific regulations varied widely, but a single, epoch-making change occurred throughout the entire region. The former rupture between European conceptions of the past and traditional ones now had the force of governmental power—and the official registers of antiquities sites and the staffs of local antiquities inspectors effectively expropriated and prohibited free use of the many, scattered islands of real estate they legally identified as archaeological sites.
The past was thus physically and legally partitioned from the present: It was just another way in which the time-honored local traditions were being undermined. But before long, the European dominance in archaeology was to be skillfully contested by some Middle Easterners themselves. The past—traditional or archaeological—was too potent a political weapon not to be wielded. But the effects were not predictable—and that brings me to my next theme: the ideological permutations of nationalistic archaeology in the modern Middle East.
In the last eighty years, we have seen the rise of national archaeologies throughout the Middle East. Closely following the pattern earlier observable in Europe, a growing class of entrepreneurs and professionals sought to instill a national pride through the collection, study, and display of local antiquities. Naturally this was linked to wider socio-economic changes within the region– particularly the rise of an increasingly cosmopolitan commercial elite (often ethnic minorities, by the way) in the port cities of the eastern Mediterranean and Levant. The historian Donald Reid has recently written quite illuminatingly about the rise of Egyptian Egyptology in the 19th century—along with the beginnings of Coptic archaeology and the interest of the Greek and Italian communities resident in Alexandria in the city’s scattered and still quite elusive classical remains. The story was repeated in Lebanon with a particular fascination for the archaeological and epigraphic remains of the Phoenicians, and in Palestine with the establishment of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society in the years immediately preceding World War I.
For the most part these ethnic and national archaeologies were initially based in amateur organizations working very much in the shadow of the great expeditions from the west. In fact, in the years before the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, they represented the growing fissures within Middle Eastern society. But soon enough they lent their weight to the political objectives of modern nationalism—especially when the European powers replaced the Ottomans after World War I. Thus in the wake of Howard Carter’s discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, the largely secular, nationalist Wafd party in Egypt made the future non-export of Egyptian antiquities a vocal public demand. Slightly later, in 1929, the discovery in Palestine of an ancient Byzantine synagogue mosaic at Beit Alpha, by the fledgling Department of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was seen as a symbolic validation of modern Jewish settlement in the Jezreel Valley and provided the first great ideological impetus for the expansion of Jewish Palestinian archaeology.
Examples of the same kind of phenomena can be cited for nearly every nation—from the Hittitology of the Ataturk Movement (seeking a secular focus for the new Turkish nation); to the growing pride in Petra and Jerash in Hashemite Jordan; to the commemoration of the long saga of the Lebanese people from the Bronze Age to the Ottoman Period; to the recent establishment of the Palestine Department of Antiquities. As each nation moved toward and beyond independent statehood, its archaeologically fashioned autobiography—now including many more facts and episodes than earlier religious or folk traditions—served as an effective rationale for membership in the community of modern nations and an epic of national “rebirth.”
Now here is where the archaeological narratives turn poetic—or must at least be regarded as literary works. For a modern nation to be “reborn” or “resurrected” it stands to reason that it had to have been at least temporarily “dead.” Thus the national archaeologies of the Middle East all delineated what I have called a necessary period of historical desolation in the immediate pre-modern period, during which they were oppressed, scattered, or otherwise abused. Before that period of desolation (lasting anywhere from decades to centuries to millennia) lay the Golden Age in which the nation expressed its true character, genius, and destiny. Thus the discoveries of the glories of the ancient nation, rescued from the debris of “desolation” at a time of modern rebirth had and continue to have a political resonance that cannot be ignored. Think of Yadin’s excavations at Masada for the parade example. And the postage stamps, tourist posters, and crowded tourist sites of the other countries of the region reveal many, many more.
Naturally the efficient modern administration of antiquities became an important task for every newly independent nation in the post-world-war-II era and the model of the European bureaucracies was followed closely, at least in bureaucratic form. And the earlier process of the separation of the past from the present continued. Sites were selected and utilized to tell the story of the nation, while the extraneous periods of desolation or remains associated with rival ethnic groups were not the subject of nearly as much attention—and in some cases suffered irreparable neglect. Each nation painted its self-portrait in heroic, national colors—merging the generalized European notions of technological progress with a national story that was unique. But as parallel in form as these archaeological stories might have been, they were often in direct competition with one another—with one nation’s golden age seen as another’s period of desolation—with the advance of one people in antiquity necessarily seen taking place at the expense of another.
Put most simply, this nationalist era of Middle Eastern archaeology had two primary effects: First, a great impetus and funding for excavation and presentation of selected archaeological sites—with a great expansion of archaeological knowledge—and, second, the enactment of something like a long-running archaeological pageant, with visions of ancient ancestors and ancient cities offering potent modern metaphors for the way each nation believed its future glories should be. Just examine the use of ancient symbols on modern currency, ancient metaphors in modern political speeches, and I think you will understand that until very recently there was a considerable fragmentation—along national lines—in the interpretation of Middle Eastern archaeology. And that fragmentation had subsidiary effects in the geographical fragmentation of study both by foreign expeditions and national archaeological schools.
With at least the glimmer of a hope of a peace process in the region, that situation is changing, though we are still far from a situation where we can say that the Middle Eastern past is fully shared. But I do want to mention one recent development that I find extremely comic and disturbing. That is the transformation of archaeology into money-making entertainment, or money-making at least hypothetically. I had always assumed that in the Middle East we faced an interminable struggle of competing archaeologies, but I never expected a competition between different venues of utterly non-nationalist archaeology. In the hard competition for tourism and the foreign currency it brings into each country, national parks authorities and tourism ministries throughout the region have moved from patriotism to commercial seduction—highlighting and developing those archaeological sites most likely to attract affluent visitors. And when market appeal and box-office receipts become a driving or at least important factor in the apportioning of funds for national archaeological undertakings, the tendency is for the planners to anticipate what the tourist will want—and give it to them.
Thus a national history without tall columns, impressive monuments, and glittering artifacts is unthinkable in modern marketing terms. Roman remains—even if the Roman Empire oppressed and exploited the region in antiquity—are what is believed to appeal to tourists. Sensational stories of the discovery of archaeological treasures also sell very well. So Ben-Hur and Indiana Jones have become the new patron saints, at least in some circles, for the marketing of modern Middle Eastern antiquities.
There is much more to mention on the current archaeological scene. So far I have highlighted the history and some of the common problems. But there is also a great deal to be optimistic about. The ever greater ability of archaeologists to cross borders and meet at international conferences like this one is encouraging an interaction in which the formerly hardened national historiographies are increasingly being seen as perspectives which can be used for an ever more complex understanding of Middle Eastern antiquity. That, at least, is my hope.
But there still remains a serious problem—a potentially dangerous problem—the unresolved and problematic relationship between archaeologists and the general public and with the traditional religious authorities. As I have often said, archaeology is an extremely jealous science; it is a method of relating to the past that permits no competitors. When an archaeological fact, cultural process, or chronology has been established, it arrogates to itself supreme authority. No traditional story, legend, or parable can ever again vie with it for historical weight. Traditional tales and legends become mere footnotes to the archaeological version of the past. The wealth of scripture and myth may be cherished as spiritual classics or great works of literature but they become just supporting material for the more precise archaeological reconstruction of history. Obviously this is not a state of affairs willingly accepted by traditional religious authorities—and the millions of conservative Muslims, Christians, and Jews all over the world.
In recent years and in many places, archaeologists have had to contend seriously for the first time with religious sensibilities of indigenous or traditional kinds relating to human remains, sacred places, and physical possession of antiquities. A great challenge in the Middle East in the coming years is to reconcile faith and stratigraphy. It will not be an easy task, since much of the motivation for recent encounters between religious and archaeological authorities is motivated by larger political conflicts within modern Middle Eastern societies—about the extent to which globalization (here represented by archaeology and secularization of history) is a necessary or even desirable social aim.
And this clash between tradition and archaeology will continue until archaeology is entirely outlawed or abandoned (unlikely), or effectively integrated into the existing hopes, concerns, and ideals of the modern populations of the Middle East. That, I know, is a tall order—but archaeologists working in the Middle East have long taken the local populations for granted, using them as foremen, laborers, cooks, and domestics—but rarely incorporating them into the story of the site. Even more important is the local population’s incorporation of the site into their stories of themselves.
The old imperialistic conviction that civilization began in the Fertile Crescent and was later bequeathed to the West dies hard. Likewise the belief that a modern nation possesses a clearly defined biography is quite resistant to revision, even as it is belied by the very complexity of culture and culture change that archaeology reveals. We must seek to convey to the public that there is a new kind of archaeology developing all over the world with its ongoing attempts to fill the holes in the archaeological record—not only the conventionally recited topis of gender, poverty, class, and inequality—but also the larger spiritual and ideological meanings of our finds for coexisting in the world today.
Over the last century, archaeology in the Middle East has collected millions of artifacts and tens of millions of facts. But it has so far failed to change or improve the world of the present. That can only come with a shared determination to understand who we all are and how complexly we are related to each other in both the past and the present. And it can only come with an end to the time-honored archaeological practices of digging and ripping apart pieces of our material heritage and calling that history.