The Archaeological Record: Making Things Right

7 Apr

I came across a couple of news articles over the weekend that are worlds apart, but with a similar theme: damage done to the archaeological record and what’s being done to mitigate the harm. Both reflect cooperative efforts to make things right.


Sankore Mosque, Timbuktu (Wikipedia).

Sankore Mosque, Timbuktu (Wikipedia).


The first story involves the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali, West Africa. Many shrines, dating to the 14th and 15th Centuries AD, were destroyed by Islamic militants who view local Sufi practices as sacrilegious. It’s a tragic, and all-too-common, pattern; erasing the past in an attempt to make way for a new view of the future. I can think of hundreds of examples of such desecration occurring throughout history and prehistory. And there are many more examples we’ll never know about because the “visionaries” were so thorough in their destruction. In Timbuktu, hope arises as a result of committed local and international efforts to rebuild, made easier by the fact that Timbuktu is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


The second story comes all the way from the U.S. state of Indiana. The FBI uncovered thousands of artifacts in the private collection of a 91-year-old man, many of them illegally acquired from around the globe. Anthropologist Larry Zimmerman from Indiana University -Purdue University Indianapolis said: “I have never seen a collection like this in my life except at some of the largest museums.” The LA Times is running the story, by Paresh Dave, under the headline “Indiana Jones? FBI finds thousands of artifacts in 91-year old’s home.” Archaeology. State of Indiana. I guess that headline writes itself… I’d call it Indiana Looter’s Last Crusade, myself! But here’s the bright spot, the man is cooperating in a massive effort to repatriate as many artifacts as possible. Dr. Jones would approve of this part since these cultural items belong in a museum!



One Response to “The Archaeological Record: Making Things Right”

  1. Caleb 04/10/2014 at 8:10 am #

    Artifacts are a doorway into a cultures history, progression and adaption over a period of time. It shows their contributions into today’s society.

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