Archaeology and the Archaeologist on Screen

in “Masters” and “Natives”

Abstract

This essay provides a historical perspective on the archaeologist on screen. A wide array of movies, video games, and TV shows are addressed in order to provide a comprehensive approach to this cultural figure. Building on several examples, from the birth of cinema to the new field of archaeogaming, this article delves into the various dimensions of the archaeologist as one of the most popular fictional character of all times. In addition to a close examination of the main typologies used to characterize the diverse representations of the archaeologist in popular culture, the study introduces some thoughts about the links between archaeology and the ontology of the photographic image. Closely related to the cultural logic of Western modernity, archaeology extensively nurtures the imaginary of exploration, conquest, and postcolonial encounter. Nevertheless, the analysis of a selection of non-Western films highlights the cultural hybridity of the figure of the archaeologist. Its complexity and ambivalence thus appears representative of the way power relations shaped by race, class, and gender operates through culture.

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