Role Reversal: Hindu “Ethno-Expertise” of Western Archaeological Materials

in “Masters” and “Natives”


For a number of years, the University of Lausanne has organized ethnoarchaeological research programmes in Nepal and Northern India with the aim of documenting various religious, craft, and domestic phenomena; these observations were compared with the results from the same phenomena in Western proto-historic and antique cultures. The research conducted within this framework utilizes conventional ethnoarchaeological methods and, at the same time, develops a new approach described as “ethno-expertise”. This consists of presenting archaeological documents to native specialists, for example to Brahmin priests for religious questions or to traditional potters for questions about pottery. The results of these investigations have shown the potential of the approach for generating research topics, of which certain of these can be verified by re-examining the archaeological material. In general, the native specialists were equally interested in a new identification for the archaeological documentation, particularly when it was based on references from their traditional culture, which presented analogous features with the ancient Western cultures being studied.

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