This chapter attempts to approach Soviet literary works that refer to, in one way or another, the topic of archaeology. The attempt unfolds in three steps. First, several particular literary works are discussed, two “geographical novels” in which the geographer Vladimir Arsen’ev recounts his travels to the Far East and tells the story of his guide Dersu Uzala, an example of a “natural man”. A special stress is put on the importance of this fact-and-fiction work; the avant-garde finds in it a new narrative pattern and at the same time it inspires a genre that becomes crucial in the system of socialist realism. We discuss then the “Master”-“native” relationship typical for this genre. Then we define the differences between symbolic roles assigned to various earth sciences in the Soviet culture: geographers controlling the present, geologists the future, and palaeontologists the past. Archaeology, in being dependent to a larger degree on the ever-changing party politics, has the most fragile position in this hierarchy. Nevertheless, the Soviet system had a use for it. In the last part of the paper, we give a brief overview and a rough typology of the literature inspired by archaeology.
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.
In the aftermath of the British conquest of Malakand, the Swat valley became a sort of “quarry area” from which to extract sculptures earmarked for different destinations: military messes and private collections, museums in India and Great Britain, auction houses and the antiquary market in Europe, etc. All these activities were partially curbed and/or regulated thanks to a very advanced law, the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act (VII, 1904). Nonetheless, the legal situation in Swat remained unclear. Despite the efforts made by the legislators in British India to place the archaeological heritage under legal protection, in Native States, like Swat, there were no clear rules, and the procedures remained a matter directly discussed with the court. A recently discovered archival fonds illustrates that situation in detail. When in 1956, nine years after the end of British India, Giuseppe Tucci secured a Pakistani excavation licence for Swat, the situation was still unchanged. According to other documents, it was Tucci who convinced the wali to introduce the Act VII, 1904 in Swat. As a natural consequence, legal fieldwork started, and a museum with a Pakistani curator was established in Swat.
In the study of the human past, the Iranian plateau and Central Asia have the privilege to host some of the most significant historical, archaeological, and cultural developments on the planet. From around the second millennium BCE, the Iranian plateau participated in the realization of a series of ever larger and powerful political units, culminating in the Achaemenid dynasty of the first millennium BCE, and the numerous chiefdoms and political-state formations, many of which nomadic in character, in Central Asia. The activities of archaeological research in Iran and Central Asia, therefore, provide a framework for placing some of the most significant events of the past. In today’s ongoing European cultural and economic expansion, with Iran as a future near neighbour and Central Asia as a kind of suburban farther, but at the western border with China, the need for a more in-depth understanding and appreciation of their past and, therefore, of the present, can hardly be procrastinated over. These geographical areas have been essential in the history of mankind, regardless of their historical, linguistic, and ethnic backgrounds, or their political/national outcomes in modern and contemporary times. The archaeological activities within those areas have been, for at least a century, essential to understanding the related Western and native consciousness of their historical past.
The studies conducted in the last two decades usually focused on the Western cultural policies in foreign countries where there were none or few local institutions at the beginning of the twentieth century. The purpose of the chapter is to show that the host states were neither passive nor dominated. To illustrate this idea, I take the example of Iran and Afghanistan, from the end of World War I to 1984. Indeed, the two neighbouring states chose opposite strategies to develop the archaeological potential of their territories. Their final goal was scientific independence. However, where Iran used its capacities of negotiation to build an ultra-nationalist archaeology, Afghanistan decided to consider archaeology an international affair and to widen its institutional and scientific network. This essay is a first attempt to explain how and why such a difference between the two choices exists.
Starting from the classical linguistic and anthropological distinction between “emic” and “etic” (K. Pike), this chapter focuses on the interrelated character of both levels of discourse by examining the example of archaeology in colonial Sri Lanka. Nuancing widespread conceptions about Western scholars “inventing” local traditions, different examples from this context, including that of the German-Swiss scholar Eduard Müller-Hess (1853-1923), demonstrate, on the contrary, the active involvement of local specialists such as Buddhist monks. In this way, “emic” conceptions found their way in “etic” discourses, which in turn were often used to legitimize various positions in local political and religious polemics.
While the Soviet Union continued many of the tsarist Russian policies in Central Asia, there were also some significant differences which make it difficult as well as interesting to compare Soviet archaeological expeditions in the region with “colonial archaeology”. This paper presents the case study of the Khorezmian Expedition of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR which worked in Central Asia from 1937 to 1991, much of the time under the direction of its founder, Sergej P. Tolstov. The initial, clear distinction between scholars from the centres, Moscow and Leningrad, on the one hand, and locally recruited workers and guides, on the other hand, seems to conform to a “colonial” pattern. But as time went on, the expedition became a pathway for Central Asian students into the upper ranks of Soviet archaeology, either directly by working on the expedition, or by encouragement from Tolstov to attend academic institutions in the centres. This aspect was instrumental in creating the foundations of a Central Asian school of Soviet, and ultimately post-Soviet, archaeology. Finally, cases of personal involvement by individuals from the “imperial” centres, be it by local marriage or by “going native”, helped to blur the distinctions and made the boundaries between metropolitans and locals permeable - without ever removing them entirely.