Communicating Archaeology

Many people always ask me what is an anthropologist. I myself had asked that question before. Because of this, it appears that anthropologists have not fully grasped the attention of the media and people. Why is such profession unknown to be people if there is a lot of anthropologist and archaeologist that written articles and reports? There are even films about the work that has been done. This lack of awareness is most likely occurring because of the anthropologists’ research form of writing.

Looking back at my previous anthropological writings, I gasp at how dull and boring the work sounds. Yes, it has all the crazy anthropological vocabulary, but what is missing is a connection to myself. In fact, I was told to not input my own thoughts or opinion. I was even told to not write  “I” because it sounded unprofessional. The outcome came to be a dull, boring, detached paper that I myself will not want to read again.

Mitch Allen suggest that archaeologist should write to the “hidden audience” rather than the other scholars or critics (Allen: 247). With this, more people would begin to understand the archaeologist research and work outcome. It does seem very complex when reading some archeological works because of the language used and overly professional material structured. Even one who studies archaeology has difficulty comprehending the material and at times needs to be re-read in order to grasp the writer’s meanings and work. Therefore, Allen provided us 10 rules to apply: hook the audience, storytelling, put yourself in the writing, write in simple words, write like talking to someone, input memorable identifies, apply only needed data, be visual, emphasize theory and method, and always think of the audience. This method of writing is very different from what archeologist are used to. In fact, I have not read many articles that meet all the ten rules. One article that I can remember writing in simple words and putting herself constantly in the work, is Practising Archaeology-As if it Really Matters by K Anne Pyburn. Just reading her title, we start to see a connection,“As if it Really Matters,” because it gives an informal way of speaking. This informal vocabulary triggers the attention of others, making the audience want to read the paper for they want to know what she will say. Moreover, her style of writing is ethnographic which appears to be like a conversation and her personal response towards the reader. Such form of writing will be great when the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP) collects all the data and starts to collect the outcome of the project. If the papers and presentations are written in the ethnographic style, not only will we get the attention of the audience but also the scholars. This will make it helpful for others to find the work interesting and want to read more or be part of the archaeological work. I always thought the whole point or writing in archaeology is for others scholars to read the work and get something out of it. Maybe they decide to pick up where the work left off, use it as references, figure out other questions and concerns that came out of the research or just enjoy the reading. Personally, I never enjoyed criticizing other people works. I always felt like; who am I to criticize this great hardworking archaeologist! But since it was mandatory, my critical response was always suggesting the writer be less wordy, more to the point, too much information, and difficult to understand. Aside from that, it was difficult to state that their work was wrong. To me, everyone seems to have a point in their work. Maybe some material is wrong, especially back in the days when archaeology was more racist. Moderately, everyone seems to give a valid statement if not within all the work, there is something to grasp from everyone’s research.

Now, through writing,  how can the HCPCP grasp the audience attention? I suggest that some of the HCPCP members should express their experience within the field work. Did they like working outside? How was the environment and weather around them? Was there any encounter of interest? Like a really exotic looking monument or the voodoo dolls lying around the cemetery. Of course, I really enjoy pictures, so by providing visuals, the readers can get a better understanding of what the writer experienced. If not able to provide visuals, the writer to use ethnographic writing to detailly express what they witnessed in the field. In truth, Peter Young suggest being a storyteller. For example, he states to make it existing like “ these were flutes that hadn’t been played for a thousand years (242).” The HCPCP can state how by looking at certain graves conditions one can infer how the departer grave has not been visited for many 10 years. Their names, probably already forgotten, had not been mentioned until we came along.  Even more, their once life existence had not been thought about until we read and placed within the data their grave marker information. I myself wondered who were these people when they were living and roaming the land. How was their lifestyle? What did they see and accomplished? Did they live a long life? Many did not live a long life, the HCPCP has a large of infant graves. Could their deaths be related? That is a question that can be asked when viewing the year of their departed. It is going to be an exciting experience when the fieldwork and lab work is fully completed. Then, the archaeologist can fully give a written piece. For now, we can write our personal experience in the field.

The whole point about writing is to give the information obtained from the research to the audience. They can use the information to find a relative, history about the site, connections to other cemeteries, cultural background and so forward. Through participation, my interest in the HCPCH research has been caught so I will continue to keep up to date with what the project will do next as well as the end results.

0 thoughts on “Communicating Archaeology

  1. There are so very well written point through this post. I think it’s interesting how changing your audience can change your whole paper. I, myself, have been asked relative questions about what is anthropology and what have I done as an undergraduate that made me want to continue in anthropology. Although the questions are overwhelming I somehow think how can I give them the perfect response for them to look more into anthropology or archaeology and become interested in a way I did. Now, writing can get boring depending if you’re writing to someone you’re supposed to be writing to, but I’m convinced that if more anthropologists were to change their audience to people who have absolutely no idea what anthropology is, the anthropology community will gain members or interests. We need to find ways on how to work with our community instead of without.

  2. I totally agree with the disconnection with anthropologists and the public. Its almost like Anthropology to some people is this unattainable object that can only be grasped by scholars. And yes that vocabulary throws me off very much, I end up feeling like my IQ has dropped because I literally have no Idea what I had just read. I also agree that more personal types of writing get more peoples attention and allows them to fully understand what the writer is trying to convey and even sometimes allows them to make a personal connection.

  3. I really liked how you pointed out that many people ask about this fieldwork, because really I think it’s true that maybe the work we do or portray is so extensive and detailed. The general population may get lost in the words or loose interest. What these blog posts does for us, is allow us to express ourselves in our own way while also giving knowledgeable information. In a way, it can really captivate an audience and keep them intrigued in the project. What I agree most with your post is the importance of visuals and how much we can share with photos rather than just writing alone.

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