Archeological Simulacrum in Service to Outreach

I’ve recently reviewed a book by an old friend of mine from the University of Texas–Dr. Troy Lovata. Troy (now at the University of New Mexico) has recently published Inauthentic Archaeologies: Public Uses and Abuses of the Past. In this rather cleaver volume, Lovata points out that “inauthentic archeologies” are good from more than simply debunking…they can tell us a great deal about how cultures engage with the past, reveal how archaeology works, and teach us valuable lessons.
For instance, Lovata has a chapter on the fake Anasazi of Manitou Springs. Although there were never actually Anasazi living at this Colorado tourist destination, Troy points out that it has several advantages over “the real” thing (i.e., Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde). First Manitou Springs is on a much more beaten path (rather than the more remote cliff dwellings) this means that more people are likely to stop by and learn about the Anasazi (you don’t just happen upon Mesa Verde)…secondly, the “ruins” at Manitou Springs are much more interactive precisely because they are “inauthentic”…tourists can roam among the rooms, touch all the stonework and interact with the sense of historicalspace and place…we could not allow tourists to do this at the “real McCoy” as it would lead to the rapid destruction of the site.
This brings me to a little project that the volunteers at the SAU Research Station have been doing…my guys are very into cross-mending (that’s putting togeth er broken pots for the non-technical out there)…they spend hours every Wednesday putting together vessels excavated from various contexts around my station territory…but they have now branched out into replication…One volunteer in particular, Mr. Julian Cranfill, has taken to making silicone molds of the reconstructed vessels and “slip casting” them using Durham’s Water Putty…after a little paint, the result can be quite convincing (the copy is in the foreground in the above image, the original is in the background).
Recently, after David Jeane (SAU Station Assistant) showed them the cast of some of the reconstructed vessels from the recent digs at Grandview Prairie, the staff at the Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Conservation Education Center ordered three copies of each of the 24 vessels found on the floor of an excavated Caddo house from the dig…they plan on exhibiting one set, using one in traveling programs and exhibits and using the third during tours of the site…this is something you could never do with the originals…. archeological simulacrum in service to public education and outreach…who would have thought.

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One Comment on “Archeological Simulacrum in Service to Outreach”

  1. June 6, 2007 at 1:44 pm #

    Great! The simulacrum is even better than the real thing. Did you hear that Baudrillard died a couple months back?The question is, did “he,” in a sense, really “die,” as it were, or was he ever really alive, non?

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