23 November 2009

Monday Not-Quite-News Roundup

2012 Shocker
This just in from the LA Times: apocalyptic disaster movie 2012 might not be based in sound archaeological evidence!
Canadian archaeologist Kathryn Reese-Taylor... says the translation of the text essentially says that something will occur on Dec. 21, 2012 and that it will be similar to something that occurred on another date in the past. "At no point do any of the Maya texts actually prophesize the end of the world," she said.
But what's this picture about then?

Shelby rules, but facts are like, so hard!
There’s a new exhibition of Neolithic artifacts at the NYU Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, sponsored by the famous/infamous Shelby White. The Baltimore Sun is on the scene with a reporter who fawns over White (just ‘Shelby’ to her friends), who with her late husband Leon Levy came to be known as much for their naked enthusiasm for stolen antiquities as much as for their philanthropy. The author also freely insults one of her sources as “long-winded” and “pontificating” because her descriptions of the exhibit actually include some information about its historical context. Moral of the article: old stuff is pretty, but facts are hard and boring!

The White Man's burden
While we’re the in comedy section, let’s check out the latest defense of James Cuno’s proposal to bring back partage, from John Tierney in the New York Times.

Tierney starts out complaining about Zahi Hawass’ belief that the Rosetta Stone is Egyptian (!?), and recycles the old orientalist argument that the Egyptians don’t really deserve to own it because they weren’t sufficiently interested in antiquity back in 1799. He derides governments like Turkey, Egypt, or Italy as and incompetent and ‘protectionist’, and veers headlong into the old stereotypes of the ignorant, grasping, swarthy Oriental, who doesn’t know how to appreciate the past like the White Man does.

Can I get a ride home? (Victor Koen/NYT)

As usual, all the fuss about ‘openness’ is really the collector and curator's veiled resentment about having to ask nicely to borrow the treasures of the ancient world, instead of being able just to take what they want, whenever they want it. If Tierney or Cuno really cared about the free exchange of ideas, they’d get behind efforts to expand artifact loans, as Italy has done recently. I wish these guys would just focus on bringing back the fun parts of colonialist archaeology, like gin tonics, pith helmets, and khaki shorts with spats.

A kinder, gentler Orientalism (villagehatshop.com).


  1. I thought gin tonics never left??

  2. It's true, I know many dig houses that mix a mean cocktail. (Here's to you, Aphrodisias!)

    I'd just like to see Cuno and his ilk dwelling on our fun traditions, instead of trying to resurrect the grubby and greedy bits - most of which got put down for good reasons.