History of Archaeology


The socio-political context of archaeological research has also been an interest of mine since graduate school, in particular the symbiotic relationship between the state and those who produce knowledge about the past that can be used as political capital. While totalitarian states such as Nazi Germany may seem to be aberrations, in fact no archaeological research takes place in a politically neutral vacuum. The degree to which the production of knowledge about the past and its dissemination are compromised may vary but it is important to recognize the universality of the mutual dependence that exists between the state and professional archaeology.

Museums are one of the loci where this symbiosis plays out in a public setting and this is the area of my research that students in the Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies find especially helpful. The “Who Owns the Past?” class I teach every two years has provided several graduate students with thesis topics and has redirected the projects of others. The 19th century collections at various U.S. natural history museums, including the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Logan Museum and the Chicago Field Museum, have provided a fruitful new avenue for this particular research direction and I have supervised a number of very successful Masters student projects that have made use of these collections. Collaborations with colleagues in Europe, especially Austria, Switzerland and France, have generated additional opportunities for student research.

Selected Publications

2022. The perils of a usable past: archaeology’s journey from culture history to culture wars. Getty-CAS Spring School Working Paper Series 13/1 The Impact of the Political on Archaeological Research, pp. 1-22. University of Sofia, Bulgaria.

2022. National Socialist archaeology as a Faustian bargain: the contrasting careers of Hans Reinerth and Herbert Jankuhn. In Bernard M. Levinson and Robert P. Ericksen (eds), Betrayal of the Humanities under National Socialism, pp. 332- 357. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

2015. Archaeology and politics in the 21st century: still Faustian, but not much of a bargain. In Kristian Kristiansen, Ladislav Smejda and Jan Turek (eds), Paradigm Found: Archaeological Theory, Past, Present and Future. Essays in Honor of Evžen Neustupný, pp. 178-185. Oxford: Oxbow.

2014. Erasure of the Past. In Helaine I. Silverman and Vasiliki Kynourgiopoulou (eds), World Heritage volume, Encylopedia of Global Archaeology. Pp. 2441-2448. New York: Springer.

2006. “Arierdämmerung”: Race and Archaeology in Nazi Germany. In Chris Gosden (ed.), Race, Racism and Archaeology. World Archaeology 38 (1): 8-31. London: Routledge.

2006. Pseudoarchaeology and nationalism. In Garrett G. Fagan (ed.), Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public, pp.154-179. London: Routledge.

2004. Dealing with the devil: the Faustian bargain of archaeology under dictatorship. In Michael Galaty and Charles Watkinson (eds), Archaeology Under Dictatorship, pp. 191-212. New York: Kluwer/Plenum.

2002. Justifying genocide: the supporting role of archaeology in “ethnic cleansing”. In Alex Hinton (ed.), Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide, pp. 95-116. University of California Press.

2000. The past as propaganda: how Hitler’s archaeologists distorted European prehistory to justify racist and territorial goals. Reprinted in James M. Bayman and Miriam T. Stark (eds), Exploring the Past: Readings in Archaeology, pp. 471-480. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.

1995. Archaeology in Nazi Germany: The legacy of the Faustian bargain. Bettina Arnold and Henning Haßmann. In Philip L. Kohl and Clare Fawcett (eds), Nationalism, Politics and the Practice of Archaeology, pp. 70-81. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

1990. The past as propaganda: totalitarian archaeology in Nazi Germany. Antiquity 64(244): 464-478.