The COVID crisis continues to affect us all, but Cyprus has met its challenges effectively. Nicosia is busy and CAARI's library is open, with due precautions. The cancellation of the archaeological season has imposed an eerie stillness on CAARI's hostel, but the global impact of events in the United States has stirred up waves of thought and dynamic interchange within its archaeological community. Under other circumstances, archaeologists may have been otherwise focused on their field seasons. Instead, the community is now even more intensely engaged in the challenges posed across the archaeological field by the issues of race, ethnicity, identity, and cultural ownership that have been brought to the forefront by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The news-flash that follows responds to this energy. It offers the views of five thoughtful young archaeologists-pending or newly degree'd-who stand at the very brink of their lives as accredited specialists, and survey the discipline that they love. They provide a penetrating critique of the inequalities that persist in the archaeological legacy that they have inherited, and a powerful prospectus on their own suggestions, hopes, and expectations for creating a more equitable field in fresh new ways. This summer marks a renewal of CAARI's commitment to an equal, fair, and open approach to archaeology, and further steps continuing in this process will follow. Their statements follow the message from CAARI's Director. Let us know if you would like to join in this conversation: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Message from CAARI's Director
Dear friends and supporters of CAARI,
Times remain uncertain and here in Nicosia we're doing our best to stay safe, keep our library accessible to researchers and to try and plan for easier times. At CAARI we believe that archaeology and the related disciplines that we all care for have a duty to add our voice to the clamor for positive change during this period when the systemic racism of our societies is being fought against, to work towards equality and to provide resources for increased understanding of these problems. The first small step that we have been able to take during the Covid-19 pandemic is to increase the diversity of our library holdings and to proactively seek out publications written by or exploring the past of people from different ethnic or racial backgrounds. Our aim is to give our researchers access to a wider range of voices writing on the past and to encourage students and scholars from all backgrounds to feel included within our disciplines. We have begun and our librarian, Katerina, has been ordering books as nominations come in from our researchers. We need your help to ensure that we include the full range of disciplines, so please do email email@example.com with your suggestions.
As the introduction to this newsletter states, we present here the voices of some younger students and scholars of Cypriot archaeology, who share with us their perspective on current dilemmas and solutions for the future on the basis of their observations in the field and in the classroom. We may not agree with all their points but these fresh perspectives encourage those of us who have long been embedded in research on Cyprus to reassess the problems that we have accepted as 'the way things are'. Whilst I believe that archaeology on Cyprus takes place as a partnership between our Cypriot hosts and archaeologists from abroad, it is very true that we could do more to raise awareness with the non-archaeological communities here and that the situation of unprotected sites in the areas not under the control of the Republic of Cyprus is an ongoing and increasingly fraught problem. Our contributors here all care deeply and offer suggestions for action that will encourage us all to think about what we can do. We recognize that the beginnings of our disciplines arose in a racist and colonialist milieu and that even today our student body remains predominantly white and middle class. That archaeology is perceived as a 'luxury' and a non-essential field is part of the problem, and we will not change our demographic until we can vocalize to a wider community our deeply-held commitment to the premise that understanding the people of the past is crucial for the people of the present and the future.
We are looking forward to exploring these themes for our November conference in collaboration with the British Museum and the Council for British Research in the Levant on the 6-7 November: Empire and excavation: critical perspectives on archaeology in British-period Cyprus, 1878-1960. The conference will go ahead in some form but we can't yet be certain if a gathering of some sort will be possible, or if it will all take place online. We will share with you the final plans when we have them. Some of our participants are struggling to reach the libraries and archives that they need for their research so we will be generous with deadlines and some will present works in progress, rather than the finished papers. Especially important for this theme is to encourage critical discussion and we hope for a lively exchange, even if only remotely.
From all of us at CAARI, we look forward to meeting up in better times and hope that all of our international friends are well.
Lindy Crewe, PhD
Five Young Archaeologists Reflect on the Discipline
Dr. Georgia Andreou
Research Associate at the University of Southampton in England
Recent global events have once again highlighted systemic inequalities and lasting historical assumptions about groups of people. Condemnation and opposition have been expressed in variable forms from social media through academic debates to street demonstrations in the middle of a pandemic. The toppling down and request for replacement of controversial monuments of commemoration, such as statues, brings archaeology's role in creating and sustaining social inequalities to the forefront.
Even though issues of race are not directly pertinent to the archaeology of Cyprus, the island's archaeological narratives have built on heritage often removed from its place of origin during the colonial period and studied by self-proclaimed keepers of heritage, presumed to be superior than local communities. Disentangling those narratives is crucial to addressing our discipline's active role in proliferating information that encourages or sustains inequality. Historical narratives, material and environmental categorizations produced during the colonial period have a lasting legacy in Cyprus and the Middle East more broadly. A critical revision of those narratives offers us a fertile ground to re-examine our biases as people privileged to produce academic narratives on the region's past.
Cyprus offers a stimulating case to explore issues of ethnicity, colonialism, conflict and archaeology, and the politics of commemoration. Examining those themes from the perspective of a person born and raised in Cyprus still invites unwelcome assumptions on biases that affect the person's ability to conduct research with due diligence. Toned by an outdated, presumed pro-Greek or pro-Turkish, or an anti-colonial disposition, research outputs from Cypriot scholars would often be held to different standards than their international counterparts. As such, up until very recently, many, including myself, avoided examining themes that are evidently contentious to the politics of Cyprus.
Last year I was encouraged to teach a course on the archaeologies and politics of commemoration in divided cities at the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World. This was the first time I had the opportunity to include in my teaching Cypriot perspectives on cultural heritage, including my personal experience with Lefkosia's division. During the preparation of the course, I had a closer read on the ethics and politics of heritage and I acquired a deeper and unsettling understanding of the complex legacies of colonialism in the Middle East. I was also motivated to examine how certain behaviors and practices stemming from the British colonial era have been unintentionally reproduced by archaeological projects, particularly hierarchies that often disregard local approaches to heritage, eventually sustaining unequal access to historical information.
It is timely to reconsider the history of archaeology in Cyprus and examine underlying assumptions relating to who produces narratives on the island and the extent to which these narratives include local voices. Community archaeology approaches have long been applied in other contexts, such as in research on Native American landscapes or locations with a strong indigenous component in South America. Their methods build on explicit strategies for outreach, which in the case of Cyprus could be achieved by:
Now more than ever, available technologies have made outreach time- and cost-effective and there are fewer impediments in making archaeological projects more inclusive. Taking advantage of those technologies, more intensive outreach seems to be key in countering misconceptions both on the value of heritage and on the relation of heritage politics with social inequality.
- Actively including local students and volunteers in projects and making research more accessible to contemporary communities via publications in English, Greek and Turkish.
- Adjusting field school curricula to engage students in uncomfortable discussions surrounding the "scientific ownership" of antiquities and fostering critical self-reflection on archaeologists' responsibilities toward local communities, particularly if members of those communities cannot access the land we excavate.
- Having clear provision in field schools for sufficient understanding of the socio-economic and political circumstances of the island and of the history of the communities that offer hospitality to projects. Most field schools for example include a visit to the National Archaeological Museum, which offers an excellent opportunity to also discuss Cyprus' colonial history.
- Encouraging an understanding of the island's diversity. This diversity is often not visible in the small communities with which the majority of international students have the chance to engage. This diversity is also not restricted to the disproportionately highlighted ethnic or religious background of Cypriot communities. Beyond the 1960s and the 1970s there is a generation of people who have developed new approaches to heritage and commemoration, as well a vibrant community that re-contextualizes the materiality of division in Cyprus. These voices are included in urban, architectural and geographical studies, but have not yet engaged in meaningful conversation with archaeology.
- Finally, holding meetings in locations that are accessible and affordable to the majority of interested participants, as well as in locations with no travel restrictions for scholars from the region. CAARI offers an excellent location for such events.
Masters degree student at Cornell University in the USA
Archaeology in Cyprus is challenging, and often obscure, and I call for increased transparency and inclusivity in the field. One of my main concerns is how the division of the island and non-recognition of the north inhibits the freedom of research and archeological practice throughout the island. This in turn skews all knowledge production and perpetuates the discipline's colonial and imperialist roots.
What archaeological research opportunities are being missed due to political issues including racial and social injustice? Important sites are being neglected while museums (in Cyprus and internationally) are positioned to silence, skew, or ignore Other narratives. Cyprus is under-researched as archaeology focuses on the euro-centric narrative, writing history on a white background. There is so much room for growth, including but not limited to, archaeologies of Eastern or African influence, minority groups, migrations, historical archaeology, and archaeological ethnography (one of my interests). Only recently have studies of the Ottoman period in Cyprus emerged, beginning to diversify the body of scholarship. If archaeology is to progress, it must be transparent, reflexive, inclusive, and provide multivocality. This means facing the difficult past and navigating the difficult present, talking openly about the current status of the field, and creating conversations between the disparate communities. Archaeology must transcend the current political realities in the name of racial and social justice.
Inclusivity and diversity in archaeology would begin with a commitment to archaeology in Cyprus as a whole. In the name of research, cultural heritage, and protection of archaeological sites, the discipline and its community must come together to create an archaeological pact. This means setting standards for archaeological practice, codes of conduct, and a process through which communities can collaborate and work together. This will help to unify communities of archaeologists regardless of their race or ethnicity, creating an even playing field as well as diversifying the production of knowledge and scholarship. Turkish Cypriot archaeologists and international scholars wishing to conduct research in the north are silenced, threatened with being blacklisted in the archaeological community because of UNESCO conventions pertaining to occupied territory. Difficult as it is to forge legal templates adequate to address Cyprus's complex situation, we must realize that a choice is being made here to not face the difficulties of the past and the current "strife" communities live with today. The conventions have the practical effect of ostracizing scholars based on their race, ethnicity, or geographic location. Instead, the convention(s) must be adapted for a holistic approach to Cypriot archaeology. New models of collaboration must be devised for the growth of the discipline. Working in tandem, research archaeology and cultural heritage work can make great strides towards future prospects.
The field must be dedicated to the involvement of minorities in the archaeological process. It must embrace community-based participatory research, make a conscious effort to include the misrepresented and underrepresented, and create a space for all stakeholders. Democratizing archaeology across the island will allow the "expert" and community to merge. Globally, Cypriot archaeological projects must seek to diversify their project member cohorts. Promotion and awareness of these goals must be developed in order to attract more funding (scholarships and fellowships) and allocated toward collaborating with schools and researchers that are from historically underrepresented backgrounds to take part in archaeological field work.
The question I, and we all, must ask is how will archaeology improve the future of post-conflict regions? I believe archaeological academics and communities can set their own parameters to achieve a common goal. By allowing/expanding practical methods (access to sites and research, funding opportunities, collaborative research design) as well as theoretical ones (education and publications) the field may become transparent and collaborative. Archaeologists can work through the divide to create new scholarship that is accessible, inclusive, and diverse.
Independent Scholar and Small Finds Registrar for the Kourion Urban Space Project
The murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and countless others occurred while I was in my Master's program. The Movement for Black Lives which emerged from the protests shaped my understanding of race and social justice at a time I was also learning archaeological theory. The movement taught me to open myself up to being educated by people with experiences different than my own, especially by non-academics. I came to believe that ignoring injustice in the present would make me a more biased interpreter of the past. As a result, I don't see activism and archaeology as mutually exclusive aspects of my life. Each informs the other and allows me to think more critically in both my personal and professional spheres.
In my own research, I have been forced to grapple with the problematic and racist aspects of much of the past scholarship on Late Antiquity, an incredibly diverse period of human history. The whitewashing of the Roman-Byzantine world has been used to justify and idealize colonialism, if not outright white supremacy. Traditionally, we've focused almost exclusively on Christianity as the religion of the day, excavated elite buildings, and interpreted the late antique world through the lens of the colonial histories we were taught. I am by no means innocent in this and my contributions to the field have fallen into many of the same patterns. It is easier to conduct research using the same lines of inquiry of years past, which is how we end up perpetuating white-centric narratives of history.
The protest movements of the past decade highlighted the work of many indigenous activists, and from their voices I recognized the erasure of indigenous histories in my home state of Iowa. When I am not overseas excavating, I live on stolen indigenous land and know little of the peoples from which it was taken. Over the past few years, I have worked to learn more of the archaeology of the Upper Mississippi Valley to develop a curriculum for use in local educational outreach. I acknowledge that I am not doing enough in this arena, but it is a small personal step towards decolonization in my hometown.
Although I remain critical of archaeology's racist and colonial past and present, I also believe that as researchers of human cultures we are uniquely suited to examine these issues within our own research and institutions. We cannot change a broken system by relying on the old structures. An anti-colonial archaeology requires imagination: new lines of inquiry, new mediums of presenting research, fewer barriers to entry, and the decommodification of research and education. In practice, I believe it is vital we integrate critical race theory into both our scholarship and the organization of our institutions. I hope to see reparations for harm done, the continued return of stolen artifacts and land, a balancing of the current disparities between white and non-white scholars, research topics that grapple with the construction of race in the ancient world, and scholars from marginalized groups, particularly black and indigenous scholars, welcomed into the field. These changes will only be achieved through a fundamental reimagining of our current practices. One thing the Black Lives Matter movement has done is illuminate how the intersections of oppressions work together to maintain the status quo.
Acknowledging that Black Lives Matter is the bare minimum. We should feel uncomfortable about injustice in the world and our contribution to it, whether through action or inaction. While efforts have been and are being made throughout the field to implement changes, anti-racism is an activity, not a state of being. We must continue to actively dismantle systems of oppression, day after day, if the field of archaeology wishes to shed its racist past. As archaeologists, we have the power to shape histories, a power which has in the past been used to advance whiteness, but can be used to realize a more just world.
Ph.D. student in Medieval Studies at Cornell University in the USA
When I was sixteen years old, I went on a family trip to Greece. Standing on the top floor of the Acropolis Museum, I remember staring out the window at the Acropolis, looking back at the artefacts on the walls, and being overcome with anger at the knowledge that the actual marble friezes were located in a different country entirely. This wasn't my first exposure to the history of imperialist
archaeology; when I had visited the British Museum the previous year with a friend, I had looked at the Rosetta Stone and felt distinctly uncomfortable. The moment at the Acropolis Museum, however, crystallized something for me. I had wanted to be an archaeologist since I was a child, but I couldn't pursue that dream without grappling with the legacy of centuries of looting and unethical practices. I started to seek out works on the history of archaeology in order to learn about the field.
Three years later, when I was looking for a field school, I had become convinced that the only ethical thing for me to do as a white American was to pursue training in Western Europe. I couldn't be enacting colonialist ideology in a country that had never been colonized, I reasoned! I happily went off to my training dig in the United Kingdom and proceeded to fall in love with British archaeology. It wasn't until years later when I was pursuing my masters that I started to question this assumption. I met British archaeologists who worked in other countries and had equitable, friendly partnerships with archaeologists from those countries. I read even more works by Indigenous archaeologists and started to realize that my original opinion was overly simplistic. Archaeological methodologies were developed through colonialist endeavors. Practicing archaeology in the U.K. didn't give me a pass from doing the work necessary to decolonize archaeology.
It is with this background that I began engaging in Cypriot archaeology, with the encouragement of my advisor. Participating in a field project last summer, I was encouraged when I saw Cypriot archaeologists taking a leading role. However, I grew concerned when I realized how large a proportion of the people I was meeting and interacting with were non-Cypriot Europeans and Americans. Too few of us spoke with young Cypriot archaeologists and it seemed to me as though their perspectives about topics ranging from interpretation of data to treatments of objects were generally going unheard. Beyond that, there seemed to be little conversation among non-Cypriot archaeologists about how to make space for these perspectives. Additionally, I was surprised at what seemed to me a disconnect between us as archaeologists and local communities, despite the lack of a language barrier as many villagers spoke good English.
Coming from a mostly American and British background, I have been fortunate to be trained mostly by community-based archaeologists who work hard to incorporate local communities into projects from the research design stage forward. Cyprus is not the U.S. or the U.K., and I am not suggesting these countries have parallel histories! Coming from the US and British archaeology, however, I found that I was used to a greater degree of interaction with host communities and that I missed that when I was in Cyprus. I think it is too easy for us who come in a foreign team to get absorbed by the variety and stimulation inside our own archaeological community, and not engage ourselves with the communities that host us. How many of us really seek out our Cypriot colleagues, or learn enough Greek or Turkish to exchange the time of day with people? I include myself as someone who has not put enough effort into engaging with Cyprus as a country, not just a dig location. Perhaps while our fieldwork is put on pause we can take this opportunity to reflect on how we as young foreign archaeologists in Cyprus interact with our Cypriot colleagues and neighbors, and strive to build strong relationships that will enrich our field as a whole.
Masters degree student at the University of British Columbia in Canada
"Who archaeologists are-our backgrounds, experiences, and mental models-can shape which questions we ask and how we interpret archaeological evidence. White archaeologists may ask quite different questions, and interpret data differently, than people of other groups, including Black, Latinx or Hispanic, Asian American, or Indigenous" (White and Draycott, 2020, Sapiens.org)
In the pursuit of ancient truths, it can be easy to lose sight of the present. Transparency dictates a necessity to first acknowledge our own positions as scholars in the field. I am a cisgender white female classical archaeology graduate student in the Classical, Near East, and Religious Studies (CNERS) department at the University of British Columbia (UBC), who has been raised, currently lives, attends university, and writes these words on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples - Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations, Semiahmoo, sq̓əc̓iy̓aɁɬ təməxʷ (Katzie), W̱SÁNEĆ, and Kwantlen Nations. I am currently working for the Kalavasos and Maroni Built Environments project as a field-school supervisor (when it's running) and a research assistant. My time studying the anthropology of the Pacific Northwest made clear to me my position as a settler in this society. As a settler, I benefit from the ongoing systems of power that perpetuate the genocide and repression of indigenous peoples and culture. The recent efforts of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement have reminded us that such systems are by no means restricted to American or Canadian institutions as discussions and recognition of widespread systemic racism have come to the fore in all disciplines.
The CNERS department at UBC recently issued a statement of support against racism, white supremacy, and police violence that "recognize[s] that our disciplines have shaped and been shaped by ideologies of white supremacism, nationalism, and colonialism." Josephine Quinn's "Roman Africa?" (2003) demonstrates the crucial points made by the statement. In speaking of Africa, Quinn asserts that scholarship is "heavily prejudiced by the fact that modern colonialism provided both the opportunity and the motive for metropolitan authorities to investigate, map and codify their subjects, past and present." (10) This is as applicable to the archaeology of Canada or Cyprus as it is to Africa. Academic archaeology has denied Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) scholars space in its heavily segregated arenas of study. Thus, it has actively reduced the number and variety of lenses through which this discipline has viewed its subject matter. BIPOC scholars have been outraged and outspoken about this discrepancy for decades, forced to mask their anger with patience in order to be taken seriously, and made to feel unsafe in the spaces they did manage to access. This failure on the part of white academia to make a non-toxic space for BIPOC scholars has led to organizations like the Society of Black Archaeologists (SBA), which advocates for academic excellence and social responsibility.
The opening quote highlights this need for the active creation of BIPOC spaces within academia and the inclusion of diverse scholarship in classrooms that perpetuate the use of an archaeological discipline with its current self-limiting scope. If you need more evidence of lived experience though, the #BlackintheIvory thread on Twitter is sadly prolific. It is not enough to simply acknowledge and demand justice, as the CNERS statement concludes; we need action items. To this end, I conclude with a mere handful of suggestions that arose from the panel discussion, "Archaeology in the Time of Black Lives Matter," hosted by the SBA (June 2020), from UBC's statement of support, or by a Cypriot colleague:
- Decolonize your bookshelf, actively include works by BIPOC scholars in your syllabus.
- Collaborate with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) - be it through guest lecturers from said Universities to holding spots for HBCU students on field schools.
- Create an Equity and Social Justice Committee to re-evaluate, with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion, your annual speakers' program, hiring practices, and graduate admissions criteria, and also to develop strategies to support the specific needs of BIPOC undergraduate and graduate students in your departments.
- In conducting ethnography, go beyond community consultation as an expectation and compensate members of these communities as necessary experts, making their skillsets feel welcome.
- Circulate regular racial climate surveys to detect disparities.
- Include communities in decision making surrounding repatriation. Repatriate material culture by building the desired facilities to house what's being given back with provision for long-term local employment in these facilities. This latter point is crucial to ensure this restitution of artefacts does not burden communities financially.
- Decolonize existing museums by highlighting the object biography and emphasizing how it was acquired, thus informing those who visit museums with the purpose of "enjoying art" that converting another culture's daily objects to art is in a way a violent appropriation.
Build With Us Into This Fresh New Future!
2020 has been a tough year. The pandemic continues to thwart the research travel on which CAARI's mission and income depend, leaving us severely challenged financially. And the worldwide protests have helped foreground longstanding issues in our discipline.
But the message of this news-flash is equally clear: we have so much to build and do! And we have so much new energy, intellect, and ardor to bring to the task. There's a fresh, demanding future right there in front of us to build. Help keep CAARI strong enough to realize it. We need your support badly, and will be deeply appreciative of all that you can give.
Are you a young scholar who has benefitted from CAARI's programs? Look at the way these five young colleagues of yours have claimed a role for you. Let us know if you'd like to join their discussion: firstname.lastname@example.org . AND don't discount the power of a small gift! $20 or $30 from each of you would accomplish so much to be sure CAARI is still available: for you and your continued work, for the faculty who have encouraged people like you and the five who have written here, and for those whom you hope will follow you in the future.
To all our valued donors: thank you for all that you have contributed already to CAARI's work. The statements of these young scholars, and the professors who mentored them, have all been enabled in important ways by CAARI. To all who help CAARI sustain its potent mission: thank you for your generous participation!
Annemarie Weyl Carr