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Engaging the "First Person" in the Past – BACAB CAAS Revisited

Author(s): Lewis Messenger, Jr.

Year: 2016

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Descendant, often indigenous, communities, have felt varying degrees of tension between themselves and archaeologists. Historically this results from an archaeology that often treated ancient cultural materials as specimens to be scientifically analyzed. While seen as contributing to the greater knowledge, the sense of the ancient individual, of the person – those often perceived as direct ancestral kin of descendant communities – is lost. In many cases this has led toward feelings of distrust and indignation toward archaeologists. Taking advantage of anthropology’s skills and talents toward pursuing cross-cultural empathy, I have developed a pedagogical approach for undergraduates, both majors in anthropology and non-majors, combining archaeological research and creative writing. It is a semester-long process involving careful research into the specific details of the minutiae of day-to-day life of a particular culture, while forcing students to approach it in a first-person narrative fashion. Students begin to confront archaeological epistemology to understand their person’s life in the past. That person’s heritage becomes meaningful to today’s student who has learned how to personalize those whose “small things forgotten” are revealed today archaeologically.

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Engaging the "First Person" in the Past – BACAB CAAS Revisited. Lewis Messenger, Jr.. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403842)


Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America