Hall, M_Romancing the Stones

Hall, M_Romancing the Stones - R OMANCING THE STONES...

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R OMANCING THE STONES : ARCHAEOLOGY IN POPULAR CINEMA Mark A. Hall Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Scotland, UK Abstract : This article looks at the depiction of archaeology and archaeologists in popular cinema. A number of key films are discussed to address the article’s main themes of cultural appropriation and contested ground (encompassing treasure, the public, politics and gender). Archaeology in film cannot be divorced from the wider cultural contexts in which it operates and, though portrayals of archaeology and archaeologists are frequently unsatisfactory, a positive conclusion is attempted which seeks to understand the narrative drive of popular fiction and a long history of public exclusion from archaeology. Most of the films considered do not warrant labelling as great works of art, but they are part of a cultural form with perceptions to offer, able to stimulate debate within a vital framework of cultural practices by which identity – individual and social – is constructed and evolved. Keywords : cinema, Eurocentrism, film studies, popular culture, treasure Archaeology is about people; who they were, what their lives were like, . .. it asks where we have been, where we are going. Timeline (2003) Archaeology is the search for facts, not truth. If you want truth, philosophy class is right down the hall . .. X never marks the spot. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) I NTRODUCTION This article explores the portrayal of archaeology and archaeologists in popular film. A detailed discussion of the complexities of popular culture and film is precluded; suffice it to say that the term popular is here taken as reflecting mass- consumption, based on active choices by audience members, each bringing their own knowledge and judgement to bear (following Bourdieu 1984; see also Gramsci 1998; Hall 1998; Jones 1987; Willis 1995). Popular film then is a dialogue, a contest between commercial producers and viewers, each with their own agenda and social values, each with their own susceptibility of influence. The focus of the article is on the archaeological element within popular films but it does recognize that such films mediate other cultural issues, including sexuality and fantasy (Petrie 1993). European Journal of Archaeology Vol. 7(2): 159–176 Copyright © 2004 SAGE Publications (www.sagepublications.com) and the European Association of Archaeologists (www.e-a-a.org) ISSN 1461–9571 DOI:10.1177/1461957104053713
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Popular film has always had an uneasy relationship with the past and so with archaeology. It inherited this relationship from pre-cinematic popular culture particularly painting, drama and narrative fictions in magazines, newspapers and cheaply produced books (see for example Shohat and Stam 1994:114–121; Tatum 1988:109–111 for the dime novel’s influence on the western; Wyke 1997:10–46 for the influence of the 1895 novel Quo Vadis? and the 1872 painting Pollice Verso on the Roman epic – the latter holds for the most recent Roman epic,
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Hall, M_Romancing the Stones - R OMANCING THE STONES...

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