Wednesday, November 10, 2010

documenting horror

I'm preparing to give a lecture on the use of archaeology and forensic anthropology in documenting genocide and human rights violations. It's not a very pleasant topic, but I try to contextualize archaeology in the modern world, both by discussing the effects of politics/cultural forces on archaeological interpretation, and by highlighting this type of applied anthropology.

So, I was struck by these two newspaper articles. German archaeologists have found some art that was condemned and thought destroyed by the Nazis. They found it in a part of Berlin that was bombed to rubble in WWII, then buried under new construction. Meanwhile, in Romania, archaeologists have uncovered a mass grave containing some of the 280,000-380,000 Jews killed during the war. Apparently, Romania didn't admit to their role in the genoicde of Europe's Jews until 2003.

My students tend to think these "stories" are "cool". I have to admit that I find this kind of history hard to tell. As was discussed in one of the comment threads recently, I think as a parent I've gained a lot of empathy. The thought of children (and mothers and fathers) being shot down is really hard to talk about in a dispassionate way. I still think it's important to discuss this with our students, though, just as these archaeologists are engaged in horrific but important work.

No comments:

Post a Comment