AAA Annual Meeting Program

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Paper Information:
Type: Paper
Paper Title: THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF "APOCALYPSE": UNSEATING THE HORSEMEN
Author: PATRICIA MCANANY (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)   
Date/Time: Thu., 10:00 AM
Co-Author(s): PATRICIA MCANANY (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) 
Abstract: Throughout his career, Norman Yoffee advocated close attention to the theory and detail of “how things fall apart.” Yet by fixing on agency, body, place, and memory, most archaeologists neglect this topic, both particularly and generally. As a result, archaeology is a side player in the emerging field of long-term change and “horsemen of the apocalypse” trammel popular audiences—who are fascinated with the topic of collapse—with spectacle rather than reality. In the spirit of re-evaluation, five historically contingent factors that have shaped the archaeological epistemology of collapse are discussed: (1) nineteenth century co-dependence between geology and archaeology; (2) Judeo-Christian milieu in which archaeology germinated; (3) methodological challenges inherent to a forensics of societal change; (4) reliability of apocalyptic narrative to generate research funds; and (5) ability of collapse/extinction narrative to ease the burden of conscience for colonizers within “settler” nations. The fifth factor creates profound dissonance for both indigenous peoples and archaeologists and, arguably, threatens the long-term sustainability of the Americas.

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