Archaeology & Politics: Who Owns the Past?

Bibliographic Information

Course Title

Archaeology & Politics: Who Owns the Past?


Erin Walcek Averett

Institution Where Taught

Creighton University

Web Address (URL)

Additional Information

Course Number

HRS 356

Course Level

Course Description

This course explores the dynamic issues surrounding the political use of the past with a focus on archaeological and artistic cultural monuments in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. The way the past is studied, interpreted, presented, and conserved is becoming an increasingly hot topic in today’s politicized global environment. Modern political ideologies such as colonialism and nationalism, wars, poverty, and a thriving illicit antiquities market are closely intertwined with how past cultural heritage is collected, interpreted, presented, and maintained. This class will analyze the political use of the past with a focus on the 19th – 21st centuries through student presentation and discussion. The class format is seminar-style, with emphasis on discussion, debate, and active student learning. Issues to be addressed will include: why preserve the past, and in what form? How has past cultural heritage been used and abused for political purposes in different historical and cultural contexts? How do museums, collections, restitution of cultural property, and the illicit traffic in artifacts contribute to this situation? What solutions have been tried or proposed to mitigate the ongoing struggle for control of the past? Students are encouraged to apply these principles to other global cultures in their individual research projects.

Syllabus Available



Please note that a DRAFT version of this syllabus is available as a PDF online at the URL provided. Please email instructor for further information.


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