Isn’t it lovely when…

From my trip to Mongolia, ten years ago this coming summer. Atmospheric but a long way from where I’m writing about. You know how this works. It’s basically a Shipley stock image for “steppes”.

Someone else has the same problem as you. Perhaps this is the real meaning of a problem shared is a problem halved? Oh, your 9 month old bites your shoulders with the enthusiasm of a hungry Great White, while giggling uncontrollably at your cries of pain? Great, maybe he won’t grow up to be a cannibal. Or if he does, he won’t be alone.

Same thing with sub-disciplines. Etruscan archaeology has a real problem with terminology. Thanks to clinging on to some 19th century heritage, we still use the word “princely/ principesche” in relation to very rich elite burials- I mean, I get that it’s a bit more slick, and it has a certain zing to it. But we do not know what those people were. We do not know they were princes, or princesses. We do not have good enough evidence to conjure up all these visions of monarchial rule and/or Disney characters. And when spectacular finds like this go (relatively- I mean it’s not a cat playing the piano or anything) viral, this language ends up translated from “princely tomb” into actual “tomb of a prince/princess.” As both University press release writers and bloggers know, the Disney thing makes for better clickbait, screw any ideas of complexity in the archaeological record.

I have critiqued this at length- in an Antiquity article, and again (with UPDATES) in a new piece coming out next year in an edited volume. I’ve blogged about it, I’ve tweeted about it. But to be honest, I’m not expecting much change- nobody seems to think this is a problem, that the majority of non-specialists are fed this crappy version of a simplified past that links in to fairytale and fantasy more than it does the fascinating complexity of actual people’s lives. People will go on using this terminology because it’s what is used, journalists will go on shifting it and it will proliferate into 10 or more similar articles all with near-identical headlines because that is what online science journalism is at the moment.

But oh, it’s so good to see someone else having this problem. And they are, here:

Potentially fabulous burial mound identified from satellite data, near to where excavations revealed another elite burial with a ginormous gold necklace among 1000 other shiny shiny golden things- gotta be a prince?

Ahhh. A problem shared really is a problem halved.

**Bonus points to the reports for their clickbait tagline completely erasing the 3 Russian co-authors “Swiss archaeologist discovers…”. Neatly followed up with a fawning love-in for the lead scientist. How refreshing to see that shitty colonialist erasure is still doing so well, even if we hadn’t had the Donald’s odious comments yesterday. Obviously this is all wrapped up in some very tired models of archaeological practice involving lone white dude saving the world and finding shiny stuff at the same time (cough, Indiana Jones, cough).

I see you, Timur Sadykov, Jegor Blochin, Irka Hajdas, co-authors not forgotten.**

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