New Book Chronicle

Article excerpt

December's choice of books concentrates on heritage management and North America archaelogy.

Heritage matters

CLAY MATHERS, TIMOTHY DARVILL & BARBARA J. LITTLE (ed.). Heritage of Value, Archaeology of Renown: Reshaping Archaeological Assessment and Significance. xviii+339 pages, 31 figures, 12 tables. 2005. Gainesville (FL): University Press of Florida; 0-81302777-2 hardback $69.95.

JANE DOWNES, SALLY M. FOSTER & C.R. WICKHAM-JONES with JUDE CALLISTER (ed.). The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site Research Agenda. 191 pages, 78 b&w & colour images. 2005. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland; 1-904966-04-7 paperback free.

MARTA DE LA TORRE, MARGARET G.H. MACLEAN, RANDALL MASON & DAVID MYERS. Heritage Values in Site Management: Four Case Studies. v+234 pages, 53 b&w illustrations, 11 maps, 6 charts, CD-ROM. 2005. Los Angeles (CA): Getty Conservation Institute; 0-89236-797-0 paperback 26 [pounds sterling].

CHARLES R. McGIMSEY III. CRY on CRY: One Person's Perspective on the Birth and Early Development of Cultural Resource Management (Arkansas Archaeological Survey Research Series 61). viii+222 pages, 35 illustrations. 2004. Fayetteville (AR): Arkansas Archaeological Survey; 1-56349-0978 paperback $30.

JOHN H. JAMESON JR. (ed). The Reconstructed Past: Reconstructions in the Public Interpretation of Archaeology and History. x+307 pages, 110 illustrations. 2004. Walnut Creek (CA): AltaMira; 0-7591-0376-3 paperback $36.95.

M. ELAINE DAVIS. How Students Understand the Past: From Theory to Practice. x+189 pages, 3 figures, 12 tables. 2005. Walnut Creek (CA): AltaMira; 0-75910043-8 paperback $29.95.

Reading a batch of books on Cultural Heritage Management feels like entering Rumsfeld territory, where there are 'known knowns', 'known unknowns' and 'unknown unknowns'. Further, in the land of Dreamtime, but not just there, we must tread softly.

This preamble tries to give a flavour of what Heritage of Value, Archaeology of Renown covers. Originating in a series of papers given at conferences in 1997 and 1998, but also incorporating later papers, this book is enormously thought-provoking and wide-ranging. From hermeneutics to skateboarders, from defining significance to medicine made from African rock art, from scoring systems for assessing value (Darvill, Mathers et al., Deeben & Groenewoudt) to 'Goldilocks' vandalism in New Mexico (vandals prefer their sites not too big, not too small), from deposit modelling to projecting an image of the elite in Brazil (Funari's 'archaeology of renown'), the question emerges: who occupies the moral upper ground, if indeed there is an upper ground?

Currently, discussions have shifted from approaches to the tangible past to open argument, and choice. Whatever value system is embraced, the notion of heritage value or archaeological value has to find much more articulate advocates. Other values, economic, natural, social, aesthetic, moral or symbolic, compete in a world where environmental capital dictates that heritage cannot be taken for granted. Yet Carman (p.52) reminds us that 'the archaeological heritage has nothing to do with ... productive use ... It is meant to be (in the fullest and best sense) useless; it is also priceless'. What then is heritage? What we know, what we would like to know, what we don't know but think we ought to keep? Is this heritage to be assessed for significance using Western processual approaches? And how are other voices going to shape this heritage (see Smith, Boyd et al., Whitelaw, Lilley & Williams, Baugher or Swiddler & Yeatts)? Here I have to confess to some disquiet, not with other values, but with the idea of 'mutuality'. Lilley & Williams (p. 235) propose that Australian Indigenous people use 'those aspects of archaeological research they might find relevant to their own interests'. Elsewhere, in New York, human remains of unknown date and cultural affiliation get reburied in a joint Methodist/Native American ceremony; Baugher (p. …