Theory and Ideology in Archaeology: Spanish Archaeology under the Franco Regime

By Diaz-Andreu, Margarita | Antiquity, March 1993 | Go to article overview

Theory and Ideology in Archaeology: Spanish Archaeology under the Franco Regime


Diaz-Andreu, Margarita, Antiquity


The current debate on the theoretical and methodological situation in Spanish archaeology (e.g. Alcina Franch 1975; Various authors 1984, 1985; Lull 1991, Martinez Navarrete 1989; Vazquez Varela & Risch 1991) stresses the broad predominance of the culture-historical method, the slow and incomplete acceptance of new techniques in field work, in data analysis (palaeobotany, radiocarbon, statistical analysis, etc) and a broad ignorance of the more up-and-coming trends in international archaeology. This situation, in addition to more recent problems (Vicent 1991), shows, since the 1980s, some positive changes (Chapa 1988). Some authors have even said, perhaps with excessive optimism, that Spanish archaeology has overtaken that of other continental European countries -- except Scandinavia and the Netherlands -- in abandoning the traditional perspective and adopting the functionalist (processual and marxist) approach in research (Gilman 1991). However, in spite of the present transformation of Spanish archaeology and its lesser scientific innocence, and in contrast to other countries such as Great Britain (Shanks & Tilley 1987: chapter 7), the debate on the political role of archaeology has only just begun. Nonetheless the subject has recently been mentioned in more than one article in the Congreso de Historiografia de la Arqueologia y de la Historia Antigua en Espana edited by Arce & Olmos in 1991.

This paper deals with theory and ideology after the Spanish Civil War (1936-9). It is argued that the causes which have motivated present over-use of a 19th-century theoretical perspective (broadly abandoned in the Anglo-Saxon world since the 1950s, and partly in other countries), were caused by the organization of archaeology after the Civil War. On the other hand this period is analysed as an example of archaeology's lack of political innocence. This is shown in research aims and interpretations made at this time, and in the way they were progressively abandoned parallel to the changes in Spanish politics.

Major changes took place in the Spanish academic world at the end of the Civil War. These were reflected in the exile of a large number of intellectuals that had dominated the cultural scene since the beginning of the century. The availability of their posts to researchers who were very young allowed the organization formed at this time to continue (with only minor changes) until the 1980s, when most of these people retired. In archaeology this breach was marked by the exile or substitution of Barandiaran, Bosch Gimpera and Obermaier, and by institutional reorganization. However, it was accompanied by continuity at a theoretical level, because of the enduring influence of the German School. This theoretical stagnation can be attributed to a number of factors, the principal one being that the new organizers of Spanish archaeology had been the disciples of their predecessors, and also because in most cases both old and young had been awarded scholarships to spend some time in Germany or Austria.

The isolation of Spanish science also played a role, although not during the years immediately following the Civil War. International collaboration with the Franco regime was evident, for example, in the interchange between the French government of Vichy and Spain, in which archaeological objects such as the Iberian sculpture of the Lady of Elche and the Visigothic crowns of Guarrazar were returned to Spain. Another example can be seen in the involvement of Austrians, Argentinians, Belgians, Yugoslavs (Slovenians), Germans, Italians and Portuguese in a book dedicated to the martyrs of the Civil War, edited by Martinez Santa-Olalla in 1941. This period of collaboration came to an end when it was clear that the allies were going to win the Second World War and after the final victory over the German troops.

Since World War II, both external circumstances (the international boycott) and those within (the difficulty of studying outside Spain) have resulted in the effective isolation of Spanish science. …

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