Archaeology, Wikipeida, Ethics, and Shawn & Zenobiewan being Amazing

Posted on August 10, 2014


This will be my 7th post in seven days on Wikipedia and Archaeology. Fatigued yet? I am going to switch topics but will come back to this work sometime in the future. Though, before I go I want to highlight two excellent pieces of work:

Shouting into the Void

Shawn, who blogs about connections between Roman Bricks, Technology, and so much more, has put up an excellent post on the Internet Ecosystem of Archaeology. I won’t spoil it but will give you a little taster.

So go and read his post Shouting into the Void.


Finally, I would like to share this comment from zenobiewan on my first posts.

“I think the Bosnian pyramid example brings up an interesting question about access and intellectual domain. I’m very happy as an archaeologist that it comes up as pseudoarchaeology right away, however, I’m curious how much ability proponents of the pyramids have to access Wikipedia and make edits. In this instance, I’m happy for scientific fact to win out, but I’m wondering to what extent Wikipedia represents indigenous groups views, etc. This is something archaeologists could definitely help with but could also abuse to sway public/popular opinion to their point of view.

Ultimately, in the end, I suppose my questions about power and ownership of the intellectual narrative are a bit overstated. Wikipedia, is unique, in that it has multiple editors and in many cases all views can be worked in (although I noticed on the Kennewick Man history, someone edited information in the 1st paragraph because it was too complicated and people wouldn’t read farther.) Moreover, like most public archaeology outputs, it is valued as as ethical obligation, but only outside of your paying job, so I can’t imagine many researchers taking to the Wikipedia boards to hash out their academic arguments there. Still, I raise the questions because they are interesting to think through now, rather than confront them later.”

The answer to ‘how much ability proponents of the pyramids have to access Wikipedia and make edits’ is, in theory, the same as Archaeologists. Anyone, anywhere can edit Wikipedia. In practice, it is more complicated with many barriers keeping people from editing Wikipedia, like access to Internet, knowing how to edit, etc.  Probably the most important barrier will be language. The main, but not all, proponents are Bosnian and the article I mentioned is in English. While they do release work in English, some of their work is in other languages. But, these same issues affect archaeologists too, which makes it hard to say who has the access advantage.

To the greater issue of Archaeologists persuading opinions in detriment to other groups- I don’t have an answer. It is a complex issue and goes well beyond just Wikipedia. Tom King quite frequently complains about Archaeologists monopoly on Cultural Heritage in the US on his blog. For those not aware each article in Wikipedia has a Talk Page. This is were many people hash out differences, make requests for changes, have conversations, etc. If you look at the first comment on the Bosnian Pyramid talk page you will see how contentious the issue is. I think zenobiewan has it right, these questions ‘are interesting to think through now, rather than confront them later.’ Such issues would probably best be served by a discussion. So feel free to comment here, post on your own blog, etc. It might be worth putting together a wider project looking at this and not just with Wikipedia.



Posted in: Uncategorized