Cultural Communication and Archaeology

Posted on October 12, 2015


This is another video session from the EAA Glasgow Conference. You can see all the EAA videos I did at the EAA website- . Or if you are interested in a specific topic I have over 400 videos up at . I am sure there is one there on a topic you might be interested in.

CA10 Cultural Communication and Archaeology

Ms.Carol Ellick, Archaeological and Cultural Education Consultants. Hirofumi Kato, Hokkaido University, Sapporo
We study people who are the ancestors of contemporary/living communities by looking at the materials they left behind. We speak for those people and communicate what we know to those our cultures. We speak the jargon of a scientist and a humanist and can easily relate information to others within our profession, but often lack the skills needed to communicate to others outside of our personal and professional culture. As anthropologists we are taught concepts of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism; however, in archaeology we sometimes forget we are anthropologists. In this session, we will explore ways to better reach target audiences through discussions of cultural communication styles within individual cultural groups and offer suggestion on how to relate archaeological information to people’s base of knowledge and will examine how programs are working with descendent communities to establish projects using community-based decision making and outcomes. Authors will share examples from projects, provide options for improving communication with groups outside of our own archaeological and scientific culture and demonstrate ways in which archaeologists can weave alternative perspectives into the interpretation of the archaeological record in order to reach and represent a broader range of cultural groups.

Communicating with Community: Adapting Communication Styles to the Community

Joe Watkins
As archaeologists, we are often called upon to discuss our work with groups that share our interest in the human past, to communicate with those whose heritage we study, or to explain our findings to other ‘stakeholders.’ As communicators, however, we often bore them with jargon, dazzle them with brilliance, or lose their attention all together. And, even when we do not confuse them with acronyms, we take it for granted that the words we choose are understood in our intended manner. Archaeologists are also generally unaware that people communicate at different levels depending on cultural preference and interpersonal relationships. In 1976, Hall differentiated between high- and low-context communication as a means of explaining the role cultural differences play in the ways humans present and accept information. While these are arguably generalizations, high-context communication occurs when most of the information is either in the physical context or internalized in the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit, transmitted part of the message. Low-context communication occurs when the majority of the information is vested in the explicit code. High-context and low-context communication is used in all cultures, but one form tends to predominate. Coupled with the context of communication is the directness with which information is presented – low-context messages are more explicitly (directly) presented while high-context messages are generally implicitly (indirectly) presented. The following paper explores ways we can better communicate archaeology by recognizing and utilizing the ways communities accept and process information.

Working togather and making together

Hirofumi Kato

Archaeology is great gear for creating the local identities and giving strong cultural influences to the local communities. In Hokkaido Island, archaeology has been crated archaeological and historical story on prehistoric inhabitants in this Island. This image has been influenced for the stereotype image for Ainu people. And the term of “Ainu archaeology” is not meaning Archaeology for the Ainu. This concept is more described the characteristics of this concept: Archaeology on Ainu for scholars. In this moment, Ainu people want to get more really status as Indigenous peoples in Japan. And they started to mention for their own history and the seeking to get a chance to participate to the research world. We have to responsibility to answer for their questions. Also we have to crate a chance participating to the research field for them. In this presentation, I would like to talk on our challenge on community-based archaeologies and its reaction from the community sides.

Cultural Communications through Archaeology and Heritage in Hokkaido

Mayumi Okada
After “the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” in 2007, social movement towards cultural reconstruction and rights recovery of Ainu, Indigenous people in Japan, has accelerated. In academia, archaeologists try to keep away from archaeological interpretation of Ainu culture based on colonial perspectives. In addition, some in Hokkaido have utilized Ainu cultural heritage, which has characteristics of cultural landscapes and intangible heritage, as cultural resource of regional community to create opportunities of communication between Ainu and ethnic Japanese. Most recently, for instance, the Japanese government has launched into establishing “The Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony” as a national center for revitalizing Ainu culture in Shiraoi town, Hokkaido. The space will be designed to promote nationwide understanding of the history and culture of Ainu, pass on traditional Ainu culture, and expand the horizons of Ainu culture towards the creation of new culture.

This paper introduces two cases of communication among Ainu and ethnic Japanese over archaeology and heritage related to Ainu culture. The first case from Biratori town where a dense population of Ainu people shows a platform for communication comprehensively utilizing regional cultural resources including cultural landscape and archaeological site deeply related to Ainu culture. The second case is based on the author’s experience through public archaeological works. The dialogue among Ainu youth and us, about interpretation of Ainu ritual ceremony reveals challenges that archaeology conducted in Hokkaido will have to face.

Grounding Communication for Maximum Effect

Cathleen Crain, Nathaniel Tashima

Anthropologists across the discipline are challenged to communicate both our processes and our findings with both professional and lay audiences. In part, the challenge is that we come to know too much and appreciate that in the nuances there is important information. This tends to lead us to wanting to fully “educate” our audiences by providing complete information rather than to communicate the most important and relevant ideas in the most accessible and appropriate fashion. Our challenge is to understand the needs of our audience for information and to shape messages useful and relevant to them. An important issue for anthropologists is in understanding the audience and in designing messages that account for its culture and concerns.

In this presentation we will talk about how to develop and communicate messages that are relevant, accessible, and that help to shape the audience’s educated understanding of the topic at hand. We will discuss both the content and the form that will
support the most effective presentation.

Communicating Stories through Objects and Actions

Carol Ellick

What do you see when you look at a pile of rocks? Is it simply a pile of rocks or is it more? As archaeologists, much of what we know derives from context and the scientific process. Due to preservation variables and a lack of cultural context, we will never know the full story. We further limit our ability to tell a broader story by failing to acknowledge and incorporate other voices. We also limit our audience by creating programs that are accessible only to those who speak and understand “our” language. When conveying information about the archaeological process and the past, telling the story from only the western scientific perspective limits what can be told and also leads to exclusion of alternative ideas about the past. Using educational theory and communication techniques, in conjunction with the correlation of traditional cultural stories and archaeological information, the Parallel Perspectives method has been successful in developing informal and formal teaching materials and programs. Drawing on examples from three international programs, this presentation will illustrate how the incorporation of archaeological and traditional cultural knowledge has created opportunities for various audiences to relate to and gain a fuller picture of the past. In this manner archaeology is impacting broader social issues by raising awareness about contemporary underrepresented communities and cultures.

Communicating the value of archaeology of the contemporary to skeptical publics

Larry Zimmerman
Stereotypic images of what archaeologists study and how they do it tend to confuse the public about what archaeology might contribute to contemporary life. To them, archaeologists are adventurers who go to exotic places and dig up old stuff—the older and more exotic, the better. With such images created and fostered by popular media and even some archaeologists, the information archaeology provides may seem to be little more than enrichment or entertainment. Few realize that archaeology is actually about material culture, not just time. What archaeologists study can be recent, nearby, and from the culture of both the archaeologist and the public, producing knowledge that promotes better understanding of, and even solutions to, contemporary social problems. When the publics, including some colleagues in related disciplines, choose not to listen, or archaeologists communicate results poorly, resistance to projects can come from institutional ethics boards, granting agencies, local government, media, and more. Archaeologists either can find ways to communicate within expected stereotypes or to “camouflage” what they actually do. These problems and, to a degree, their solutions have become clear in recent projects that use archaeology to study homelessness in the US and UK. One approach has been to define homelessness as exotic heritage, linking contemporary problems to those evident from early urban life. Another has been to tie archaeology and teaching homeless people about it as a way to promote wellness. Neither has been entirely successful, but both show promise.

Over the Horizon and Beyond the Foreshore: Archaeology Outreach Across Cultures and Between Environments

Emily Stammitti1, Diarmaid Walshe, Sgt.2

Dreamers Bay, located at RAF Akrotir which lies with the UK Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus is now host to the Defense Archaeology Group’s (DAG) “Operation Nightingale”. It is a dynamic site, with terrestrial remains, marine features, and a rich surrounding archaeological landscape. In conducting “Operation Nightingale” in the late spring of 2015, the challenges of conducting successful underwater and landward archaeological outreach became prominent, given the divergent needs and interests of active duty military personnel, veterans with disabilities, archaeology students, members of the local and international community, and attending family members. Combined efforts of Operation Nightingale coordinator and underwater archaeology outreach developer resulted in outreach programmes that progressed beyond traditional community outreach works. Plans were designed to engage participants both physically and mentally. Employing water-based learning opportunities and events that were made accessible to all, community stakeholders are participating that traditionally do not engage with heritage. Positive, cross-cultural communications and innovative planning techniques are key components to effectively communicating archaeology in such a variety of settings and to vibrant, multi-cultural persons. Dreamers Bay and its environment serves as an idiosyncratic case study for community outreach, veteran assistance and good cross-cultural communication that transcends culture, environment, additional support needs and disciplines. It brings toward the fore the realisation of a community based archaeology programme that works not only in its own right as archaeological training, but also as the ever-present satellite of anthropology, striving to understand the human condition and engage with it in the past, present and the future.


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