Thursday September 30, 1999

CENTRAL AMERICA Anabel Ford has been less interested in the grand temples associated with the Maya civilization and more interested in something basic. She wanted to learn what the people were like.

NEVADA Despite pleas from local preservationists to let a San Francisco developer make a new proposal, council members said Tuesday the city already has awarded a demolition contract for the 52-year-old landmark hotel and would not revisit the matter.

NEW MEXICO The legal dispute arises from competing efforts to rescue the building from years of neglect. State historic preservation statutes forbid the county from resorting to condemnation to acquire property on the state register of historic building or to use public funds on such property "unless there is no feasible and prudent alternative."

CYBERIA The first live gorilla came to the attention of zoologists comparatively recently. It was probably a young male, captured and transported to Liverpool in 1887 and regarded simply as a curiosity. The Disney proposal served as a national referendum on urban sprawl, said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The anti-sprawl sentiment throughout the nation is unprecedented in its fervor, said Phyllis Myers, president of State Resource Strategies in Washington, which tracks referendums on the issue. She counted 240 state and local open-space initiatives last November, 173 of which were successful. A 2,000 year old living surface preserved in about three meters of historic fill looks to be very intact. MDOT archeologists will visit the site and take soil samples to determine the site's boundaries. Cambodia's queen unveiled a newly restored 800-year-old library within the ruins of Angkor on Wednesday, an event hailed as a major step in efforts to save the ancient city. A major part of London's British Museum may have to be demolished because builders used inferior French stone instead of superior masonry from English quarries. The body which overseas the care of the country's ancient buildings, English Heritage, has demanded an inquiry into how the work was allowed to proceed using substandard limestone. The renowned St. Michael's frescoes have survived the invasions of Mongols and Nazis, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's atheist campaigns, and forced travels through Europe and the former Soviet Union. Now, in a landmark decision, the Russian government has agreed to return the ancient Russian frescoes and mosaics, many of them dating to the 12th century, to their home in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.,fyi/3773e28b.929,.html Mummies: The word "mummy" comes from the use of the bodies. In medieval times mummies were ground up as a medicine called mumia, a tarry substance a lot like bitumen. During the Civil War, mummy linen was used to make the brown paper used to wrap meat. In the 19th century, mummies were used by the ton as firewood. In The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain writes of a train engineer stoking his fire with a mummy. "Damn these plebeians," the engineer says. "They don't burn worth a cent! Pass out a king!" The American Indian Movement, filed the complaint against the construction company. The construction company had agreed to notify the American Indian Movement when it began clearing the property but failed to do so when work began last week. She said the site contains remains of Indians buried between 300 A.D. and 1,300 A.D. You're an archaeologist, and this pile of pot shards has just come in from the field. Your assignment? Reassemble the pot to its former glory (Shockwave plugin required). It could only happen in a post-Cold War environment. NAIC donates MiG-23 to AF Museum. The ability to compare and contrast U.S. and foreign systems represents one of the many priceless capabilities offered by the Air Force museum. A Hungarian American businessman who made a fortune in airplane leasing is planning to give the National Air & Space Museum $60 million -- the largest individual donation in the Smithsonian's 153-year history. to the Smithsonian Among his achievments, Secretary Heyman secured donations totaling $51.8 million during his first year in office. By 1998 that figure had risen to $92 million.

[ Got CALICHE? / SASIG Ed. Note -- In May 1999, I traveled to the Smithsonian Institution. During my week at SI, Mike Heyman and I chatted in his second floor office in the east wing of the Castle about a wide range of subjects. Secretary Heyman gave me his unabashed opinion -- (paraphrasing) " archaeology in the United States is in a wonderful position as it moves into the next millenium, but, (cultural) anthropology is in a terrible condition." I thought Secretary Heyman's statement was very insightful. Keeping his view in mind, compare it with the next article.. ]

The Right Kind of Multiculturalism By Camille Paglia
The Wall Street Journal, Thursday September 30, 1999, Page A26

The field of archaeology is under a political cloud because of its allegedly racist and exploitative history. American Indians have protested the "desecration" of tribal burial grounds by archaeological digs. A longstanding argument rages about the legal ownership of antiquities acquired by museums through donation or purchase since the late 18th century.

This brief against archaeology for its physical predations has been extended to its interpretive system. Militant identity politics claims that no culture can be understood except by its natives, as if DNA gave insight. All scrutiny by outsiders issupposedly biased, self-interested and reductive.

A related complaint comes from poststructuralism, specifically the work of Michael Foucault, whom Edward Said introduced to American literary criticism in his 1975 book, "Beginnings." Mr. Said, a professor of literature at Columbia University and president of the Modern Language Association, adopted Mr. Foucault's view of oppressive power, operating in Western conceptual systems as a covert instrument of domination, in his 1978 book, "Orientalism." Far less talented academics followed Mr. Said's lead in the dreary movement called New Historicism, which sees imperialism under every bush.

Erudite, cultivated, accomplished, and prolific, Mr. Said is a major scholar. Unfortunately, his sharp critiques of European interest in the Near East focus on literature (which he sees as a mask for colonialism), to the exclusion of the visual arts and architecture. In his central books, Mr. Said gives dismayinglt short shrift to the massive achievements of Egyptologists and Orientalists, formenting a suspicion of and cynicism about archaeology that have spread through the humanities.

This is regrettable, since archaeology is a perfect model for multiculturalism in the classroom. During three decades as a college teacher, I have found that archaeology fascinates and unites students of different races, economic backgrounds and academic preparation.

First, archaeology gives perspective, a vivid sense of the sweep of history - too often lacking in today's dumbed-down curriculum. second, archaeology shows the fragility of culture. It illustrates how even the most powerful of nations succumbed to chaos and catastrophe or to the slow obliteration of nature and time.

The epidemic of violence in American high schools is, I suspect, partly a reaction to the banality of middle-class education,which is suffused with sentimental liberal humanitarianism. Anything not "nice" is edited out of history and culture - except, of course, when it can be blamed on white males. Archaeology, with its stunning panoramas of broken ruins, satisfies young people's lust for awe and destruction.

Third, archaeology introduces the young to the scientific method,, presented in the guise of a mystery story. Greek philosophy and logic, revived at the Renaissance and refined in the 17th century, produced the archaeological technique of controlled excavation, measurement, documentation, identification, and categorization. Modern archaeology is one of the finest fruits of the Western Enlightenment.

Stratigraphy, the analysis of settlement layers or ash deposits, is a basic tool of archaeology, cutting through the past so it can be read like a book. Dumps, latrines and cave floors are mined for microscopic study of seeds and pollen and for radiocarbon dating of wood, plant fibers and textiles. Chewed bones and worn teeth reveal diet and diseases and help draw the map of migration patterns and trade routes. With saintly patience, archaeologists laboriously collect shattered potsherds and reassemble them like Cubist jigsaw puzzles.

Western technology has given archaeology a wealth of tools. Aerial survey reveals the faint traces of buildings, earthworks and irrigation channels. Underwater archaeology, born after World War II, recovers artifacts from lakes and seas via scuba diving, unmanned submersible vehicles and side-scanning sonar.

Archaeology has restored human memory of vanished societies like that of Pakistan's prehistoric Indus River Valley civilization or that of the mighty Khmer empire centered at Cambodia's Angkor Wat. We now know about the Olmec of Mexico, whose society began a thousand years before Christ, or the Maya of Central America, whose pyramids at Tikal were slowly buried in the tangled jungle.

In the 1880s, thanks to European archaeologists, Akhetaton, the utopian city on the Nile built by Akhenaton and Nefertiti and destroyed by their political rivals, was rediscovered at Tel el Amarna. In the 1890s, Sir Arthur Evans' excavations at the labyrinthine palace at Knossos revealed the greatness of Minoan Crete.

In the 1920s, C. Leonard Woolley excavated the Mesopotamian city of Ur, whose ornate treasures grace the University Museum in Philadelphia. In 1975 tens of thousands of cuneiform tablets found in Syria helped resurrect Ebla, a commercial capital of the third millenium B.C., and also deepened our understanding of biblical texts. Archaeologists are still at work on the tantalizing conundrum of the Etruscans, who heavily influenced Rome.

The British Museum is currently celebrating the bicentenary of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, a second-century B.C. basalt slab whose tripartite inscription was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Rosetta Stone, found during Napoleon's invasion of Egypt when it was still an Ottoman province, is a symbol of Western intellectual virtuosity and achievement.

The modern disciplines of knowledge, far from being covert forms of social control as the leftist poststructuralists tediously claim, have rescued ancient objects and monuments from neglect and abuse and have enormously expanded the record of our species. Degree-granting programs in archaeology are few and beleaguered in the U.S. Funding for archaeology, at school and in the field, is as crucial as for space exploration. Archaeology is our voyage to the past, where we discover who we were and therefore who we are.

Ms. Paglia is a professor of humanities at the University of theArts in Philadelphia.

Caption: " Mummy Dearest: Archaeology is unfairly maligned by trendy academics. "