From Stonehenge to Las Vegas: Archaeology as Popular Culture

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9780759102675: From Stonehenge to Las Vegas: Archaeology as Popular Culture

Indiana Jones. Lara Croft. Archaeologist as folk hero, detective, treasure hunter. The meaning of things below the surface. The life history of Stonehenge. Las Vegas' Luxor Hotel. Copies of artifacts as contemporary kitch. The connections between archaeology and contemporary culture are endless. Cornelius Holtorf merges archaeological and cultural theory to take readers on an erudite tour of these intersections, using wide-ranging examples and compelling images to support his often controversial theses. Deliberately blurring the borders between past people and present meanings, this ambitious project seeks no less than the redefinition of the term "archaeology." Equal parts amusing, infuriating, and provocative, this work will interest students and teachers in archaeology, anthropology, cultural studies and human geography, as well as professionals in heritage management and museums.

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About the Author:

Cornelius Holtorf (born 1968) is assistant professor in the Institute of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Lund, Sweden. He gained his doctoral degree from the University of Wales with a study of the life history of megalithic monuments in Northeast Germany. After stints as an academic teacher and researcher at the University of Wales (Lampeter), Goteborg, and Cambridge, and a two-year Marie Curie Fellowship at the Swedish National Heritage Board in Stockhom, he moved to his current post at Lund. His research interests include the portrayal of archaeology in popular culture, excavations investigating the life history of megaliths at Monte da Igreja in southern Portugal, and the archaeology of zoos. He is the author of many academic papers and the "living" electronic monograph Monumental Past(2000-2004), and coeditor of Archaeology and Folklore (1999) and Philosophy and Archaeological Practice (2000).

Review:

From Stonehenge to Las Vegas: archaeology as popular culture is a playful examination of the intersection between past and present...[it is] a great roadmap by which one can, in Benjaminesque fashion, get productively lost and hopefully take a few people along for the ride. (Sven Ouzman Public Archaeology, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2007, 64-67)

This is a provocative and intensely thought-provoking book. All archaeologists may not agree with it, but they will be compelled to read and digest it. Holtorf sets a new agenda for archaeology, imploring us to see it as popular culture. Bold and assertive, Holtorf promotes archaeology as a field actually focused on our own culture in the present, and he courageously argues that the past is a renewable resource. This is a must for all readers interested in the meaning of archaeology, history, heritage management, and memory. It's a trend setter for the future. (Charles E. Orser Jr., Vanderbilt University)

In this witty and pungently intelligent book, Holtorf challenges archaeology to look in the reflexive mirror and learn to understand itself in new ways. Archaeology, he argues, is about the present rather than the past, and about the living rather than the dead. The discipline is not so much a science as a powerful emanation of popular culture, created by the dreams, metaphors and fantasies of contemporary society. Holtorf, one of the most exciting of radical young archaeologists, overturns one received idea after another. He deconstructs the notion of authenticity―and, heretically―alleges that the past is a renewable resource. Heritage is being created faster than it is being lost; sites are valuable because they are protected, and not vice versa. Using a wealth of examples and vivid illustrations, Holtorf describes the process by which artefacts and monuments are re-used and refunctioned, and awarded new meanings. In one of the 'Theses' attached to each chapter, he declares that, 'the process of doing archaeology is more important than its results.' Written for the general reader as much as the specialist, From Stonehenge to Las Vegas is a sparkling flow of ideas, and an outstanding contribution to the theory of archaeology. (Neal Ascherson, editor, Public Archaeology)

Today we are all archaeologists. Cornelius Holtorf has done a superb job unraveling the archaeological aspects of our contemporary culture. It is a wonderful read. (Michael Shanks, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Stanford University)

This book is fundamental work for archaeology in the 21st century, and it is hoped that Holtorf's study stimulates debate and new research over the next decades into the popular context of archaeology today. (Howard Williams, Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter, UK Anthropology Review Database)

A good book. . . well-reasoned and thought-provoking. (Alun)

From Stonehenge to Las Vegas will...influence readers to contemplate...this book is provocative and should inspire professional archaeologists to rekindle the senses of wonder that attracted them to this discipline in the first place. (Kelly J. Dixon, Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota Historical Archaeology)

The book is...an easy read and packed with information and insightful commentary on the nature and meaning of archaeology in modern-day (Western) culture. Readers will especially appreciate the in-depth discussions... (Natalie Swanepoel, University of Pretoria, South Africa South African Archaeological Bulletin)

This provocative volume offers a set of extended reflections on the evolving relationship between archaeology and contemporary Western popular culture. (Eleanor Conlin Casella Norwegian Archaeological Review, Vol. 39, No. 2)

From Stonehenge to Las Vegas is packed with information...Holtorf writes with spirit and enthusiasm... (Jennifer Wallace, University of Cambridge Journal Of The Royal Anthropological Institute)

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