Presenting Archaeology to the American Public Through Documentary Film
While feature films such as the Indiana Jones and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider series have popularized the field of archaeology, they are hardly useful for providing an accurate and educational depiction of the practice of archaeology itself. Yet archaeological research provides an often underrated, outstanding way of deriving information about the past that may or may not be known otherwise. In light of ?Hollywoodized? films, which largely present a romanticized, unrealistic view of the true practice of archaeology, one may wonder if more true-to-life visual depictions of archaeological research do exist. Accordingly, this manuscript seeks to analyze the availability of archaeology-related documentary films to the public, with a focus on audiences in the United States. How substantial is the availability of archaeology films to the general public? Or are such films restricted to academic institutions and scholars? What about age-range considerations? Are most films directed towards children, or a more adult audience? What type of language is used in presenting archaeology to the public through film? Are films geared ? whether consciously or unconsciously ? towards a well-educated audience that would properly understand complex terminology? Or do films incorporate ?everyday language? to attract and inform a more educationally diverse population? In considering documentaries produced by a number of different production companies, this thesis also aims to discuss social issues. For example, are societal differences and/or customs presented, or not presented, through the documentary medium? In striving to answer the aforementioned questions, this thesis scrutinizes both archaeological research practices as well as filmmaking procedures. Ultimately, such evaluations conclude that archaeological research, excavation, and interpretation enables one to learn not only about the archaeological findings themselves, but often also leads towards the incorporation and presentation of other related facets. In a case study of the archaeological work performed at Robert H. Treman State Park, archaeological research, excavation, and interpretation has enabled scholars, park employees, visitors, and others to learn more about the history of the park itself ? a history that may have been lost had archaeology not been a factor. Furthermore, such research initiatives have also made possible an installation of an outdoor walking exhibit of the multiple archaeological sites within the park and work performed thereon. Accordingly, the archaeology chapter of the accompanying DVD, entitled Past, Present, Future: an Introduction to Robert H. Treman State Park, serves as an example of an archaeology-based documentary film. The DVD as a whole further supports the notion that archaeological research often leads to the presentation of other related aspects.
documentary; film; archaeology; anthropology
dissertation or thesis