Public Archaeology: Archaeology must go to the public

  China News Weekly reporter/Li Jing

  Pick up the exquisite "Luoyang shovel" to shovel the mound, dig out the "treasures", and then finely sweep away the floating dust. The bronzes, ingots, bronze Buddhas, bronze mirrors, silver medals...slowly show their original appearance, which is now booming. "Archaeological Blind Box".

The Henan Museum, which was the first to launch this kind of cultural and creative product, recently developed a series of cultural relics restoration, giving the "archaeologists" a complete set of ceramic restoration experience such as excavation-cleaning-assembly-bonding-repair-painting, etc., just on May 20th. Hundreds on the line, soon sold out.

  "By experiencing the fun of archaeologists, understanding cultural relics, and deepening people's understanding of history and archaeology," Ma Xiaolin, the director of Henan Museum, told China News Weekly. This was the original intention of launching the "archaeological blind box."

He felt that archaeology and cultural relics should not stay in the ivory tower, and archaeologists should take the initiative to approach the people.

  As the concept of public archaeology has entered China from the West, the archaeological community has paid more and more attention to the communication between archaeological research and the public in recent years. The "cultural relics fever" has continued to ferment, and the "blind archaeological box" has been out of stock, and the Sanxingdui site has been "newed". To the "archaeological tourism fever" and "museum fever" of the Ching Ming Festival holiday, and then to the announcement of the top ten new archaeological discoveries in the country in 2020... The archaeology that used to be relatively unpopular and straightforward is becoming "close to the people" and has its own traffic.

  Museums everywhere have already got rid of the old appearance of "showrooms". They have used multimedia technology to extend from archaeology and cultural relics to exhibitions and cultural creations, forming a chain, subtly guiding people to pay attention to cultural relics, archaeology and historical culture. Although archaeology is "high", but Gradually no longer "harmony".

Out of the ivory tower

  The concept of public archaeology originated in the West in the 1970s. However, due to different national conditions, after this concept entered China, there have been some controversies and differences in both the connotation and the extension of the concept in academic circles and the industry.

The key point is whether public should be translated into public or public. Public tends to manage heritage and public affairs, and public is oriented towards a group.

Gao Menghe, a professor in the Department of Cultural Relics and Museums of Fudan University, has long been engaged in public archaeology. He once gave public archaeology an explanation: the purpose of public archaeology is to form a community or union of social relations with the same interests between archaeology and society or the public. body.

  In China, although the older generation of archaeologists realized the importance of archeological popularization early on, for example, the archaeologist Xia Nai began to tell the public in the form of "Man Ji" ("Dunhuang Archaeology Man Ji") in 1949. His archaeological trip to the northwest includes both rigorous exploration of ancient ruins and vivid descriptions of local customs and customs. It can be regarded as a successful archeological popularization.

However, the industry really began to pay attention to public archaeology, and the turning point was the excavation of Cao Cao's tomb.

  At the end of 2009, the Henan Provincial Bureau of Cultural Relics announced that a rescued excavation of a large tomb in the Eastern Han Dynasty in Xigaoxue Village, Anfeng Township, Anyang County, was confirmed by archaeologists and historians as the Gaoling Mausoleum of Emperor Wei Wu, Cao Cao, and announced the archeology to the society. The results and the six basis for the experts to identify the tomb of Cao Cao.

As soon as the news was released, doubts arose.

  First, Professor Yuan Jixi, vice dean of the School of National Studies at Renmin University of China, thought it was “too early” to draw a conclusion. The six major pieces of evidence were inferred, and the conclusion was suspicious.

Then, collector Ma Weidu issued articles one after another, expressing concern about the authenticity of the "evidence".

These doubts have increased the public's attention and discussion on the tomb of Cao Cao, from the "iron proof" of the authenticity of the stone, to whether the process of excavation and verification is hasty, from the debate about whether there is a "seven-two tomb", to why there is no epitaph unearthed. Questions about Cao Cao's tomb, and then to speculation about local interests... The controversy over Cao Cao's tomb quickly developed into a public incident, and even rumors spread that Cao Cao's tomb was forged. The Henan Provincial Cultural Relics Department urgently organized experts to respond to the queries from all sides.

The controversy caused by Cao Cao's Gaoling was later called the "Gaoling Phenomenon" by academic circles.

  The "High Tomb Phenomenon" caused a great shock in the archaeological community.

Archaeologists have discovered that once in a public context, professionals cannot guide public opinion.

Xi Muliang, a PhD from the School of Archaeology, Arts and Sciences, Peking University, told China News Weekly: "At that time, the industry believed that archaeology should really be facing the public. If you don't do this, the archaeological community will fall into a passive position."

  In fact, the archaeological community had been "passive" for a long time before the "High Tomb Phenomenon" occurred.

Since the 1990s, various localities started to build civil engineering projects. At that time, some local governments were not very aware of the protection of cultural relics and pushed the protection of urban cultural relics to the opposite of urban construction. They believed that cultural relics protection was a stumbling block to urban construction and hindered urban development.

The results of the third national census of cultural relics started in 2007 showed that among the registered immovable cultural relics, 17.77% were poorly preserved, 8.43% were poorly preserved, and about 44,000 immovable cultural relics had disappeared.

Seeing the huge crisis facing cultural relics, many archaeologists eagerly hope that the public can understand the importance of archaeology and cultural relics. They want to make appeals, but they find that not only are there lack of channels, but archaeologists are also burdened with a certain negative image and are not affected. trust.

  At that time, under the surging economic tide, tomb robbery and smuggling of cultural relics were rampant. In severe cases, the excavation gangs even threatened the personal safety of archaeologists.

After the rise of tomb robbery literature, many netizens confuse tomb robbery with archeology, and call archaeology the "official tomb robbery".

Xi Muliang said that these incidents brought great shock and insult to archaeologists. “Everyone is eager to clarify these matters to the people so that they can understand archaeology.”

  In this context, the "Gao Ling phenomenon" pushed the contradiction to the culmination, and the Chinese archaeological community realized that the society must be widely aware of the importance of archaeology, and the popularization of science to the public is imminent.

It can be said that no matter how the concept of public archaeology is explained, once it enters China, the goal is very clear, "It is to solve the practical problems of the marginalization of archaeology, the destruction of cultural heritage, and the stigmatization of the archaeological world." Xi Muliang Say.

  In 2014, the Public Archaeology Steering Committee of the Chinese Archaeological Society was formally established, and the Chinese public archaeology system was fully launched.

The purpose of the committee is to allow the public to actively participate in a series of public archaeological activities, through accurate and systematic archaeological dissemination, to make professional archaeological achievements known to the public, to promote the general improvement of the cultural quality of the people, and to make cultural relic protection awareness deeply rooted in the people.

  Prior to this, some local archaeological institutions acted faster. For example, the Shanxi Archaeological Research Institute established the "Public Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Protection Office" in February 2009, and in 2014 it was renamed the "Public Archaeology Research Department", which specializes in archaeological knowledge. Practice and research work such as the dissemination of archaeological achievements, sharing archaeological achievements with the society, holding various public archaeological activities, training archaeological volunteers, and guiding the public to establish a correct awareness of cultural relic protection.

Zheng Yuan, deputy dean of the Shanxi Archaeological Research Institute, told China News Weekly that Shanxi was the first unit to establish a public archaeological department in the national provincial archaeological research institute.

  Subsequently, various localities established public archaeological departments one after another, and archaeological work began to walk out of the "ivory tower" and into the lives of ordinary people.

Coupled with media communication, archaeology, which was once very remote, has gradually become a hot spot of public concern.

Top-down impetus

  After more than ten years of development, the concept of public archaeology has been deeply rooted in archaeology circles.

Zheng Yuan, deputy dean of the Shanxi Archaeological Research Institute, recalled that around 2000, some experts believed that the focus of archaeology should be academic research, and did not understand why the public should be involved.

Now, public archaeology has become a recognized step in the archaeological process.

"It turned out that we conducted archaeological excavations, and after the inspection, we moved to the house to sort out, and then issued a research report, and the matter was completed. But now, after the excavation, some suitable excavation sites will hold public open days to bring the public who are concerned about archaeology closer. The distance to visit the ruins and unearthed cultural relics has become the norm. If you don’t let the people participate and don’t do public archaeology, it feels like this is endless.” Zheng Yuan said.

  With years of education and cultivation, coupled with the blessing of new media in the Internet age, the people's enthusiasm for archaeology has grown stronger.

In March of this year, the archaeology of the Sanxingdui site was broadcast live on CCTV, attracting 4 million people to watch online, 1 billion online reading and discussion volume, and six or seven hot searches every day.

Xi Muliang, a PhD from the School of Archaeology, Arts and Sciences of Peking University, believes that this is related to the efforts of the archaeological community for many years, but the main driving force is top-down.

  In February 2014, the General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, Xi Jinping, said during an inspection of the Capital Museum: "Let the cultural relics speak and tell people the historical wisdom." After that, Xi Jinping repeatedly emphasized "Let history speak, and cultural relics speak".

In 2016, Xi Jinping gave instructions on cultural relics work, proposing that “party committees and governments at all levels should increase their awe of historical cultural relics and establish a scientific concept that protecting cultural relics is also a political achievement.”

The government's attention has given the archaeological community confidence.

  In December 2017, the cultural exploratory program "National Treasure", which was co-operated by CCTV with nine national museums including the Palace Museum, Shanghai Museum, and Henan Museum, was launched. This program established a connection between cultural relics and people. Douban scored 9 points or more. , The trend of cultural relics and archaeology has been driven by the whole.

  Local museums and archaeological research institutions have also made greater strides under this craze, forming a positive cycle with the entire cultural relics craze.

The first thing that received public attention was the cultural and creative products of the Forbidden City. Whether it was the "Xiaoquexun" notebook or the "I got it" tape, they succeeded in breaking the circle.

At the beginning of 2019, Shan Jixiang, then director of the Palace Museum in Beijing, published the 2017 cultural and creative "ledger". The sales revenue of the cultural and creative of the Palace Museum in 2017 has reached 1.5 billion yuan.

  Ma Xiaolin, the director of Henan Museum, believes that cultural relics must dig out the traditional cultural elements contained in them that are easy to be understood and accepted by the public, find the point of convergence between traditional culture and contemporary life, and get closer to the public, so that the public will be more motivated. Walk into the museum to see the display and understand the original background of the cultural relics.

The historical value, artistic value and scientific value of cultural relics can be maximized.

  This year’s Spring Festival, Henan Museum, in cooperation with Zhengzhou Opera House and Henan Radio and Television Station, launched the "Tang Palace Night Banquet" on the Henan Spring Festival Gala. The cultural relics in the Henan Museum seemed to "live" on the stage. Heavyweight national treasures such as Jiahu Bone Flute have been played by the public in 2 billion times.

  The cultural relics boom has made more ordinary people interested in archeology. Some archaeological research institutes have opened part of the excavation site for ordinary people to visit, and at the same time recruited archaeological volunteers to give ordinary people a chance to experience it.

  The Shanxi Archaeological Research Institute has been trying to recruit and form a team of volunteers for archaeology in Shanxi since 2010. So far, it has officially recruited three batches of archaeological volunteers from the public, and the number of applicants reached 800 at most.

According to Zheng Yuan, deputy dean of the Shanxi Archaeological Research Institute, each group of volunteers come from different industries and have different professional backgrounds. They started from participating in the exchanges and discussions of the Archaeological Institute, the press conference of archaeological achievements, and the publicity of the public open day of the archaeological site. Gradually participate in field archaeological investigations, archaeological excavations and data compilation.

At the frontline excavation site, these volunteers ate, lived and worked with the archaeological team.

Zheng Yuan remembered that after completing volunteer work, a college student applied for a master's degree in archaeology.

  Although the development of public archaeology in China is not long, it has profoundly affected the society's understanding of archaeology and has also triggered more thinking in the archaeology industry.

In July last year, an important site, the United Site, was discovered around Sanxingdui, where a large number of pottery, porcelain and stone tools were unearthed.

Among them, the inscribed plate with dragon and phoenix patterns that means "dragon and phoenix is ​​auspicious" is the focus of official propaganda. The pattern plate is indeed a rare masterpiece of this period, and this layout pattern surrounded by dragons and phoenix should be the first time to be discovered.

But the public's attention was completely attracted by a pottery pig that hit the green pig in "Angry Birds".

This pottery pig with a smile on the corners of his mouth was also on the hot search.

  Xi Muliang believes that the public's perspective and interpretation of archaeology also have very important participation value. They will remind archaeologists to reflect on the perspective and method of looking at problems, and the "dragon and phoenix" that symbolizes power and the emperor and generals lost to one. The naive piglet is a typical case.

"When we understand history, should we pay more attention to things other than emperors and generals? It can be said that the public's perspective has given us a good opportunity for reflection." Xi Muliang told China News Weekly.

  China News Weekly, Issue 21, 2021

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