Presentation: “Why Is Archaeology So White?”

September 3, 2019 | 21 Comments

Archaeologist Catherine Draycott is to probe the lack of racial diversity in her field at ThinkFest next week.

In a talk entitled “Why is Archaeology so white? And what can we do about it?” Durham University professor Dr Draycott will sketch out a research proposal and pilot a survey at this year’s third ThinkFest presentation on September 12.

She is encouraging all Bermuda residents to take part in the survey – “Archaeology Horizons: a survey of racial affinities with archaeology [Bermuda Pilot 2019] which can be found online, at think.bm and at ThinkFest.

Dr Draycott said: “Archaeology has traditionally been a subject in which black and minority ethnic communities are poorly represented among students, academic staff and field professionals. Hypothetically, this is due to institutionalised ideas about what archaeologists study.

Catherine Draycott Bermuda Sept 2019

“I will present some background information on statistics, current debates and problems, and open the floor to attendees to share their experiences, views of archaeology and ideas for change.”

Audiences will also be introduced to the few black archaeologists and an overview of their contributions.

Dr Draycott is also slated to deliver a second talk on the art found in tombs of western Anatolia [Turkey], entitled “The art of the Dead: an archaeological journey of discovery.

Dr Draycott said: “This talk will take people through the author’s research on tombs in the region now known as Turkey, showing the great variety of memorials that existed, problematic cases and new interpretations, and how tying together overall patterns of representation can reveal social dynamics that would not otherwise be noticed.”

It will focus on ancient Western Anatolia or Asia Minor, now western Turkey—a rich area that the Persians conquered early and which became a major staging ground for the Greco-Persian wars.

“While written sources are scarce, the area is well-known for its tombs, which flourished after the Persian conquest, and some of which carry rich memorial art. The talk will show how this art evinces social and cultural identities that emerged as people who were in many ways related to their Greek neighbors variously positioned themselves within a new Persian Empire.”

A former artist and journalist, Dr Draycott has a doctorate in classical archaeology from Oxford university and currently lectures at Durham university.

Her research focus is on the neighbours of the Greeks in Anatolia [modern Turkey] and how to use their art and architecture to understand a place that was historically significant, but lacking in written records

ThinkFest is Bermuda’s first seminar series featuring an all Bermudian cast of outstanding academics and independent thinkers.

Ayo Johnson, founder of ThinkMedia which is producing ThinkFest, said: “Change happens more rapidly when those with privilege join the ranks of the change makers by using their platform to question the status quo. Catherine’s new research proposal sets the foundation for positive change. We were delighted to accept her ThinkFest proposal for this year.

“Audiences will also have a unique and rare opportunity to learn about how art found in tombs can provide clues to an ancient civilization.”

The newest event on the Bermuda calendar, ThinkFest is an opportunity for the island to celebrate and acknowledge Bermudian academics and independent thinkers, a platform for networking with potential employers, funders, other academics and researchers and a forum for discussing the latest research in a wide variety of fields.

Each of the ThinkFest presenters dive deeply into a single topic for an extended period, followed by a chat with a host and audience Q and A.

The festival of Bermudian thought leaders will also feature writer Ajala Omodele and researchers Cordell Riley and Robert Stubbs and end with a talk by historian Theodore Francis. Tickets for ThinkFest 2019 events can be purchased online or at the door. Visit the website for more information.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Opinions Matter says:

    oookay…..is there anything you wont try to blame on racism?

    Could it be that archaeology is not that popular PERIOD, not even maany students peruse the degree. What job can they get, besides maybe working at digs or a museums? Not much, as the world changes many will choose their own preference.

    People are allowed their own choices.

    • Ayo Johnson says:

      Have you actually read the article?
      There is no claim that racism is behind the white domination of the field.
      Maybe you’re correct. Maybe you’re not. It’s a question and the basis of new research. Feel free to respond to the survey.

  2. aceboy says:

    Is this suggesting that the entire field of archaeology is racist, simply because black CHOOSE not go enter that field. Please show some actual evidence of blacks being excluded from this field instead of jumping to assumptions!

  3. Pythagoras Mozart says:

    Why is archaeology so white? What a ridiculous, unfounded, and offensive statement.

    • PBanks says:

      If more white people than black people are going into that field of study, how is the question offensive or ridiculous?

      If you disagree or have other ideas, submit them at the next ThinkFest.

    • Ayo Johnson says:

      How is the question unfounded and offensive ?

  4. Like they whitewashed Ancient Egypt (Kemet) which was once controlled by Nubians and whitewashed Jesus who is a product of Serapis.
    You can fool some people sometimes but you cant fool all the people all the time.
    Good work Ms.Draycott.

  5. Ben S says:

    Other than virtue signallers who want to see race in EVERYTHING, who cares?

  6. Sylvia says:

    Maybe it’s due to total lack of interest in the subject by non white folk. I’m white and I couldn’t care less about digging up old stuff and dead bodies.
    Why are somee people always looking for the racist angle???

  7. puma says:

    All too often…people want to talk but they don’t want to listen… Who are you?
    Where you from…
    I have seen that expression before…
    And…this is in retro spect…

  8. Catherine Draycott says:

    Actually, racism isn’t mentioned here, and to blame it on racism in Archaeology would be very simplistic. Much of academia is white dominated, but Archaeology is weirdly very much so, and that is despite that fact that there is a growth in exploration of black history, and despite the fact that Archaeology is about exactly finding out about unwritten histories. Why is it more interesting to white people/students? Is it actually less interesting to black people? Is it just to do with financial matters? How much does understanding of what archaeologists do and who they are play a part? The point is not to talk, but to ask – so the ‘talk’ is more of an introduction to the issue (which will explain the statistics) and to open up a survey (the asking), which is important as it is the only way of actually knowing. I hope that you will take part for that reason. It’s at: https://durham.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/horizons-pilot. Just take a look.

  9. J Starling says:

    Maybe y’all should come attend it, listen to what she says, and then ask questions during the Q&A?

  10. Jacqueline Elizabeth Hamilton says:

    Growing up in NYC archaeology always fascinated me but I knew I could not become one because I was Black. As a young girl I had never seen a archaeologist,male or female, of color. That is one reason Archaeology is still so White.

    • Ben S says:

      What an odd statement…Because you were black, you knew you could not become an archaeologist?

      • Have you never heard, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ ?

        This is why we get excited to see Black people, women, indigenous people etc, in fields that they have traditionally not been in – it’s inspiring, and opens up potential and possibility.

        If this is a foreign idea to you or seems unusual – consider yourself privileged.

  11. CF Gray says:

    “White” are not white… “Black” people are not black… “Red” people are not red… and “Yellow” people are not yellow… you’d think a PhD would know these self-evident truths

  12. wa says:

    it could be due to the fact that she can’t seem to eek out a coherent sentence.

  13. Charlie Land says:

    The question seems to indicate that one hasn’t bothered to look at the origins of the discipline itself. To long to explain here but Archeology itself was begun by wealthy people who were curious and had the time and means to go search for answers. Unfortunately they did a lot of damage for many years. But the western European people were the ones to do this. So mostly white. In modern terms this is rapidly changing, as it should.

  14. wrinkle says:

    Why is NFL so black?

  15. Sylvia Hayward-Harris says:

    Why is it that people read a headline and jump to conclusions without actually reading the article? Why is it that the mere mention of whiteness is considered racist? (Grumble, grumble: And they call black folk racist without seeing that the accusation is, in itself, racist).

    Wish I could have been there for this talk. Archeology has always interested me, but like an earlier responder, it seemed to be a profession for white folks only, so I never even explored the possibility. If you’ve never been black and been subtly (or sometimes, not so subtly) steered away from certain areas of study, you won’t understand or believe what life is like on the other side. Being black, a woman, and a Bermudian was a triple whammy in some instances, not just archeology, as I know from personal experience, regarding my dream of becoming a psychologist in the early 70′s, a time when the only psychologists on island were white, foreign, and located at St. Brendan’s/MAWI.
    I applaud Dr. Draycott for overcoming the latter two. I may be too late, but I’ll go look for the survey now.

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