Being Punk Archaeology: A Voice from Cultural Resource Management

The following is a short essay reposted from e-mail correspondence between Barth HQ and archaeological colleague and comrade Jennifer Harty. It has been declassified and reposted with Harty’s permission.

In Harty’s words:

“Punk Archaeology… it’s happening… and I wish I was there”

by Jennifer Harty, punk archaeologist of the Americas and Northern Great Plains

Jennifer Harty, archaeologist of the Americas.

Jennifer Harty, punk archaeologist of the Americas.

What does it [punk archaeology] mean, though?  I think we are all probably asking ourselves that, and there probably isn’t even an answer. What I do know is that it’s people coming together to talk about archaeology and do what archaeologists do best- drink a beer and listen to great music.

Does that seem frivolous? Maybe to a university president in the ivory tower or even to those who tout themselves as business professionals who seem to have lost touch with what archaeology is all about.  Sure, you have to make money; sure, it’s studying the past through material culture, but isn’t it more than that? Isn’t it really discovering who we are and why we are? Isn’t it about asking questions about the past in order to make today more relevant? And to that point, aren’t the best paradigms the ones that come from a relaxed atmosphere and friends bullshitting with friends about what they’re thinking?  Then again, isn’t PUNK about being different and going against the stereotype? How can punk archaeology be punk if it’s about sitting in a bar drinking with friends and listening to great music if that’s the stereotype?

Here’s how – punk is really about being yourself and doing what you want to do. It’s not about being punk, it’s about being you. It’s about interpreting things the way you see it, not the way you’re told to see it. It’s about putting that off the wall spin on your work that draws groans from your peers but that you know is important to include. It’s about not trying to impress everyone else. It’s about writing a rambling, barely cohesive piece to be read at a bar where a bunch of people are getting together and being punk archaeology.

3 responses to “Being Punk Archaeology: A Voice from Cultural Resource Management

  • glen perry harrell

    back in the day we called it gonzo archaeology, when the going gets wierd the wierd turn pro!

  • SuccinctBill

    I couldn’t agree more about keeping it loose and improv, but going punk can be a dead end. Most true punk rockers die out. It’s virtually impossible to stay pure punk for too long. You need to go Henry Rollins and rage for a few years until you build a following, then let off the throttle and bask in the afterglow.

    Great essay.

  • Kade Ferris

    Speaking as a very old school punk and an old school archaeologist, I must say that Jen said hit the “punk archaeologist” nail on the head.

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