Authenticity

This fall I will start writing my master’s thesis and the topic will be authenticity. I must say that I haven’t yet had a chance to take a look at what has been written on the topic in archaeology, nor do I have a clear vision of what my more specific focus will be.

As with archaeology in general, when it comes to conceiving authenticity, two parties exist. One (the realists) claiming that authenticity is ‘authentic’, and innate in the object, and the other (the relativists) saying that authenticity is highly contextual and can be perceived subjectively in varying contexts.

The Holtorf-Kristiansen debate (Holtorf 2008, Kristiansen 2008) is one account of the discordance between these two parties. Kristian Kristiansen comments on Cornelius Holtorf’s book From Stonehenge to Las Vegas – Archaeology as popular culture (2005):

[–] Holtorf sets out to deconstruct some of the foundations of archaeological heritage: the notions of authenticity (chapter 7) and of preservation (chapter 8). While I welcome a theoretical discussion of the various approaches to authenticity in modern society, Holtorf’s goal becomes obvious when you read the next chapter. By declaring that perceived ‘pastness’ is more important than real past it becomes easier to defend his attack on archaeological preservation in chapter 8. This chapter is full of misunderstandings and Holtorf is ignorant of the most basic information about archaeological preservation, some of which I have pointed out earlier in print and verbally to Cornelius Holtorf, but apparently to no effect [–]. This may come as no surprise as academic expertise is superfluous in his brave new archaeological world.

As you can see, the question of authenticity sparks off passionate discussion. Expect to see more discussion on authenticity on this blog in the coming year…

  • Holtorf, Cornelius 2005. From Stonehenge to Las Vegas. Archaeology as popular culture. AltaMira Press.
  • Holtorf, Cornelius 2008. Academic critique and the need for an open mind (a response to Kristiansen). Antiquity 82: 490-492.
  • Kristiansen, Kristian 2008. Should archaeology be in the service of ‘popular culture’? A theoretical and political critique of Cornelius Holtorf’s vision of archaeology. Antiquity 82: 488-490.
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