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Archaeological objects have contexts

I have been working on some recently surfaced material. And as I sat discussing the objects with a colleague it reminded me of some key issues.

Archaeological contexts provide information about dates, associations, place of use etc. Such information does not 'reside' in the object if it is plucked --- one could use the word 'hoiked' --- from its context in an unscientific manner.

So a database of decontextualised archaeological odds and ends is not the same as a detailed archaeological report.

I wonder if one of the issues is that some museum curators do not understand the importance of archaeological contexts. They can attempt to understand the object by searching for parallels --- and how many people have read Kevin Butcher's excellent "Land of Parallél" in the Archaeological Review from Cambridge? --- but are unable to "give" the lost information back to the object.

I will be exploring this tension between "archaeological material" and "museum objects" in my lecture at UCL next week.

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