Hello, friends and archaeophiles!
I’d like to share with you an event that touched and pleased us–one that shows how, sometimes, our work can result in an epiphany.
AIA-Houston’s current speaker, Sadie Watkins of the Museum of Archaeology London and an expert on Roman Britain, was talking with a gifted-and-talented class this week (one of six classroom talks she is giving during her stay here). She emphasized the multicultural nature of the Roman Empire and mentioned that six of its emperors were black, and then discussed how slavery was ingrained in the fabric of the Empire. One of the pupils asked about the nature of slavery: “In a multicultural society, where black people have some power, how does the society decide which groups of people are enslaved?” What is amazing about this girl’s question is that 1) she is thinking something like, “Hmmm…in America, dark skin means descendant of slaves” and 2) she suddenly realizes that skin color is not necessarily part of slavery everywhere in the world, and therefore, if black people are not enslaved, then how is it determined WHO is enslaved? She has realized that slavery and prejudice are not always equated with skin color, and that in many cultures dark skin color is compatible with power. Quite a realization for children of any ethnicity!
Sadie Watson’s team have excavated more than 10,000 artifacts from her current dig in central London, but that child’s question makes it clear that the most important part of archaeology is not what comes out of the ground, but what happens in people’s minds: a greater understanding of the past–and the present.