Finding Wonderful Things

What the media missed while covering the discovery of two statues in Rome.

Workers at an archaeological excavation site, anonymous, c.1920-1930. Rijksmuseum.
‘Yes, wonderful things,’ was the publicised response of Howard Carter when asked what he could see inside the tomb of King Tutankhamun. These ‘wonderful things’ were ‘strange animals, statues, and gold – everywhere the glint of gold’. In the century since Carter’s discovery the study and practice of archaeology has advanced enormously; yet the reporting of excavations in the media often still reflects a treasure-seeking mentality, privileging the discovery of ‘works of art’ and devoting few lines, if any, to the broader context of a project. This focus risks reinforcing the perception that archaeology is about finding ‘treasure’ and denies the public access to a fuller understanding of the significance of what is found.

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