archaeology


archaeology
   Archaeology in Spain was strongly influenced by the forty years of Franco's dictatorship. Many of the more innovative researchers of the pre-Civil War decades either went into exile or were prevented from working, and most of those who were involved in research under Franco became servants of the regime's needs. The isolation of Spanish science during the Franco period led to stagnation in archaeological methodology and theory.
   Before the Civil War, the development of archaeological research in Spain closely mirrored the progress of the subject elsewhere in western Europe. The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw considerable work by gifted antiquarians, often working with the leading French scholars of the day. At national level, this led to the progressive institutionalization of culture and knowledge. Comisiones de Monumentos (Monuments Commissions) were established in 1814, and the Museo Arqueológico Nacional (National Archaeological Museum) in 1867. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Academia de la Historia (Academy of History) took on renewed importance, and the newly created Escuela Superior de la Diplomacia began teaching archaeology and numismatics. Many regional and local archaeological societies and museums were founded and a number of key general histories written. The Ley de Excavaciones Arqueológicas (Archaeological Excava-tions Law) was passed in 1911, and a Comisión de Investigaciones Paleontológicas y Prehistóricas (Commission for Palaeontological and Prehistoric Research) founded the following year. Spanish archaeological research also took on an international dimension with the creation of the Spanish School of Archaeology in Rome. The institutionalization of archaeological research was associated with the development of a Spanish nationalist school which attracted the more reactionary scholars. During the early twentieth century, however, regionalist institutions were also established, in the first instance in Catalonia where a Servei d'Investigacions Arqueòlogicas (Archaeological Research Service) was set up within the Institut d'Estudis Catalans (Institute for Catalan Studies) in 1915. Similar bodies were created in the Basque country in 1921 and 1925, in Galicia in 1923, and in Valencia and Andalusia in 1927.
   By the 1920s, somatological anthropology (the study of the evolution of human body-types) was firmly entrenched as a research tool in several institutions, and scholars from outside Spain were attracted by the supposedly racially isolated populations of the Basque country and the Canary Islands. The social Darwinism underlying the somatological approach agreed well with the reactionary sentiments of the nationalist scholars. With the Francoist victory in the Civil War, this nationalistic tradition came to dominate the archaeological scheme. The regional institutions were either disbanded or obliged to conform to the vision of Spanish prehistory divided chronologically into great cultures which embraced the whole of the peninsula. The appointment of Provincial Commis-sioners for Archaeology, during and just after the Civil War, under the Falangist national Commis-sioner, Julio Martínez Santa-Olalla, restricted the development of locally based cultural sequences. Despite the gradual opening-up of Spanish academia from the 1950s, regional surveys of archaeology complied with a generally pan-Iberian model. Spanish archaeology remained more or less atro-phied until the 1970s when, with some influence from processual or New Archaeology, the subject became a "narrative composed of endless lists of objects described in the most minute detail" (Díaz- Andreu 1993b: 16).
   The transition to democracy allowed increased theoretical and methodological diversity. Emphasis moved from traditional historicist interpretations and from the positivist listing of artefacts to an examination of the environment, economy, and social processes. During the 1980s, a series of congresses considered archaeological methods— particularly Soria in 1981, Madrid in 1985, and Barcelona in 1986. Most Spanish archaeological literature from the late 1980s onward contains some review of epistemology and theory.
   Three distinct theoretical directions were adopted by Spanish archaeologists: the Marxist, closely following the Latin American Marxist model; a neo-Marxist approach, akin to the Frankfurt School; and a form of structuralism developed by Celso Martín de Guzmán at the Complutense University in Madrid. Generally archaeologists in Spain have now taken on board, albeit not uncritically, the theoretical basis of processual archaeology.
   Nevertheless, epistemological awareness and theoretical debate have not changed archaeological practice to any real extent. More excavations have been undertaken during the 1980s and 1990s, particularly as the Ley del Patrimonio Histórico Español (Spanish Historic Heritage Law) of 1985 came into force. More of those excavations have been accompanied by palaeo-environmental investigation and consideration has been given to social and economic factors. Yet the archaeological community in Spain "remains more interested in the maintenance of its elitist positions and the reproduction of its privileges than in the social relevance it could claim by offering a critical view of the past in relation to the present" (Vázquez Varela and Risch 1991:45).
   The 1985 Law modernized archaeological legislation, introducing the concept of Bien Cultural (Cultural Property) which gave similar levels of protection to artefacts, sites and landscapes, and allowed various levels of local government to take action to conserve cultural properties. The 1985 Law enabled the Regional Governments to establish their own archaeological services and to introduce regional legislation. Where such legislation has been introduced, however, it has been directed as much at protecting the existing archaeological communities" interests as at protecting the heritage or at promoting improvements in archaeological practice. The Spanish archaeological heritage is vast and still relatively unexplored. Much of its exploration has been carried out within inadequate and outmoded methodological and theoretical frame-works, to the detriment of Spain's heritage, and it is to be hoped that future generations of Spanish archaeologists will provide the much-needed critical view of the past in relation to the present.
   Further reading
   - Alcina Franch, J. (1989) Arqueología antropológica, Akal: Madrid.
   - Díaz-Andreu, M. (1993a) "Theory and Ideology in Archaeology: Spanish Archaeology Under the Franco Regime", Antiquity 67, 254:74–82.
   —— (1993b) "El pasado en el presente: La búsqueda de las raíces en los nacionalismos culturales. El caso español", Pre-Actas del Congreso Os Nacionalismos en Europa: Pasado e Presente, pp. 1–25, University of Santiago de Compostela, 27–9 September 1993.
   - Martínez Navarrete, M.I. (1990) "La prehistoria española en los últimos cincuenta años: teoría y práctica", Hispania 175: 439–57.
   - Vázquez Varela, J.M. and Risch, R. (1991) "Theory in Spanish Archaeology Since 1960", in I. Hodder (ed.) Archaeological Theory in Europe: The Last Three Decades, London: Routledge.
   M. R. EDDY

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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