In the Picture: The Visual Culture of French Archaeology, 1890–1930

Drawn from research in progress, the talk presents some preliminary thoughts on the problem of the visual representation of archaeology, with a special focus on French archaeology in the early 20th century. Archaeology occupies a peculiar place in the human sciences, a discipline with its own methods and practices but one in which practitioners are often trained in, and assigned to, other fields, notably anthropology, art history, and classics.  I argue that the status of archaeology derives from the positioning of its disciplinary knowledge and practices between scientific norms on the one hand and popular media attention, which archaeologists at once needed, feared, and craved, on the other.  The development of a distinct visual culture of archaeology, by which I mean a set of codes, artifacts, and dynamics through which archaeologists stake and negotiate their claims and relationships with each other and the outside world, plays a key role in shaping archaeology as both science and popular spectacle.  The talk will examine a select group of artifacts, including site photographs, postcards, posters for events staged in archaeological sites, and articles in illustrated magazines, that help us retrace the visual practices through which archaeology sought both scientific legitimacy and popular attention in France and North Africa in the first decades of the 20th century.