Community Archaeology

by Iman Saca

The field of community archaeology is still considered a new branch of archaeology aimed at engaging and involving local communities in protecting, promoting, interpreting as well as benefiting from the archaeological and heritage sites within their communities. Involving the community in exploring their heritage and the heritage of the land they live on, seems to be the optimal way to protect and preserve this heritage, both archaeological and cultural, through creating a sense of shared history, cultural identity and cultural awareness.

School VisitDuring the past two decades, archaeological practice has been transformed by forces both internal and external to the profession. In today’s world we can not ignore the important role archeology plays in the live of countries and communities around the world. Traditionally, archaeological research has been selected, studied and interpreted by the elite and by scholars who have often worked in isolation without regard to the local population. Getting involved and involving local communities in the “archaeological process” is not a matter of choice; it is a responsibility. There is an ethical responsibility towards the communities (ancestral or not) whose heritage archaeologists are researching and exploring, as well as a responsibility to our discipline and the practice of archaeology as a whole.

Community archaeology should not be looked upon as a threat to the broader field of archaeology or abandonment of the scientific practice of archaeology, but a way to develop a better understanding of the rich and diverse human heritage, while at the same time allowing “local communities” to interpret, understand and appreciate their own heritage.

Community related activities in Jericho will encompass some of the following:

• Linking the Palace to the Urban Center of Jericho is one of the primary goals of this project. Understanding the site of Khirbet al-Mafjar should go hand in hand with understanding the site in its historical and geographical context as an estate with ties to the urban Center of Ariha. Our community archaeology project will help us better understand the city of Ariha’s past and present. Analyzing exposed sections and putting in soundings in the city will allow for a better understanding of such linkages. Exploring the site without its context is a futile endeavor.

• We see a great value in the museum situated in Khirbet al-Mafjar and we are eager to be involved in organizing the museum’s collection and providing labels for the artifacts and panels, both in Arabic and English.

• We are also keen on producing literature in Arabic that will allow the local community and the students to be better informed and engaged not only about the site but about the importance of heritage preservation.

• The project aims to work with schools and community centers to raise awareness about the site, its context and its importance through public lectures, site tours, museum visits, and practical hands-on experiences. Students and members of the community need to understand that Preservation of the past is accomplished not only by preserving the physical remains, but also through education of the value of learning about the past. Community archaeology programs should be designed to foster a preservation ethic and inform public on the values of archaeology.

• Communication with local organizations aimed at collaboration in the interpretation of the area’s history, with an emphasis on open interaction and plain language reports.

• Work on cultural projects planned by the Department of Archaeology, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquity, and the city of Jericho.

• Assist in promoting the archaeology and the cultural heritage of the City. For example supporting the Jericho 10,000 events, and the planned Jericho City Museum.

• The interviewing of elders to recover local oral history. Highlight the Value of their contributions as a means to help us better understand the Heritage of the City of Jericho.

We believe that engaged archaeology promotes civic involvement and a better understanding of the values of the archaeological and cultural heritage in Palestine.