Daily Archives: November 19th, 2006

Damming Sudan

This is a particularly appropriate title of an article in Archaeology magazine, an exceprt of which can be found here. I am so angry at what is being done here – the lack of attention that is being paid to the remains of the area, which may well be incredibly significant. But it also makes me wonder a lot of things.

How much does it matter if we don’t know about a certain period of time? (and how much is that a heresy for a historian?) We are always told not to make a case from silence, but surely there are many, many things we don’t know because it never got written down, or the mss/artefacts were not preserved… surely some, at least, of what we know is preserved by fluke alone. So does it matter that we don’t know something? How much does it matter? How can we make that call? I just don’t know the answer to that question, and it bugs me a lot. Does it change the world that we don’t know exactly how Nubia/Sudan influenced the ancient Egyptians, or more recently medieval African Christians? Maybe not that much… except that more people might respect the modern inhabitants of the area if that became more well-known (which begs the question, how much do people pay attention to historical/archaeological discoveries? Not that much, I suspect, except when it’s about homo sapiens and Neanderthals having sex…).

How do you make the call between modern needs and archaeological needs? I guess people who are still alive take precedence, but surely there can be ways that both interests can be served? It makes me very sad both that nomads are being displaced by this new dam, and that lots and lots of archaeoloical stuff will be lost. But that tribal elders can think that keeping archaeologists out because it will slow the dam down means either that they are stupid and naive – which I am very not convinced by – or they are getting bad advice….