On archaeology and alterity
Responding effectively to aItemative ideas about humanity's past is a growing concern for many archaeologists, as popular television programs, the Internet, and best-selling books increasing.ly promote theories which dramatically oppose accepted academic archaeological interpretations. However, this problem has traditionally been undertheOlised, or considercd primarily within scientistic fonnulations which simplistically contrast good, logical. '0l1hodox' archaeology with bad, illogicaL 'lunatic fringe' archaeology. As an analysis of some CUlTent ideas about the archaeological past demonstrates, this can be a false dichotomy that impedes constructive thinking. Neither dowsing nor psychic archaeolob'Y, for example, are clearly illogical or marginalised practices~ designating them as such, however, reveals much about a priori convictions. Earth Mystelies in the U.K. has features in common with Blitish academic archaeology. Apocalyptic threads running through some alternative archaeology books are ancient in their structure, not strange and new, and can also emerge in academic archaeological writings. This does not mean that there are no grounds for disting.uishing between different accounts of the past, but it does mean that some standard intolerances within archaeology, based upon notions of demarcation which do not \\ork, must be questioned. Outside the discipline but exerting their influence within it the Skeptics' mO\'cment and the 'anti-anti-Science' contingent of the Science Wars are increasing polarisation around issues of rationality, and responding to divergent ideas inside and outside academia with open hostility. However, there are well-established philosophies that pennit the avoidance of such divisive and all-encompassing conflict. A henneneutic rather than foundationalist approach to the dilemmas of alterity provides more robust and responsible possibilities.