The Future of Archaeology is Relevance

At the height of the pandemic and working from home, my biggest question was ‘what is the relevance of archaeology during this pandemic and beyond?’. Many archaeologists and heritage scholars have started engaging with the world outside academia and that the pursuit of education and research is not exclusive to those with archaeology degrees. In the Philippines, archaeology originated with Europeans collecting archaeological materials that ended up in museums. Since the beginning of the 20th century, archaeology was regulated by a national agency, and after the 1950s, it eventually made academia its home. In an ivory tower, where actual relevance to and in contemporary society is difficult to identify, rethinking how Philippine archaeology should be practiced was due to the frustration in explaining why archaeology is not treasure hunting. In this presentation, I will discuss how recent works in Philippine archaeology can create meaningful narratives for the communities and the public, highlight inclusivity, and assert identity. Enriching the practice of archaeology through creating unique, ethical, and legal approaches evaluates power relations that empowers Indigenous Peoples communities, Southeast Asian archaeologists, and younger archaeologists; and include non-academics in the practice and interpretation. A former student asked, ‘what is the measure of success?’. I still do not know the answer, but what I do know is that we should make it relevant to others, and not just to archaeologists. My aim is to encourage archaeologists to address contemporary global issues such as food security, peace, climate change, and human rights.

Grace Barretto-Tesoro

Grace Barretto-Tesoro is a professor of archaeology and the current director of the Archaeological Studies Program (ASP), University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. She obtained her Diploma and MA in Archaeology from the University of the Philippines (UP) and her PhD from the University of Cambridge. Her research interests include mortuary practices, status, identity, cosmology, and historical archaeology. She investigates the persistence of practices from the pre-European arrival in the 16th century CE until the early 20th century CE. Her current projects include investigating values and ethics regarding the dead in past and contemporary societies. Grace edited the book Exploring Philippine Cemeteries published in 2016 by the University of the Philippines Press. Her most recent book entitled The Ruins of Pinagbayanan: A Photo-Essay on the Archaeology of a Late Nineteenth Century Philippine Town, was also published by UP Press in April 2021. Grace was the Editor of Social Science Diliman from 2019 to 2021 and intermittently of Hukay, the ASP Journal between 1998 and 2016. She is a member of the Society of Philippine Archaeologists (Kapisanan ng mga Arkeologist sa Pilipinas, Inc. [KAPI]) since 1999..