Heritage and the Politics of Culture
Excavations at archaeological sites in South Asia prior to the 1960s used a variety of excavation and recording methods that are different from current standards. The interpretations of the data from such sites may be criticized from a number of different viewpoints, including methodology and socio-political biases. If the interpretation is strongly criticized and proven wrong, does this mean the data are tainted, warped and unusable? This presentation will examine two early excavations: E.J.H. Mackay at the Indus Valley site of Chanhu-daro whose excavation methodology and interpretations have been completely denounced by Stuart Piggott and Mortimer Wheeler, leaving a lasting opinionated legacy that the data from this site are unusable and false. Additionally, Wheeler’s excavations at the site of Brahmagiri in South India are investigated and compared with the methodologies of Mackay. Wheeler picked odd pieces of data to interpret, ignoring the whole of what was found in order to make an interpretation based on his worldview, and thus this interpretation is not sustainable. In contrast, Mackay remained focused on the whole of the dataset, and while some of his interpretations are suspect, the data itself remains available for fresh interpretations.