A Digital Monograph



SITE PRESENTATION

The concept
The implementation: Mozan as Urkesh
Interpretation and site presentation
"Musealization": site presentation as education
Colonialism and not
Overview

The concept

     It is the archaeologists' privilege to intuit beneath the surface the life that bustled in ancient times before a site came to be covered under its own collapse. And it is their task to disengage the ruins from the matrix that has engulfed them for centuries. It should be their task as well to provide, with a full measure of control, a sense of the life behind the ruins. The life that provided coherence to the site as a human construct should be our guiding light in discovering the coherence of the fragments that are now left in the ground.
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The implementation: Mozan as Urkesh

     This is not an ambition shared by most field archaeologists. More than as an intellectual task, site presentation (when it is undertaken at all) is viewed as a reconstruction that follows, chronologically and conceptually, the excavation moment. At Tell Mozan, I have instead endeavored to achieve full integration between these two tasks, excavation and presentation, viewing the two in a polarity that is intrinsic to each and must govern the operations of both.
     Thus the present digital monograph is devoted to the specific case of Mozan presented as Urkesh, a major goal that I have been pursuing over the years. From a casual interest in making the results of the excavations meaningful for visitors, my effort has developed into a more complex and well structured system that aims at captivating the occasional visitor on the one hand and, on the other, at providing maximum documentation for the scholar. An overriding concern is that of keeping the system as flexible as possible, so that constant updates may properly reflect the progress of the excavations over time and communicate thereby the sense of the dynamics intrinsic to our research – as well as the attendant, inevitable uncertainties.
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Interpretation and site presentation

     "Interpretation" is the notion that is often used to refer to site presentation. I prefer the latter term for two reasons.
     (1) Preservation is an essential aspect of the task at hand, and thus "interpretation" cannot be divorced from the physical task of preserving what is to be displayed. In other words, the extent and nature of the preservation effort has to be decided in concert with decisions about "interpretation," and the two together (preservation and interpretation) have to be planned alongside the other overall plans for the excavation – in other words, preservation and interpretation are to be seen together as the two faces of site presentation, they have to be equally inscribed within the larger project strategy.
     (2) The primary thrust of my effort has been to wed the signage with the physical dimension of the site, including not only architecture and stratigraphy, but also such other factors as the landscape or the climate. Even though the signs in themselves retain a validity of their own (and are so presented in this website), they acquire their full meaning only when they are seen in their proper referential context, i.e., vis-à-vis the concrete element which they describe. It in this sense that the site retains its primacy and is properly presented to the visitor in its full physicality.
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"Musealization": site presentation as education

     The term "musealization" is coming into use to refer to this effort – the site is perceived in function of a display that shows the coherence of the pieces and their role in the identification of meaning. It is in this sense that I have endeavored to work at site presentation at Tell Mozan – an effort, you might say, to show Urkesh beneath Mozan.
     Whatever the appropriateness of the term "musealization" might be, the underlying concept is valid and suggestive: modern museums teach us how our most important cultural resources must be not only cared for and stored, but also brought to full fruition through new and imaginative display methodologies. And this is a guiding principle for site presentation as well.
     A reflection on such methodologies shows that, in a modern museum (and in my case this meant especially the Metropolitan Museum of Art), the relationship between publication and education is quite fluid. This obtains perhaps even more in the case of an archaeological site. It is indeed true that site presentation must be viewed as a most important form of scholarly publication. But its most immediate appeal is, perhaps, to the lay audience, and in this regard it may best be viewed as an important channel of education. Which is why I have included it in this particular section of the website.
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Colonialism and not

     (e.g., Quseir in Egypt)
     fundamental ambiguity - the framework is imposed from the outside (interviews, training, etc.)
     disparaging of mass tourism (Moser et al. p.241, following Silberman) is fine - but the "parody" it created is generated locally! So we "teach" them (colonially!!!) to be better than themselves....
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Overview

     This digital monograph includes the following four chapters.
  1. General principles. – While my effort has developed inductively in an empirical way, it has always been in function of achieving a coherent whole, hence in response to clear principles.
  2. The site as a book. – The implementation has resulted in a carefully articulated signage system that aims at achieving a very close interaction between the physical remains and a great number of graduated printed signs. This is the core of the entire monograph, which also includes the full text of all the signs posted at the site.
  3. The collections. – Besides the architectural remains and the stratigraphy, and in concert with the material deposited and exhibited in the Museum, a vast amount of items is available in the Expedition house. While of no museographic value, they help the visitor to relate more concretely the stratigraphic and architectural universe to the material it has yielded.
  4. The chronicle. – Given the long tenure of our project, we can trace a long history of the various site presentation models over the years. Here one will also find a copy of the support material that was offered in earlier years in printed format.