6. Conclusions

The shifts in social distance apparent in comparing these three eras of archaeological photography show the photographer's changing relationship with the subjects of the photographs. The photography of Ian Todd depicts the workers as part of the larger milieu, indistinguishable from the landscape of archaeology that surrounds them. The workers act as human scales that add proportion to archaeology. The perspective from the BACH Team emphasises the constructed nature of archaeology and a multiplicity of voices in the archaeological endeavour. The camera is closely implicated in the scene and the view is primarily that of an archaeologist participating in the ongoing excavations. The excavators and the archaeology are co-constructive, yet the identity of the individual excavating the grave (Figure 5) or holding the photo scale (Figure 6) is not documented. Perhaps the photographer assumed that the person would be known or identified in the archive. Finally, Jason Quinlan has produced thousands of images while working at Çatalhöyük. His ease with the camera and personal relationship with the excavators is apparent in his photography, and each feature is depicted dozens of times, from several angles.

These photographs undoubtedly display a change in technology, as there is a large increase in quantity, but other aspects vary, such as relative quality in terms of resolution, file durability and utility for re-examining the archaeological record. Semiotic analyses introduced from the field of visual studies highlight changing social relationships on site. When the photographer and the subject of the photograph are not equal in the power structure of the site, this can be discerned from the interactions captured by photography. It is difficult to determine how much of a shift to a methodology informed by post-processual theory can be recognised from this particular dataset. Each photographer was capturing a different approach to excavation. Mellaart employed local workers to excavate large areas rapidly. The BACH team had unpaid undergraduate and postgraduate students excavating a single structure over many years. The segmented, chaotic photography of the 2000 BACH team may be related to relative inexperience with digital cameras and archaeological photography, rather than a statement regarding transparency of process in leaving tools and other evidence of archaeological work within the frame of the photograph. In 2006, Hodder employed expert field archaeologists; while he employed local workers as well, their participation is limited to non-excavation work such as shifting sandbags and taking samples to the flotation tanks. Quinlan's 2006 photography grew out of his participation on the BACH team and reflects his long-term employment at Çatalhöyük and relationships formed with the excavators.

The questions at the centre of this study – the visibility of changing technology and of the shift in theory within the photographic record of an archaeological field site – have been addressed, yet there was an additional, unexpected result from this research. I was not expecting the underlying social dynamics of archaeological research to be so readily revealed within the photographic record. As previously mentioned, Mitchell situates the field of visual studies as an instance of Derrida's 'dangerous supplement', disrupting traditionally defined disciplines with an ambiguous interdisciplinary stance, indicating an 'incompleteness in the internal coherence of aesthetics and art history' and that it 'opens both disciplines to outside issues that threaten their boundaries' (Mitchell 2002, 167). Research on visual production threatens the disciplinary boundaries of archaeology and reveals structural imbalances, colonialism, and social relationships that can destabilise archaeological labour practices. In her study of the photographic archive of Dura-Europos, Baird (2011) calls for the creation of alternative histories of archaeology, one that does not rely on photographs that 'build a nostalgic atmosphere around a complicated encounter, capitalizing on popular notions of archaeology as exotic adventure' (2011, 443). Bateman (2000) argues that photographs and other media need to be understood as part of a larger visual ecology of knowledge production within archaeology.

Yet while there have been more recent efforts to form a more cohesive understanding of visuality within archaeology (Balm 2016), these tend to incorporate critiques of the media made by archaeologists without productively integrating these to produce an improved archaeological methodology. The most profound result of this study has been the change in my own photographic practice on archaeological sites. While working in 2009-2010 as a trench supervisor and archaeological photographer at Tall Dhiban, an archaeological site in central Jordan, I found my own lens trained on the subaltern – our workers who lived in the town next to the archaeological site. Rather than treat these workers as convenient props to illustrate the archaeological process, or as part of naturalistic local 'colour', my analyses of archaeological photography led me to carefully attend the framing of workers on archaeological sites. This required renegotiating individual relationships and a greater understanding of the local context of photography.

Figure 10
Figure 10: Saleh, a local worker employed at Tall Dhiban, Jordan ©Colleen Morgan

An initial inquiry into visual ethics and human subjects review revealed that it was not required to obtain permission to photograph workers employed by archaeological projects, though perspectives on this are evolving. Though permission was not required, I simply asked before I took a photograph and would show the individual the resulting photograph on the digital camera's LCD screen. Several older men did not want their photograph to be taken at all, and I respected this throughout the field season. Younger men did not like having their photo taken while they were working, but desired posed photos (Figure 10), sometimes together with their cohort of younger men or with the students on the excavation (Morgan 2012). As a result, these photographs were at a close social distance, taken at an azimuth level with their perspective, and did not frame the workers as archaeological set dressing, but sought to draw out their individual experience on site and in the local community. There were several times that I was requested to take a posed photo of friends together, or of the children of the workers.

The cultural context of photography in rural Jordan is very different from that in the United States and the United Kingdom; analog photography still has a prominent function as a display of heritage inside the household receiving hall, and sepia-toned copies of honoured ancestors are available for sale at photo studios (Shryock 1997). Digital photography occupies the space on cellphones and computer screens and is increasingly present in the daily lives of Jordanians, yet some elements such as a performance of the 'sullen, “dangerous” look' prevalent in photos of the honoured ancestors persist. As Shryock notes,

'cameras were meant to preserve images of propriety, solemnity, and power. They balked at my attempts to take casual, unposed shots. They insisted on wearing their best clothes, donning a pair of “scholarly” glasses (sometimes my own), or placing a service of tea or a coffee thermos in front of them as a sign of hospitality. Only in recent years have people begun to smile at the camera, and many of the older men still meet the lens with an imperious scowl. Photographic representation is, for them, a context in which individuals should present their noblest, most public face' (1997, 296).

Similar to Hamilakis et al. (2009), I took several portraits of the local workers and community members, and displayed them alongside other framed prints of the excavation in a photography show in the community hall (Morgan 2012). Repatriating the photographic archaeological record was important to the Dhiban Excavation and Development Project and we made prints of several of the photos to give to community members at the photography show. In addition to the prints, we uploaded the photographs to Flickr, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. In this way, applying a theory-based practice of archaeological photography, one informed by a local understanding of visual representation and in service to public archaeology and outreach, reveals the advantage of the de-centring afforded by the 'dangerous supplement' of visual studies. Even so, I cannot pretend that my careful negotiation of individual relationships and the local context of photography particularly privileged my understanding of the residents of Dhiban; there are considerable structural issues including deep poverty and power imbalances that eclipse the sensitive use of a digital camera for archaeological recording (Morgan 2012).

This analysis is only a beginning, and only one way to examine archaeological photography. As social science adopts network analyses and as image searches become more nuanced, research on visual representation within archaeological practice can adopt advanced techniques to gain a better understanding of archaeological knowledge production. These studies are critical; the explosive growth in the creation of visual media for archaeological recording and the subsequent dissemination of these media must not perpetuate visions of archaeology's colonial past. Being aware of perpetuating power imbalances within archaeological photography and attending to modes of interpretation and dissemination preferred by project members and local workers can change other aspects of archaeological practice. It may be that these analyses become much easier through the widespread adoption of social media. It is not difficult to determine who is and who is not tagged in a photograph, and see how archaeologists perform their identity through selfies and hashtags. As such, appreciating a theory-laden practice is not enough; we must transform meaning making in archaeology with emancipatory strategies to adhere to a more inclusive and multivocal vision of archaeological practice. The nuanced use of recording strategies in archaeological methodology and the critical examination of the structuring processes of these media with a broader awareness of visual studies can make full use of the dangerous supplement to shift practice in archaeology.


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