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The Ancient Maya and the Political Present

Richard R. Wilk
Journal of Anthropological Research
Vol. 41, No. 3 (Autumn, 1985), pp. 307-326
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3630596
Page Count: 20
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The Ancient Maya and the Political Present
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Abstract

Can archaelogists depict the past with any accuracy, and is that their goal? Where do archaeologists' ideas come from in the first place? This paper suggests that archaeological discourse has a dual nature: at the same time that it pursues objective, verifiable knowledge about the past, it also conducts an informal and often hidden political and philosophical debate about the major issues of contemporary life. This paper investigates this second, hidden dialogue within a single subfield of archaeology, Maya prehistory. What gives power to the past, and to archaeology, is the way it is used to political and philosophical ends. The task is to recognize the nature of the dialogue and to take responsibility for it.

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