Global archaeology

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Global archaeology is the archaeology of globalization, documenting and unearthing the material markers of its origins, trajectories, manifestations, and repercussions. In the 1980s, when globalization first developed as a major force, there was a sense of excitement, along with some foreboding. Closely connected to ideals of democracy, individualism, capitalism, and free markets, globalization promised to break down barriers between people in different parts of the world, open borders, improve communications, and create new opportunities. Enhanced understandings and greater world peace seemed an inevitable outcome. However, in the early 21st century, it is clear that the world is undergoing profound environmental, economic, and social transformations, and that many of these changes are problematic. Globalization has exacerbated old stresses and dislocations and created new issues of serious concern. Inequality continues to grow, both within and between countries. Racism, discrimination, and exclusion are hot issues, as are nationalist backlashes against migrants. The lifestyles of people in First World countries are prompting changes in climate that may actually drown some Pacific nations. Archaeology functions as a tool for analyzing the material correlates of the shifts and schisms wrought by globalization. Descending from various strands of archaeological research that seek in one way or another to promote a better potential future, calls for a more “present- and future-oriented archaeology” (Harrison 2011, p. 144) have come from a variety of sub-disciplinary directions, including contemporary archaeology, Indigenous archaeology, and historical archaeology. Archaeologists can record sites on islands that may soon vanish due to climate change. They can identify the manner in which material inequities visually communicate and reinforce economic inequalities. They can identify disconnections and dislocations and provide new insights into social change as it takes place. They can highlight injustices that are normalized by contemporary values and, through this, provide impetus for a different future. Accordingly, this chapter focuses on those branches of archaeology that address the impact of globalization. The topics range from climate change and colonialism to forced migration and the influence of information and communication technologies. Underlying them all are issues of inequality, social justice, ethics, and human rights. Some publications focus on the “big picture” changes that have been wrought by globalization, while others provide in-depth local case studies. All are joined by a common perspective that values the assessment of local conditions in terms of how they are shaped by global circumstances.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Bibliographies
EditorsJohn Jackson
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2021


  • social and cultural anthropology
  • archaeology
  • linguistic anthropology
  • biological anthropology
  • Global archaeology
  • Globalization
  • archaeology of globalization


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