Research Paper

Photographs and Archaeological Knowledge

Authors: Sudeshna Guha

Year: 2013, Volume: 4, Page/Article: 1, DOI:

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This article explores some of the ways in which photographs and their archives establish archaeological
knowledge. It draws upon histories of photography and archaeology within South Asia to create focus upon archaeology’s evidentiary regimes. The aims are to: a) demonstrate the importance of engaging with photographs and their archives as objects for reckoning archaeology’s evidentiary terrains,
b) draw attention to multiple social biographies a photograph or photographic archive acquires, c) highlight the visual as a force of archaeology’s historiography, and d) impress upon the necessity of attending to historiographical issues. The aims allow us in seeing some of the ways in which field sciences create their evidentiary frames, and have a special resonance within the context of South Asian archaeology where professional and amateur archaeologists continue to promote the belief that archaeological facts exist out there, and that archaeological research produces better and more robust sources for the past than scholarship based on texts. Visual histories also highlight the mutation of the so-called ‘colonialist’ historiography within the post-colonial histories of archaeology’s developments, and encourage us to go beyond the hackneyed formulations of colonial legacies and the hagiographic literature of individual practitioners.