Archaeologists and American foreign relations in a World of Empire, 1879-1945
Bell, Andrew W.
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This dissertation explores how, between 1879 and 1945, American archaeologists contributed to the expansion of the U.S. state’s presence overseas and in the western territories; how they legitimated, propagated, and amplified imperial projects across the globe; and how they spurred broader American investments in the world and antiquity. It follows archaeologists out of museums and lecture halls and into the field, where their research demanded the cultivation of local elites for access to sites; organization of indigenous peoples, local peasants, and migrant workers into labor regimes; enlistment of diplomatic aid to secure possession of finds; and collaboration with the Departments of War and the Interior to institute policies of protection and surveillance. Whether they operated in Mediterranean states within the political orbit of Europe’s Great Powers, the colonial-territorial American Southwest, United Fruit enclaves in Guatemala, British-controlled Palestine, or occupied Japan—American archaeologists considered disputed and less-than sovereign spaces the most bountiful fields for harvesting artifacts. Contested antiquities—which no group or nation bore singular possession—then followed archaeologists back to the United States, where Americans staked their own claims to them, using these remnants of the past to understand themselves as heirs to collective—Western, settler, pan-American, Judeo-Christian, or world—heritages. Chapter one sets the stage by revealing how government agents, namely consuls, once spearheaded American contributions to archaeological research. Chapter two examines the Archaeological Institute of America’s first projects—conducting a major excavation and establishing a field school—in the Ottoman Empire and Greece, two ostensibly sovereign nations, and the appeal of Western civilization. Chapter three explores the relationship between archaeologists and settler-colonialism in New Mexico prior to statehood. Chapter four connects archaeological work at the Maya site of Quiriguá to the informal-imperial projects and pan-American ideas that structured U.S.-Central American relations. Chapter five details the complex interactions between American archaeologists, British authorities, Jewish settlers, and local Arabs in the Palestine Mandate. Chapter six explores the height of American archaeologists’ collaboration with the U.S. government—serving as advisors in the Second World War—and the development of the world heritage idea amid the “war without mercy” in the Pacific.