Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Erasure of the Past

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_373


Functional societies, like functional individuals, engage in a selective winnowing of past events in the creation of their identities. They do this by both remembering and forgetting, partly out of necessity in order to manage an overwhelming amount of information and partly to minimize or mitigate traumatic experiences. At the group level, this process takes place in two ways: selective editing of the past in the form of preservation of only some parts of the archaeological or textual record (what in German is referred to as “Totschweigen,” literally to kill by silencing) and selective destruction of heritage. The preservation of the past is a form of selective editing at several levels – not all sites are chosen for excavation and only a small number of those that are excavated are highlighted in publications, heritage tourism, or museum exhibits, for example – while the destruction of the past literally erases sites or evidence and thereby ensures that it will not be...

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA