Crisis, Cultural Heritage, and Archaeology: Narratives about the Past as Resources to Overcome Critical Times. Some “Minoan” Examples 

University of Catania

The topic of crisis is a relevant one in archaeology. By means of stratigraphic excavation, archaeology investigates contexts and objects whose interpretation points to behaviours adopted in periods of disorder, insecurity, and indeed crisis. On the other hand, these same behaviours could have played an important role in the formation processes of archaeological contexts or objects which then became part of cultural heritage. However, a link between crisis, cultural heritage and, in the present case, archaeology is not solely visible within the practical aspects of the discipline. A current political, social, or economic crisis may well affect the archaeological interpretation of past remains, leading to the construction of long-lasting narratives about places or objects which enter cultural heritage. Subsequently, these narratives can become a symbolic resource on which to rely in the attempt to face troubled periods. In other circumstances, narratives based on an archaeologically retrieved past might be conceived from the bottom up by local groups, who envisage the connection with antiquity as means for coping with dramatic change.

This contribution adopts an archaeological and historical point of view to explore the links between crisis and cultural heritage, drawing more specifically on examples acquired from Minoan studies. The author will examine how crises may stimulate the formation of narratives about the past and its objects and their use as a strategy to overcome difficult times. It will be argued that the identification and analysis of the processes underlying the creation, reinterpretation, and use of these narratives could enhance the understanding of the ways in which cultural heritage continues to acquire meaning today. This, in turn, should stimulate further discussion on the potential of heritage as a strategic resource to face situations of unrest, of change, in short of crisis.