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Research Paper: Americas/Middle East/Africa

The Internationalization and Institutionalization of Archaeology, or, How a Rich Man’s Pastime Became an International Scientific Discipline, and What Happened Thereafter


David Fleming

Independent researcher, US
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Archaeology has been an “international” discipline since it emerged as a separate field of intellectual endeavor by the mid-eighteenth century. During the nineteenth century and into the twentieth it gradually became more institutional, as museums increasingly sponsored detailed work and universities began to teach archaeology. However, for its entire existence, the flow of “archaeological capital” has been unidirectional, from “North” to “South”, and archaeology has sometimes served as a cover for less respectable activities. Additionally, during the twentieth century, archaeology, as practiced in major industrial nations and in developing regions, diverged, both in intent and in execution. Furthermore, the practice of archaeology in the Old World and the New World, and in developed and developing nations, has grown in different ways, with foreign actors being at various times eagerly solicited, welcomed, tolerated, denied entry, or expelled. This paper examines these processes, and suggests possible reasons for why archaeology as a discipline has evolved as it has in different parts of the world during the past decades.
How to Cite: Fleming, D., 2020. The Internationalization and Institutionalization of Archaeology, or, How a Rich Man’s Pastime Became an International Scientific Discipline, and What Happened Thereafter. Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, 30(1), p.6. DOI:
  Published on 10 Sep 2020
 Accepted on 30 Jul 2020            Submitted on 20 Jan 2020

The Internationalization of Archaeology

Almost from its very beginning, archaeology has been “internationalized”.1 Although the earliest practitioners of what we now deem to be “archaeology” (as opposed to the collection of antiquities and the creation of what have been termed Wunderkammern or “cabinets of curiosities”2) in 17th and 18th century Europe and North America concentrated on their homelands,3 archaeology very rapidly became an international discipline. From the first Renaissance-inspired studies of the physical monuments of Classical Greece and Rome,4 to the evolution in 18th century Europe of the Grand Tour,5 to the examination of Palestine by those concerned with the truth or otherwise of Biblical narratives,6 to early attempts to decipher ancient languages,7 those who participated in examining and recovering the remains of older cultures were frequently from countries other than those in which these examinations took place.

More specifically, since the mid-19th century much of the archaeological work in southeastern Europe, Egypt, the Levant and western and southern Asia, and the Americas has been carried out by expeditions originating initially in western Europe, particularly Britain and France, somewhat later from North America, particularly the United States, and more recently from countries such as Japan, Australia and the People’s Republic of China.8 Well into the 20th century, teams were often self-funded and supported themselves in the field without much, if any formal backing by either their home governments or the local host government, and never had any formal diplomatic status. Negotiations for permission to explore, excavate, and export archaeological materials had to be conducted at many levels, national, regional, and local, and there was often little assurance that agreements reached with one local authority would be respected, or even recognized, by other authorities on any level. Transport infrastructures were usually poor, the provision of health services was generally very bad, financial arrangements were quite unsophisticated, and communications were highly erratic. A great deal of the time of excavation project leaders was (and in many cases still is) spent on negotiations, arranging logistics, worrying about security, and raising further funds to allow continuation of the work in hand.9 Furthermore, foreign expeditions in many parts of southern and eastern Europe and Western Asia often found themselves entangled in local political struggles in which they had no involvement and over which they had no control.

The same unsettled conditions affected archaeological work in Mexico, Central America, and South America in the 19th century. Citizens of countries in these regions certainly recognized that within their territories they had materials of enormous significance for their own historical and national identities, but were frequently either unable, or perhaps unprepared, to examine these in any detail. Initially, therefore, in these nations and regions, the impetus for archaeological exploration came from outside as the regions’ institutions were in many cases unorganized and the conditions for the long-term development of domestic academic studies of archaeology were not favorable. Regrettably, there was often little ability to develop this heritage based on internal resources and in virtually all cases the execution of archaeological work was performed by non-domestic actors.10

During the later 19th century and into the 20th centuries, foreign archaeological expeditions to Mexico and Central and South America came primarily from the United States, although there were notable projects led by teams based in Britain11 and Sweden,12 among others. As with contemporaneous projects in southeastern Europe, Egypt and western Asia, these early expeditions were privately funded and made their arrangements with local authorities on a case-by-case basis. Planning was difficult because rapid political changes in the region led to a lack of continuity in professional contacts, and teams frequently had to re-negotiate permission to work with new authorities who were perhaps inexperienced, and perhaps unwilling to help foreign scholars who had already shown they were prepared to work with persons or parties that were now out of power.

Why, then, did these early European and American practitioners of archaeological work in Asia, Africa and the Americas repeatedly undertake their always arduous, frequently dangerous, and often frustrating expeditions to remote areas under appalling conditions? For the general development of the discipline and the advancement of knowledge of the subjects, certainly; to work with domestic scholars in these countries to expand their understanding of their own countries’ pasts, undoubtedly; from a sense of adventure, obviously; but there was a darker side to this interest in distant countries. As is now known, at least some of these foreign archaeologists were spies for their own governments: T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell in pre-First World War Ottoman Arabia, Mesopotamia and Palestine, Sylvanus G. Morley in Central America during the First World War, and (by their own later confession) many US scholars in Central and South America before, during and after the Second World War, were working both for their official sponsors and (more covertly and often quite amateurishly) their spy-masters.13 This was not new: from the late 19th century imperial Britain and Russia had faced one another in Central Asia, France and Britain had jostled one another in Africa, and once the United States had bought Russia’s Alaskan territories in 1867, it jealously regarded the entire American hemisphere (including Canada and Mexico) as its own sphere of influence, to be watched over and, where deemed necessary, invaded. How better to mask an engineer’s planning of a fortress or harbor, than to cloak that officer’s task with the role of a student of the past, working tirelessly to bring knowledge of a nation’s heritage to its present inhabitants?14 More generally, travelers were often informally enjoined to “keep their eyes open” when they traveled, and to chat discreetly to others upon their return.

In fact, an early example from the Americas of this double role of an archaeologist as a spy and a scholar is from the Andes, where in 1739–1740 the French scientist and trained military engineer Charles-Marie de La Condamine and colleagues surveyed the Inca site of Ingapirca in what is now Ecuador.15 La Condamine was in South America as part of a major, official French-Spanish expedition sponsored by both monarchies, but the work done at Ingapirca cannot in any way be considered relevant to the expedition’s core purpose, the precise measurement of a degree of latitude at the Equator. The planning of Ingapirca was undertaken to occupy the team’s time while it waited for clear weather for its primary survey, but provided skilled observers with an opportunity to broaden their knowledge of an area of the Andes they would not otherwise have studied in such depth. La Condamine’s plan is so accurate and so detailed that it has been profitably used by 20th-century archaeoastronomers.16 Furthermore, a plan of the same site produced by the Spanish military engineers who accompanied the French team is so different, so stylized and so uninformative as to be positively misleading.17 More likely, planning the standing structures of Ingapirca was an opportunistic exercise undertaken by intelligent military men who found a form of masonry structure they had never before seen, and had both the time and the skills to study in detail.

It is clear that towards the end of the 19th century the situation faced in both the Old World and the New World by foreign archaeological teams was broadly the same in terms of their ability to plan, execute, and sustain work in the regions. However, while the problems facing foreign archaeological teams could be seen to be basically the same in both parts of the world, the solutions have been very different.

The Institutionalization of Archaeology

Archaeology was practiced long before it was taught, or before it even had a base. Despite its early internationalization, archaeology was initially not “institutionalized” in the sense of being based in, and conducted out of, or under the auspices of, established national or regional institutions such as museums or universities. In both western Europe and the Americas, local learned societies provided venues for the discussion and encouragement of historical researches broadly defined to include the investigation of antiquities. These societies were almost always privately organized and neither sought nor received state support.18 National museums were emerging in Europe by the end of the 18th century, often under royal patronage, and began to receive donations of excavated materials for display to the interested public. The excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum in the mid-late 18th century, financed by the King of Naples, sharpened the public’s interest in antiquities and broadened the reach of museums into archaeological fieldwork. Still, initially the museums themselves were not as active as they later became and served more as recipients and custodians of archaeological material, than as active gatherers of it. While one could argue that the French scholars who accompanied Napoleon on his Egyptian expedition in 1798 were institutionalized, in that they were attached to an invading army and that what they recovered19 was intended to be shipped back to museums in Paris, this mode of supporting archaeological work was even then seen as less than ideal.20 Instead, archaeological work in the 19th century was usually organized, funded, and managed on an ad hoc basis, supported by private sponsors and published by subscription to cover the costs of printing and distribution. Institutional support, such as it was, tended to be by museums seeking to build their collections: the actual archaeology was usually conducted by individuals who either funded themselves or gained the support of wealthy patrons21 or other entities. This approach continued on occasion into the late 20th century, in that for several seasons, at least one foreign archaeological expedition to Peru was accompanied by members of the British Army who provided logistical and technical support while engaging with both the archaeological team and their counterparts in the Peruvian military.22

The process of the institutionalization of archaeology in the Americas began on a different foot and marched in another direction. What all the American nations had in common to a degree not matched in the Old World was the rapid entrance of national and regional authorities into the process. In Canada, Mexico and Peru, to cite three major non-US centers of archaeological work in the Americas, state-backed museums and universities quickly overtook private actors as the primary channels through which archaeological work was directed.23 In the United States the process was more complex and there has never been the degree of centralization of control and access to archaeological permissioning seen elsewhere: the markedly individualistic nature of the early republic meant that by design, federal entities were often weak while regional and local entities such as private museums and athenea were were strong. Although the Smithsonian Institution was founded in 1846 and (while technically a private foundation) continues to be administered by the federal government, it has never dominated archaeological work in the United States to the extent that its counterparts in other regions of the hemisphere have. Indeed, within the United States, official permission for, and support of archaeology still comes from many disparate arms of the federal government (such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Science Foundation, and the Bureau of Land Management, among many others) and state and local governments, while universities, museums, private donors and commercial developers continue to sponsor archaeological work.

The inclusion of archaeology in university curricula from the late 19th to early 20th centuries led to both further institutionalization and greater specialization among its practitioners. This process must be viewed as a positive development as it has enormously benefitted the overall health of the discipline. The archaeology being done now is as far from that of a century ago as is medicine from its practices at that same time.

The Democratization and the Nationalization of Archaeology

The institutionalization of archaeology over the past century has had at least two other effects in all regions where it has been practiced. The emergence of archaeology as a university discipline has brought its democratization: archaeology is no longer a pursuit of the intelligent rich – in fact, it has long ceased to be so24 – as it has become both more democratic and more bureaucratic. It has become open to previously discouraged or even barred sections of society such as women or the working class. Archaeology as a paid career instead of an unpaid avocation is now a choice open to any person, and the broadening of university offerings now essentially at least seeks to provide a context in which those with talent may apply themselves to archaeology regardless of their social backgrounds. The practice of archaeology is now embedded into many other practical economic spheres: urban real estate development, land management, and forensic and police work, to name a few. It is often an element of local government and frequently a part of the broader educational system.

However, this democratization has also led to the rise of archaeological nationalism on the parts both of governments and practitioners. Although nationalism has been a factor in archaeology since the earliest archaeological work in western Europe and North America,25 increasingly, and now more so in emerging areas, there has evolved a nativist, closed view of both the practice, and the presentation, of archaeology in the various home countries. This viewpoint, which essentially asserts that the only archaeology that is to be officially nurtured by the state is the recovery of that state’s own patrimony, can best be illustrated by an examination of how great archaeological museums in various countries present themselves. The world’s older great museums have always taken an internationalist stance.26 For example, the British Museum, founded in 1753 and opened to the public in 1759, was from the first intended to be a museum that was open to all and aiming to collect from every part of the world. When the Louvre Museum in Paris was opened, it was “[c]onceived from its creation in 1793 as a universal museum, its collections, which are among the most beautiful in the world, cover many millennia and an expanse that stretches from America to the borders of Asia” [translation by the author].27 For its part, the charter of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, founded in 1870, states that the museum was founded “… for the purpose of establishing and maintaining in said city a Museum and library of art, of encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts, and the application of arts to manufacture and practical life, of advancing the general knowledge of kindred subjects, and, to that end, of furnishing popular instruction”.28 In other words, these institutions were intended from the first to be universal, their collections were to come from all countries, and their expertise in archaeology and many other areas of inquiry was to inform studies of material from every part of the world.

By contrast, and to use as examples two leading museums in Latin America in countries with fabulous archaeological resources, both the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico and the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Peru state that their missions are national, not international, in scope. Mexico’s museum gives as its mission, “From its conception, this icon of 20th-century urban architecture was conceived to be, more than a repository, a space for reflection on the rich indigenous heritage of our multicultural nation” [translation by the author].29 For its part, Peru’s museum seeks, “To transform ourselves into the guiding center, leader of Peru and the world, the prime mover in the field of education, conservation, research, display and spread of the cultural patrimony that the museum houses” [translation by the author].30 It is therefore explicit that the principal archaeological centers of the two leading archaeological nations in Latin America – and thereby also these two countries’ institutions of higher learning that teach the discipline and train its new practitioners – do not see their missions as building an understanding of cultures other than their own: in other words, a university student in Britain can study the archaeology of Peru in Britain, but a university student in Peru cannot study the archaeology of Britain in Peru.

Where did Europe and America diverge, and What Happens Now?

So far, what we have discussed in terms of process and vision can be broadly applied to the execution of archaeology in both the Americas and western Europe. However, from the late 19th century the two regions have witnessed a very different approach as far as the actual carrying out of archaeological work. By this I mean that in southeastern Europe, western Asia, Egypt and some other parts of Africa, and south and southeast Asia, there are formally established, officially approved, and culturally prominent foreign archaeological centers, staffed by a mixture of foreign and local citizens and explicitly designed to act as bases for students of archaeology coming from the institutes’ home countries to perform archaeological work in the host countries. One thinks of entities such as the French School at Athens (founded in 1846) or the British School at Rome (founded in 1901) as examples, but there are now dozens of these foreign archaeological centers in Eurasia.31 They all seek to build cordial relations between their own home archaeological establishments and those of their host countries, they often engage in major archaeological projects that can last for decades, and in many cases they sponsor academic publication series that showcase work done in the host countries. Their foreign resident staff members are long-term professionals who are fully part of their home countries’ academic worlds, and students who come from their home countries use these facilities as they would those in their own universities. Archaeological fieldwork in the host countries can still, despite a century and more of infrastructure and social development, be strenuous, even occasionally dangerous, but visiting archaeologists can generally expect to find friendly, effective local support to share the burden of actually doing the work. Archaeology has, through this long process of physical institution-building and bureaucratization, become routine, a part of the general cultural atmosphere and an acknowledged component of the broader intellectual world.32

The situation in the Americas is, even now, completely different.33 Here, archaeology is still performed on a quasi-expeditionary basis: with the single notable exception of the French institutes in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru,34 to this day there is no permanent physical establishment of external archaeologists in any American nation, North, Central or South. What this means in practical terms for external students seeking to work in any of these regions is that every archaeological project has to be developed on its own, as there are no physical, administrative and cultural centers to support long-term archaeological work by citizens of other nations in any American country.35 To be sure, there have been many long-term, productive and highly influential archaeological projects in Latin America that were conceived, executed and published by scholars based in Europe and North America, but every single one of these projects had to be approved, developed, funded and managed as a standalone operation that could not count upon any local support from its own home archaeological establishment or any continuity from one year to the next.36 A negative effect of this vision of archaeology is an often profound mistrust between denizens of the host countries and archaeologists from other countries, which has arisen because, in large part, there is no permanent fashion in which to build long-term, mutual scholarly and personal understanding. Individual archaeologists can certainly build personal networks, but there is seldom any institutional backing for these. A further unwanted academic development of this atomization of effort is the arousal of mutual suspicion between members of local archaeological establishments and their external colleagues, and between archaeologists from different external countries, who find themselves competing with domestic actors and even amongst themselves for access to resources.37

How did this profoundly unsympathetic situation emerge? And how is it that there has been, as far as I know, no archaeological work performed in North America by teams based in Latin America? No Chilean team has ever worked in the Canadian Arctic to find comparisons for its own sub-Arctic Patagonian material; not a single Mexican team has worked on Mississippian or Chaco sites in the United States; and not once has a Peruvian archaeological expedition ever examined Colonial Spanish site settlement patterns in the US Southwest. Even relatively recent work along the US-Mexican border by joint US-Mexican teams, the US co-leader of which expresses deep sympathy for his Mexican colleagues, has teams of US archaeologists working in Mexico but no teams of Mexican archaeologists working in the United States.38 There has never been long-term, regular work performed in the United States or Canada by European archaeological teams,39 on sites of any period or in any region.40

This stark fact highlights one of the most pernicious characteristics of international archaeology as it is now performed. Archaeology began as, and in many ways remains, a discipline underpinned by imperial notions. One still reads of archaeological “expeditions” in the same manner that one yet encounters hearty tales of brave explorers; it can be hard to view foreign archaeological institutes – no matter how well-intentioned they are and how diligently they may work to nurture and cooperate with their local colleagues – as something other than lingering imperial outposts.

Why Do Developing Archaeological Nations Tolerate the Physical Presence of Foreign Archaeological Schools and Institutes?

As discussed in the text just above and as shown in Appendix 2 below, one of the primary differences between how archaeology is conducted in southern and eastern Europe and the Near and Middle East on the one hand, and the Americas on the other, is the presence in the former of many non-local physical establishments created, funded and staffed by foreign bodies devoted to the study of the host countries’ archaeology. With the exception of the post-World War II establishment of the French Institute of Andean Studies in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru,41 no such facilities are maintained by any foreign body in any American nation.42 It is my belief that the reasons for this remarkable difference can be sought in the deep historical backgrounds of the two different parts of the world.

The basic condition of any foreign archaeological school or institute is that it is an actual physical structure occupying a piece of real estate in the host country. It can be either rented or purchased, but is in either case intended to demonstrate a long-term, working and open commitment to a presence in the host country. That is, in practical (if not usually diplomatic) terms, it is a foreign enclave within the host nation’s borders, accepted by the local authorities and (provided that local laws are followed and, if required, local taxes are paid) allowed to conduct its business on the same terms as domestic actors. Furthermore, these schools follow an ancient format in that from at least the late Middle Ages such enclaves of foreign residents were always within larger, established polities (which often had completely different religions, laws and social usages from the residents in the enclaves) whose tolerance was essential for the safety and prosperity of the foreign residents.

This presence of explicitly foreign enclaves in countries in southern and eastern Europe and the Near and Middle East is in fact a very ancient practice, one that on a broad scale goes back at least as far as the mid-first millennium BC with the establishment of colonies of Greek and Phoenician merchants in the northeastern Black Sea, the Italian peninsula and islands, and the northwestern Mediterranean, and the later, pre-imperial foundations of Roman merchant colonies in North Africa and Iberia.43 The practice continued right through later European history, with (as one example) the late Mediaeval and early Renaissance maintenance of discrete colonies of North German merchants from the Hanse network all around the Baltic, in several towns in England, and in ports in Scandinavia. Even the English and later British presence in India began as a purely commercial venture, with local authorities granting English merchants the right to maintain physical presences in coastal cities for the purpose of developing trade. It was understood by all parties at the time that these foreign merchant enclaves were not political or imperial, and in India the British did not have imperial ambitions until well into the 18th century, long after the first English merchants arrived at the beginning of the 17th century and initially as much to contest the influence in India of groups from other European countries, as to exert political control over larger and larger parts of the subcontinent. It was always understood and accepted that these enclaves would informally be pieces of foreign territory, and the encounters between the nationals of foreign countries on the one hand, and the local citizens of the dominant host countries on the other, became routine. It is therefore not very surprising that the foundation and maintenance of foreign cultural institutions also became normalized, as they built on a very ancient tradition.

In the Americas things were (and still are) done very differently. From almost the very first, European entrants into the Americas came as conquerors whose explicit intention was domination, not commercial interchange. Spain and Portugal both forbade trade in their dominions by outsiders and rigidly enforced restrictions on residence. For their parts, France and Britain were somewhat less restrictive on residence but still sought to control trade with their colonies tightly. Repeated interventions in various Latin American republics during the 19th century by Britain, France and the United States soured local sentiment towards these nations, and the many British, French and US commercial actors in these nations never gathered themselves into formal enclaves as their counterparts did in the Old World. By the early 20th century, although British investments in South America (especially in Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay) were considerable, these were private ventures that were almost always managed by nationals of these countries and were in any case frequently victims of domestic political upheavals over which the British government had little control and seldom attempted to influence. As a result, there were few opportunities for the long-term, socially dense, and mutually accepting cultural interaction that underpinned the development of foreign intellectual communities in the Old World.44

In addition, we must consider the more historically recent actions in South America of the United States. Although the United States did not intervene much in South America during the 19th century (unlike in Mexico), by the mid-20th century the US government was both openly and covertly intervening in every South American nation. We have already mentioned the dispatching of young men to be archaeologists in Latin America during wartime; what was far more damaging to the reputation of the United States over time was the US government’s brutal, and in many cases inhumane, practice during World War II of requiring South American nations to round up local citizens of Japanese, German/Austrian and Italian heritage and deport them to internment camps in the United States, whence they were sometimes even repatriated to their ancestral countries whether they desired that or not (some of these individuals had gone to South America in the first place to flee Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy).45 This heavy-handed approach, approved at the highest levels of the US government and enforced by diplomatic and economic pressure (which few regional governments felt themselves able to resist) did not present the United States in a benevolent light. It is therefore not surprising that in subsequent decades South American nations have looked coldly on foreign presences on their soil, and that efforts by US and other foreign archaeologists to work in these countries continue to be treated on a case-by-case basis and often at the individual, rather than the group, level.

The Continuing Flows of Archaeological Capital

I stated above that archaeology has moved from being a rich man’s pastime to an international scientific discipline. In fact, this characterization is not wholly correct. It is obviously true that archaeological work is now carried out in practically all countries, be they rich and developed, or less so. And it is also clear that it can now be performed by persons from very modest social and economic backgrounds.

However, international archaeology, or organized work performed in nations other than those of the participant teams, remains the preserve of those from wealthy, long-established nations that can spare the resources and offer its denizens the chance to spend their lives working at something other than eking out a modest existence. Furthermore, international archaeology as practiced now remains resolutely unidirectional: the developed world sends its teams to emerging nations, the reverse does not occur. Here, we must consider the flow of “archaeological capital”: By a century ago certain fundamental arrangements had crystallized, and remain in force to this day. What I (on the analogy of international flows of investment funds) term archaeological capital – the expertise, the institutional backing, the willingness to brave harsh conditions, the cash, the political clout that could be relied upon to overwhelm local resistance – originated, and continues to originate, in North America (especially the United States), from western Europe (especially Britain and France) and, a little later, from Japan, Australia and China. This “capital” has flowed to parts of the world – South America, the Near and Middle East, Africa – that had and have fantastic resources of archaeological materials but until recently, almost no way to develop them internally. This “investment” represented, and still represents, a flow of intellectual capital that while enormous, and hugely influential, has always moved in one direction – from the North to the South.

In fact, there is not yet even any intra-regional conduct of archaeology in the Andes or other Latin American regions: no Peruvian teams working in Brazil’s upper Amazon basin, no Argentine teams working in Ecuador’s highlands.4647 To assert that scholars in these various nations find more than enough to do in their own home territories is to miss the point completely – this approach to archaeology merely confirms the narrowness of the nationalistic vision of archaeology being imposed upon (and frankly, accepted by) scholars in developing archaeological nations, who in their home countries essentially not only cannot, but are not even expected to want to, study cultures other than their own.48 That luxury remains the privilege of scholars from old imperial hegemons. It may well come as a surprise to contemporary working archaeologists in these regions who are based in northern institutions to realize that they are modern agents of a powerful imperial tradition (however unwitting and unwilling they may be), and it will almost certainly come as a shock to these same workers to be told they represent the rich, leisured classes who have the liberty to choose to pursue non-essential fields, but I cannot think of any other way in which to describe the philosophical mode in which they work.


1This paper began as the discussant’s presentation at the symposium “The Legacies of Archaeologists in the Andes: Second Symposium, the Internationalization and Insti-tutionalization of Archaeology in the Andes”, held at the 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 10–14 April 2019. The discussion also considers papers presented at the session “The Legacies of Archaeologists in the Andes” at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Washington, DC, 11–15 April 2018. For a list of participants and paper titles for both symposia see Appendix 1. 

2For an accessible reconstruction of a mid-18th century Wunderkammer, see the display in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. [link accessed 18 July 2020]. 

3See, e.g., in England, William Stukely 1740; in Italy, Flavio Biondo 1474; in the United States, Thomas Jefferson 1787. There was a separate and unconnected but strong tradition of what was recognizably archaeology in China from at least the 10th century AD, although it remained confined to China (Trigger 2006:74–76, Vinsrygg 1986). 

5For a general introduction to the vast literature on the Grand Tour see Fussell 1987. 

6The American scholar Edward Robinson published the first edition of his Biblical Researches in Palestine and Adjacent Countries in 1841. Also, the Palestine Exploration Fund was founded in London in 1865. 

7Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832), who based his ground-breaking decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone, was Professor at the Collège de France. Sir Henry Rawlinson (1810–1895), who deciphered cuneiform from the Behistun inscription, was a major-general in the British Army and Member of Parliament. 

8The early predominance of scholars from Britain and France is easily explained. By the middle of the 19th century Britain and France were wealthy, politically stable and culturally secure societies that hosted rich institutions backed by considerable economic and military power, and were rapidly expanding their imperial control of large parts of the world while dominating shipping, banking and early telecommunications. Furthermore, ever-cheaper printing technology and the rise of national and local newspapers that were rapidly distributed by growing railway networks encouraged broader dissemination of studies of the past, which were eagerly read by an increasingly educated populace in each country. This set of circumstances afforded their citizens the practical means by which to expand intellectual inquiry into regions not directly subject to these countries’ political control. In the German sphere, archaeological work was generally either Classically oriented or aimed at understanding the origins of German cultures, at least until the spectacular achievements of Heinrich Schliemann in excavating Troy and Mycenae greatly encouraged German involvement in ancient Near Eastern studies. Russia directed its expansionary efforts eastwards, into Central Asia, and Russian archaeologists concentrated mainly on their own country and the inner Asian regions that became subject to the Tsar. For its part, the United States was still engrossed in the development of its own land mass and its first generations of archaeologists applied themselves in almost all cases to study of the native cultures of the Americas, initially in the United States itself and thereafter in Mexico and further south. Large-scale American involvement in the archaeology of the Old World, while eventually immensely influential, was a later development. For a detailed and sensitive discussion from a British perspective of some of the issues of academic intrusion into other nations in the name of science, see Bray and Glover 1987. I must add that the situation portrayed by Bray and Glover has not changed in any essential way in the thirty-plus years since they published their paper. 

9For a recent, sympathetic analysis of the extent to which late 19th-early 20th century archaeologists had to hustle to secure the resources they needed for their work, see Thornton 2018. The rise in global tourism from the mid-19th century has also played its part: as pointed out by Thornton (ibid.), archaeologists have long offered their expertise as consultants to the expensive, pampered guided tours that in many ways have come to replace the earlier quasi-imperial expeditions. 

10There were colonial and early republican collectors of pre-Columbian artifacts in Peru and Chile, but these tended more to display recovered antiquities and sponsor local learned salons than to conduct primary excavation work themselves. See Gänger 2014. 

11For a discussion of British archaeological work in Peru in the 19th and 20th centuries, see McEwan and Sillar 2013. 

12For a discussion of Swedish work in late-19th century Peru see Steinberg and Prost 2007. 

13For instance, the noted US archaeologist Gordon R. Willey admitted as much (Price 2008:210 n.38). At the same time William Clothier II, of the Philadelphia department store family, worked in Peru and Chile as a spy while officially conducting excavations, as noted in his New York Times obituary (New York Times 2002). The US State Department soon came to see that its employment of archaeologists as spies was of little utility (Daggett in press). Nevertheless, quite apart from the moral and ethical dubiety of such actions, the implausibility of using archaeological work as a cover for espionage during a global war seems never to have occurred to any of the organizers of the spying work, or even to the spies themselves. Geologists looking for previously unknown veins of strategic minerals would be an obvious choice; botanists seeking out new sources of vital materials such as rubber, or new pharmacological agents, would naturally make sense; oceanographers surveying inshore tidal patterns would be believable: all such choices demonstrating a clearly positive application of rare and desirable skills that masked a simultaneous engagement in undercover work would have been completely credible; but why (or how) a nation involved in a massive military effort across the entire world could even consider as appropriate the sending out of fit young men who were exempted from military service to work as archaeologists in Latin America while clumsily searching for enemy agents has never been properly explained. Furthermore, the damage done to Peruvian and Andean archaeology in particular, and US-Latin American intellectual relations more broadly, by the dispatch of young excavators who were clearly helping the US government can never be measured. Incidentally, this approach protected young upper middle-class men who might otherwise have found themselves in more dangerous service. Nevertheless, the entire program betrays the profound ignorance that the US authorities had about archaeology as a discipline, in that they used that profession as a cover for obvious, bumbling espionage operatives. The morally ambiguous involvement of US archaeologists and anthropologists in spying in Latin America and elsewhere during the Second World War is examined in detail in Price 2008. The participation of US anthropologists in the later CIA-backed Operation Camelot in Latin America (1964–1965) is now well known, and the broader US participation in the far more lethal Operation Condor (from 1975) badly damaged US-Latin American intellectual relations (McSherry 2005, Rohde 2013). For a less impassioned view of American spying in Latin America during the 1930s and 1940s, and an outline of the undeniable presence on the continent of active networks of Fascist and Nazi sympathizers who sought by any means possible to oppose Allied activities, see McConahay 2018. 

14Baden-Powell 1915, Harris & Sadler 2003 (on Sylvanus G. Morley), Schlenoff 2014 (on T.E. Lawrence). 

15Barnes and Fleming 1989. An even earlier foreign observer of Spanish America was Amadée François Frezier, who traveled in South America in 1712–15 under the orders of Louis XIV. See Barnes 2008. 

17Barnes and Fleming 1989:177 n. 5, referring to the plan and elevation of Ingapirca made by Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa 1748. 

18In both Britain and the United States, the long-standing roles of private learned societies cannot be overlooked. As two examples, we note that in Britain, the Society of Antiquaries was chartered in 1751, even before the founding of the British Museum, while in 1791 the Massachusetts Historical Society (the oldest US historical society) began its collection of materials related to the history of the United States. Furthermore, the role of popular circulating subscription libraries in the dissemination of advances in archaeological research must be acknowledged. Finally, it should be remembered that private secret societies were early and enthusiastic “free universities” in North America (Salomon 2009:91). In contemporaneous Europe, young men often formed private groups to present and discuss their writings, and exchange social and political arguments. For example, in 1780 the Scottish poet Robert Burns and friends founded the “Batchelor’s Club” for self-improvement that was not subject to control by the church or universities (Irvine 2013:xv). 

19Including the Rosetta Stone, vital for the decipherment of ancient Egyptian and uncovered in July 1799. Ironically, most of the materials recovered by the French expedition (including the Rosetta Stone) were captured by the British and deposited in the British Museum in London, where they remain. 

20In fairness to Napoleon, the French expedition did establish the Institut d’Égypte in 1798, which, through various permutations and despite many vicissitudes, remains extant. 

21This practice persisted well into the 20th century. Howard Carter’s excavations in Egypt that led to the recovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen were largely funded by the Earl of Carnarvon. Similarly, Michael Moseley’s Contisuyo Project in southern Peru was substantially supported by the Pritsker family and Southern Peru Copper Corporation. Even in the 1970s foreign expeditions in countries like Iran and Jordan occasionally relied upon cash donations from team members (vidi). 

22Ann Kendall’s Cusichaca Project in Peru’s Urubamba Valley was joined by actively serving members of the Royal Engineers and other technical branches of the British Army for each year from 1978 to 1981. Similarly, the Colombian Amazonas Expedition 1977 in the basin of the Río Caquetá in the upper Amazon was organized by the British and Colombian armies, and took along a mixed group of scientists: archaeologists, ecologists, botanists, geologists and medics (pers. comm., Warwick Bray, 13 October 2018). 

23In Canada, federal and provincial agencies, working through universities, museums and first nations oversee the activities of academic archaeologists and cultural resource management bodies ( In Mexico, archaeological work is coordinated by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), whose permission is required to undertake archaeological work in Mexico ( Similarly, in Peru, the Ministry of Culture closely supervises all archaeological work and mandates that any development work of any nature certify the non-presence of archaeological material prior to development ( 

24The late Professor Grahame Clark of Cambridge University told his undergraduates in the late 1960s that they would be the first generation to make a living from archaeology without requiring a private income (pers. comm., Warwick Bray, 13 October 2018). 

25See McGuire 2008:22et seq. for a recent discussion of this topic. 

26An intellectual approach that could be seen as implicitly imperialist, and one that has been seen as quite explicitly imperialist by successive governments of Greece who have sought, so far fruitlessly and to their enormous public vexation, to have the Parthenon Friezes returned to Greece from their current home in the British Museum. 

27“Conçu dès sa création en 1793 comme un musée universel, ses collections, qui figurent parmi les plus belles au monde, couvrent plusieurs millénaires et un territoire qui s’étend de l’Amérique aux frontières de l’Asie.” From the website, [link accessed 18 July 2020]. 

28From [link accessed 18 July 2020]. 

29“Desde su concepción, este ícono de la arquitectura urbana del siglo XX, fue ideado para ser, más que un repositorio, un espacio de reflexión sobre la rica herencia indígena de nuestra nación multicultural.” From the website, [link accessed 18 July 2020]. 

30“Convertirnos en el centro piloto, líder del Perú y el mundo, promotor en el campo de la educación, conservación, investigación, exposición y difusión del patrimonio cultural que el museo alberga.” From the website, [link accessed 18 July 2020]. 

31For a partial list see Appendix 2. 

32The question of why these foreign physical institutions are accepted by the host countries is examined below. 

33The broad lack of contact between archaeologists in the United States and the United Kingdom more than a generation ago was discussed by Bray 1985. 

34L’Institut français d’études andines, or Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos, was founded in 1948 in Lima, has its principal base in Peru and operates in these other three Andean nations. The Institute does not specialize in archaeology. [link accessed 18 July 2020]. 

35In fact, even local archaeologists in countries such as Peru and Chile are hampered by the routine, wholesale replacement of senior personnel in museums and government departments every time there is a national election. That is, there is generally little long-term continuity in local academic environments and political rivalries can dominate the execution of archaeological projects. 

36See, for example, Morris and Thompson 1985 for a discussion of the surveys and excavations centered on the highland Peruvian site of Huánuco Pampa. 

37At this point one must quote Kent Flannery’s flippant but mordantly telling account of how his “Real Mesoamerican Archaeologist” character insouciantly described sending inexperienced graduate students to excavate sites in Mexico: “‘Of course,’ said R.M.A., ‘they’ll probably screw up a little at first, but the area’s so rich they’re bound to come up with something.’ In years to come, this philosophy was to put him on the Mexican government’s list of Ten Most Wanted Men” (Flannery 1976:14). 

38McGuire 2008, especially Chapter 4, “México”. McGuire makes the point (2008:186 n. 1) that he knows of no archaeological work by Mexican scholars carried out in either the United States or Canada. I acknowledge this point and take it further. 

39I do not deny that distinguished individual archaeologists from outside North America have often acted as informal consultants on sites they are visiting, at the request of the excavation directors: “…on my first professional experience in archaeology, as an undergraduate in 1958 at Point of Pines, Arizona, Gutorm Gjessing, the Norwegian Circum-polar anthropologist was invited by Emil Haury to do everything but direct excavations” (pers. comm., Tom Lynch, 7 October 2018). 

40This situation is obviously not confined to the Americas. Not one Turkish or Israeli archaeological team has ever excavated Roman sites (which would be an entirely appropriate exercise in either case) in Britain or Germany. Not a single Moroccan archaeological team has ever examined early Islamic remains in Spain. And not one team based in (say) Austria has ever excavated a Neolithic site in (say) Ireland. Egypt is the only developing nation to maintain a foreign academy, in Rome (see Appendix 2). 

41That there no such French academic institution in Mexico is almost certainly due to the long and tormented historical relationship of France and Mexico. 

42Professor Warwick Bray (pers. comm., 25 November 2018) noted that archaeological ecologist Ian Cornwall of the Institute of Archaeology at the University of London and the leading Mexican physical anthropologist at the time José Luis Lorenzo wished to establish a British School of Archaeology in Mexico, but nothing came of the idea. Subsequently, in 1973 Lorenzo conducted archaeological work in Peru, but under the auspices of UNESCO rather than Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, his own academic institution (Pérez Gollán 1997:19). 

43Although we have much less evidence of their activities and their local bases were far less extensive than later Greek and Phoenician colonies, even earlier permanent merchant settlements existed in the early 2nd millennium BC in what is now southeastern Turkey, at sites such as Karum Kaneš (modern Kültepe), where Assyrian merchants traded luxury items from Assyria for tin from local sources, and left detailed written records of their activities. See UNESCO 2014. 

44In opposition to this comment, one may point to the presence in many South American countries of well-known and locally influential schools (usually secondary-level and sometimes residential) explicitly founded on British, French, German and US models (Markham College in Lima, Colegio Franco Argentino in Buenos Aires, and so forth). However, these have always been intended to educate the children of the local gentry, rather than to be exclusively for non-local children. 

45For the tale of one such hapless individual, who escaped to Bolivia from Nazi Germany before the Second World War, married a Bolivian woman and became an art teacher and photographer, but who was rounded up by the Bolivian authorities at the behest of the US government, deported to an internment camp in Texas and thence repatriated to Germany before the war had ended, see Lein et al. 2008. 

46Even though modern communications allow close cross-border contact and cooperation (one need only consider the international Qapaq Ñan project to trace the entire Inca road network along the Andes), the physical movements of the various national teams stop at the borders. 

47I know of one, single, partial exception: the Mexican archaeologist Linda Manzanilla of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México led a team that worked at Tiwanaku in Bolivia, but this team was only one component of the US-Bolivian excavation project jointly headed by the University of Chicago and the Bolivian authorities. See Manzanilla 1992. 

48This attitude also pervades the approach to archaeology as taught and carried out in these nations. For example, one of Peru’s leading universities and centers for teaching archaeology, PUCP, does not offer courses in any archaeology other than that of Peru, and does not expect its graduates to work anywhere other than in Peru. [link accessed 18 July 2020]. We will know that this situation has changed and the nationalistic barriers have crumbled when teams from one Latin American country can both routinely work in another Latin American country, and – this is vitally important – can receive academic credit and support from their home archaeological establishments for having done so. Regrettably, I do not think we are there yet, but this remains a goal for scholars to pursue. 

Appendix 1

Papers presented at the session “The internationalization and institutionalization of archaeology in the Andes”, at the 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 10–14 April 2019.

  1. Monica Barnes, “John Murra’s ‘A Study of Provincial Inca Life’ Project; The Archaeological Survey”
  2. Clark L. Erickson and Samantha Seyler, “Don Lathrap, Precocious Civilization, and the Highland-Lowland Link in Andean Archaeology”
  3. Joel W. Grossman, “Seeing Underground: The Feasability of Archaeological Remote Sensing in Coastal and Highland Peru”
  4. Caroline Kimbell, Sara Lunt, and David Drew, “The Cusichaca Archive: History, Contents and Research Potential”
  5. Michael Moseley, Susan de France, Patrick Ryan Williams, and Donna Nash, “Corporate Copper: 37 Years of Programa Contisuyo Research in Southern Peru”
  6. Yuichi Matsumoto and Eisei Tsurumi, “From Kotosh to Pacopampa: Sixty Years of Japanese Investigations on the Andean Formative”
  7. Patricia Netherly, “The Diverse Legacies of the Virú Project”
  8. Carolina Orsini, “Italian Contributions to Andean Archaeology (1962–2018): An Unknown History”
  9. Jeffrey R. Parsons, Charles M. Hastings, and Ramiro Matos M., “Reflections on the Junín Archaeological Surveys, 1975–1981”
  10. Mario Rivera, “Junius Bouton Bird: The Archaeologist and Explorer”
  11. Lisa Trever, “Art, Archaeology, and Archives: Pañamarca at Midcentury”
  12. David Fleming, Alvaro Higuera, Discussants

Papers presented at the session “The Legacies of Archaeologists in the Andes”, at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC, 11–15 April 2018.

  1. Miguel Aguilar Diaz and Nils Sulca Huarcaya, “Rimasinkuchun Amawtapaq: Luis Lumbreras y Ayacucho en la formación de la tradición científica de la arqueología andina” [paper was not presented]
  2. Monica Barnes and Sumru Aricanli, “The Legacy of Andean Archaeologists from the American Museum of Natural History”
  3. Katrina Bettcher and Lidio Valdez, “The Archaeology of the Acarí Valley and the Legacy of Francis Allen ‘Fritz’ Riddell”
  4. David Chicoine, Gabriel Ramón, and Martha Bell, “The Berkeley Schools of Geography and Andean Studies”
  5. Neil Duncan and John Walker, “Donald Lathrap, the Tropical Forest, and Hemispheric Archaeology”
  6. John Janusek and Andrew Roddick, “Adolph Bandelier’s Legacy in the Lake Titicaca Basin: Tiwanaku and Qeya Ceramic Style”
  7. George Lau, “Tello and Carrión Cachot on Recuay Culture: A Visual Archaeology”
  8. Walther Maradiegue, “Images of the Living Past: 19th-Century Moche Archaeological Photographs and Everyday Indigeneity in the Northern Peruvian Andes”
  9. William Mitchell, “Working with Scotty: Perspectives on A Peripheral Paper Designed for the Ayacucho-Huanta Archaeological-Botanical Project”
  10. Mario Rivera, “The 1973 Seminar on the Lacustrine Kingdoms in the Titicaca Basin”
  11. John Walker and Neil Duncan, “Donald Lathrap, the Tropical Forest, and Hemispheric Archaeology”
  12. Daniel H. Sandweiss, Discussant

Appendix 2

A sample of permanent overseas archaeological institutions

(a) Non-Hellenic archaeological institutes/schools in Athens

  • American School of Classical Studies at Athens (1892)
  • Australian Archaeology Institute at Athens (1980)
  • Austrian Archaeological Institute at Athens (1898)
  • Belgian School at Athens (1985)
  • British School at Athens (1886)
  • Canadian Institute in Greece (1976)
  • Danish Institute at Athens (1992)
  • Finnish Institute at Athens (1984)
  • French School at Athens (1846)
  • Georgian Institute at Athens (1998)
  • German Archaeological Institute at Athens (1874)
  • Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens (1995)
  • Italian School of Archaeology in Athens (1909)
  • Netherlands Institute in Athens (1984)
  • Norwegian Institute at Athens (1989)
  • Rumanian Archaeological Institute in Athens (2017)
  • Swedish Institute at Athens (1948)
  • Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece (1964)

(b) Non-Italian archaeological institutes/schools in Rome

  • American Academy in Rome (1897)
  • Belgian Academy at Rome (1930)
  • British School at Rome (1901)
  • Danish Institute in Rome (1956)
  • Egyptian Academy (1929)
  • Finnish Institute in Rome (1954)
  • French Academy in Rome (1666)
  • German Academy in Rome/Deutsche Akademie Rom Villa Massimo (1910)
  • Hungarian Academy in Rome (1927)
  • Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (1904)
  • Romanian Academy in Rome (1920)
  • Spanish School of History and Archaeology in Rome (1910)
  • Swedish Institute in Rome (1925)
  • Swiss Institute in Rome (1947)

(c) British overseas archaeological institutes/schools

  • British School at Athens (1886)
  • British School at Rome (1901)
  • British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (1919; now the Kenyon Institute)
  • British Institute for the Study of Iraq (in Baghdad, formerly the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, 1932)
  • British Institute at Ankara (formerly the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, 1947)
  • British Institute in Eastern Africa (in Nairobi, formerly the British Institute of History and Archaeology in Eastern Africa, 1959)
  • British Institute of Persian Studies (in Tehran, 1961)
  • British Institute of Afghan Studies (in Kabul, established 1972, closed 1982)
  • British Institute in Amman (1975)


I thank Monica Barnes and Mario Rivera for the invitation to be a discussant in the Society for American Archaeology 2019 Symposium on “The internationalization and institutionalization of archaeology in the Andes”, and Barnes read many drafts of this paper prior to its presentation. Warwick Bray, Joel Grossman, Tom Lynch and James B. Richardson III offered perceptive comments on earlier versions. Dan Sandweiss provided many insights and suggested the specific focus of this symposium. Bernard K. Means and the members of the Society for American Archaeology’s History of Archaeology Interest Group (HAIG) designated the symposium the 2019 Biennial Gordon R. Willey Symposium on the History of Archaeology. None of the individuals listed above is in any way responsible for this paper’s conclusions.

Competing Interests

The author has no competing interests to declare.


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