Night of the Living ‘Things’: Zombie Archaeology Reply

By Eric Fleischmann

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “archaeology” as “the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artefacts and other physical remains.” The OED also defines the word “zombie,” in the context of popular fiction, as “a person or reanimated corpse that has been turned into a creature capable of movement but not of rational thought, which feeds on human flesh.” The former word’s definition would generally be taken as meaning humans actively uncovering essentially inert objects. But what if those objects are themselves active? What if they force themselves upon us? Instead of us brushing aside the dust of ages to reveal our own past, artifacts rise from the grave—bursting forth and dragging our history back to us. This is where the zombification comes into play. Now certainly many professional archaeologists would reject the previously stated “inert objects.” Archaeologist Michael Shanks describes his field as “an active engagement with remains of the past in the present” and explains its mission as seeking to “understand how people connect with the things they make, to place people in the networks of others – other people, things, other species, environments – that make them who they are.” But this form is still about the human present analyzing the human past, as opposed to the that past malignantly and physically haunting our present. This proposed necromantic behavior of abandoned items presents itself as a zombie archaeology.