Publication: Bishop (2419): Lest we forget Troy - Importance of archaeological excavation

ABSTRACT Archaeological excavation, despite the advancements in the past few centuries, remains a destructive endeavour. Where possible, archaeologists now attempt to complete remote scans without even having to touch the surface. However, there remain times where physical excavation is required, for example for rescue archaeology, or where scans are unable to penetrate the surface, or build a good picture of the archaeology within. Thus, it remains imperative that proper archaeological practice is used; careful recording and analysis of the excavated material.

This paper outlines the best possible practices for archaeological excavation, with examples from the author’s own excavations. It outlines where poor archaeological practice can destroy and render archaeology worthless, as well as how it fuels the black-market trade of artefacts which only seek to hinder our attempts to understand the past.

Dr Samuel Bishop is a Starfleet Captain, in command of the U.S.S. Endeavour. He has participated and led numerous excavations as well as having many publications in journals and books. As part of his Starfleet duties, he has helped to further archaeological study in the Aldebaran Sector as well as combating archaeologically related piracy.


REVIEW In his article, Captain Bishop attempts to categorise archaeological excavations as a purely scientific pursuit. He employs a strict military discipline in his excavations, akin to that espoused by archaeologists such as Sir Mortimer Wheeler (Human), Vurak, (Vulcan), and Nebet (Gorn). To Captain Bishop, each stage of the excavation must be done with absolute precision, every shard, rock, and speck of soil meticulously recorded. Bishop seeks to take the humanity out of the archaeology, focusing on only the scientific study of objects. Not only this, Bishop espouses that “archaeological excavation should not take place unless sufficient personnel and resources are made available”. This is in stark contrast to his statement about how archaeological excavations are done for rescue purposes.

Bishop fails to grasp the realities of archaeological excavation. His demands of archaeological practice are, quite frankly, unattainable. Bishop exemplifies the breed of archaeologist who prioritises archaeological excavation above all else, to the extent that they would attempt to preserve archaeology instead of humanitarian aid. Furthermore, it highlights the issue of having archaeological specialists who do not command sufficient excavation experience; there is no way that Captain Bishop could have the experience needed in archaeological excavation whilst carrying out his duties as a Starfleet Captain. And yet, perhaps, because of his pedigree, one of the leading journals in Federation archaeology saw fit to publish his article. Those who peer-reviewed his paper should be ashamed.

Dr Vittoria Kiso is a researcher as part of the Loric Qotar Foundation.


From the title itself, Captain Bishop’s article adresses a problem which has accompanied archaeology since the times of Heinrich Schliemann, Ciriaco d’Ancona or Winch Wogral: why do we dig? As the examined piece subtly highlights, the reason for which we excavate guides us, so to speak “we must first define our goals in order to choose the correct tools”, as Bishop himself puts it. Although the article describes in detail a range of excavation methods and techniques, using also examples from Captain Bishop’s own experiences, it does not want to be a technical handbook. Rather, it seems to focus on the reasons behind the use of strict and correct methodology, outlining the old and new dangers of the oldest of archaeological methods.

Although archaeology is not one of those sciences which were once called “hard”, it nevertheless needs, as any scholarly endeavour does, a firm methodology and, mostly, discipline in its approach. The consequences of a “warmer” course have been made abundantly clear in this discipline’s history such as the example found in the very title of this article. Highlighting this need is one of this essay’s main merits, reminding us of something which, in our enthusiasm and technology-given security we too often forget. That is not to say that the methodologies here described are for everyone and it is clear that Captain Bishop’s Starfleet bred discipline bleeds into his research philosophy. Furthermore, he seems to forget that not every team has the numbers and equipment guaranteed by affiliation with Starfleet and a more generic approach, adaptable and diversely applicable would have been more useful. That said, not every team must also contend with keeping the peace or having to rescue the local population while researching and preserving knowledge and combating those who would monetize it. We hope that a future work, or expansion on this article will further address and expand upon the problems born of artifact poaching and the moral quandary derived by the necessity to help local populations, while preserving their heritage; something a Starfleet captain has undoubtably more experience in than the average archaeological researcher.

Dr Hercule P. Legrasse is a Starfleet commander posted on Deep Space 13 where he continues his research into musical archaeology.