Archaeological interpretation is an imaginative act. Stratigraphy and artefacts do not tell us what the past was like; that is the task of the archaeologist. The diverse group of contributors to this volume address the relationship between archaeology and imagination through the medium of historical fiction and fictive techniques, both as consumers and as producers. The fictionalisation of archaeological research is often used to disseminate the results of scholarly or commercial archaeology projects for wider public outreach. Here, instead, the authors focus on the question of what benefits fiction and fictive techniques, as inspiration and method, can bring to the practice of archaeology itself.

The contributors, a mix of archaeologists, novelists and other artists, advance a variety of theoretical arguments and examples to advance the case for the value of a reflexive engagement between archaeology and fiction. Themes include the similarities and differences in the motives and methods of archaeologists and novelists, translation, empathy, and the need to humanise the past and diversify archaeological narratives. The authors are sensitive to the epistemological and ethical issues surrounding the influence of fiction on researchers and the incorporation of fictive techniques in their work. Sometimes dismissed as distracting just-so stories, or even as dangerously relativistic narratives, the use of fictive techniques has a long history in archaeological research and examples from the scholarly literature on many varied periods and regions are considered.

The volume sets out to bring together examples of these disparate applications and to focus attention on the need for explicit recognition of the problems and possibilities of such approaches, and on the value of further research about them.


chapter 1|37 pages

Historical fiction and archaeological interpretation

ByDaniël van Helden, Robert Witcher

chapter 2|16 pages

The cornflakes of prehistory

Fact, fiction and imagination in archaeology
ByCaroline Wickham-Jones

chapter 3|16 pages

Voices from the silence

ByMargaret Elphinstone

chapter 4|18 pages

Beyond archaeological narrative

Imagined worlds of Neolithic Europe
ByMark Patton

chapter 6|19 pages

Walking in someone else’s shoes

Archaeology, empathy and fiction
ByDaniël van Helden, Robert Witcher

chapter 7|20 pages

The multiverse of fiction

Exploring interpretation through community archaeology
ByFrancesco Ripanti, Giulia Osti

chapter 8|20 pages

Entering undocumented pasts through playwriting

ByJames G. Gibb

chapter 9|16 pages

Encountering the past through slag and storytelling

ByMichael Given

chapter 10|26 pages

Writing wonders

Poetry as archaeological method?
ByErin Kavanagh

chapter 11|28 pages

Ambiguity and omission

Creative mediation of the unknowable past
ByGiacomo Savani, Victoria Thompson

chapter 12|17 pages

Spartacus: Blood and Sand (STARZ, 2010)

A necessary fiction?
ByFiona Hobden

chapter 13|8 pages

Archaeology, historical fiction and Classical Reception Studies

ByJoanna Paul

chapter 14|10 pages

Imagining the past through Film and Cultural Studies

ByAndrew B.R. Elliott

chapter 15|14 pages

Archaeological narrative and humour in a post-truth world

The obligatory sum-up article
ByAdrian Praetzellis