A propos of a current discussion about these topics in the WAC list, this is my point of view:
-Groups like neo-Druids are interesting to study from a sociological and cultural/social anthropological point of view, as symptoms of contemporary society.
-There is NO CONTINUITY between our prehistoric or proto-historic past and our present in Europe, and that discontinuity makes all the interest of the study of those remote pasts – it is precisely their difference that makes them interesting.
- all those myths come basically from the XIX century and should be overcome today: but we know what is the dynamics of mass culture in our society – the fabrication/consuming of “fast pasts” as fast food for most people that seem to like that. This is also connected to modern tribalism, the need people have to identify with something, some niche available in the market – the commodification of identity in an epoch of fluidity.
- the situation is completely different in countries where there are descendants of people that lived there and were the victims of European expansion. In these cases archaeology, as a Western invented practice, must be negotiated case per case with local populations in (as much as possible) a fair and equal basis. Maybe many communities accept that the best way to pay respect to their ancestors is precisely to study them and to put them into an “exhibitionary complex” (T. Bennet) that is intrinsic to our modern globalized society.
- This is the interesting point of all this: archaeology does not proceed in the vacuum, it is a politic, engaged activity even when it says that science has nothing to do with politics. That a-politicization is of course political.
- a dead body is not like an empty banana skin (comparison made by one of the contributors to the discussion) in any known human society. Because we are not isolated as individuals, we belong to a society where we were born, a dead body (and its place of deposition) is very important as the focus of the mourning work for those who survive to us.
- I am an agnostic too, and I do not believe in transcendental entities, including a soul that would remain after my death. That for me is simply too infantile to be true. But I respect the memory of others to whom my death may be painful (I admit) and that need my dead body, as long as it remains, or any other symbol of me (a photo, a place etc), as a reference for their mourning.