The ability to understand multiple perspectives on the use of archaeology in the contemporary world is critical to the practice of archaeology.
The practice of archaeology has broadened to include an array of approaches to ensure that it serves the needs of all segments of society. As questions of “who owns the past” and “what service does archaeology give the public” linger, it becomes necessary to highlight why archaeology is important, particularly in the framework of sustainable development. Given the multitude of benefits the discipline offers to society, this article reflects on the role of archaeology in national development within Eritrea. A summarized perspective is highlighted to emphasize the important ways archaeological knowledge contributes to enhance our lives, both at the individual and community level, and the well-being of our nation.
The term sustainable development, in addition to referring to the crusade to fight endemics and reduce poverty, addresses the efforts made by humans and societies who possess an identity and a history. Development is not only about education or infrastructure, but also the efforts to create a common understanding among people in a nation. The construction of identities for people who share a common past is a particular area where archaeological research and interpretation can play a significant role. This is especially true in the context of countries like Eritrea where much of the past has been misrepresented amid colonial legacies and distortions.
In Eritrea, the birth of archaeology as a discipline following independence aimed to provide an authentic representation of the country´s past within the confines of scientific practice. The need to build a coherent and authentic narrative of Eritrea´s past is outlined in the National Charter and archaeology is vital to addressing that need. Archaeology transcends the limitations of written records and it can reveal detailed stories when no documents exist. Conjectures, myths, constructs, and distortions have infused the representations of our past. The need to provide correct narratives is integral to building national identity and consciousness in Eritrea.
Having emphasized the national course, archaeology promotes cultural understanding among different people and communities in the country through revealing the past. Archaeology has the ability to bring communities together in a variety of meaningful ways. Through archaeology, national, cultural, and ethnic identity can be preserved and solidified. All across the world, archaeology has the ability to unite people of a common heritage in ways that nothing else can. The emphasis on the technological, aesthetic, and spiritual appeal of various civilizations that flourished in the northern Horn of Africa is significant in promoting cultural understanding among different communities and is thus crucial for regional peace. The correct representation of the past through scientific archaeological studies is not only important for national development. It can also play a significant role in regional cooperation, which is important for peaceful co-existence among societies and countries in the Horn.
Archaeology has great educational potential for the general public. Archaeological information is brought to the public through museums, interpretive sites, and cultural institutions. Exhibit designers and museum curators use archaeological research for informative programs and interpretive displays. These platforms provide an opportunity to reflect on the diversity of the human experience in an engaging and informative way. They bring light to the past, making it accessible to everyone and allowing visitors to connect the past to their own lives. These forums also encourage general participation in interpreting the past and safeguarding the archaeological record. The ability to translate the findings of archaeological studies into a format understood by the general public is made possible by the creation and flourishing of these institutions. Archaeology promotes the development of institutions that preserve history, such as museums. The opening of museums in Eritrea was partly guided by these motives.
As an academic discipline, archaeology can also promote national development. Education fosters development in a number of ways. The integration of the representation of Eritrea´s past in the curriculum of elementary, junior high, secondary, and tertiary level education plays an important role in building national identity and supporting national development.
Undoubtedly, archaeology is tremendously important to the growth of the tourism industry in Eritrea. It is expected that with the massive archaeological heritage resources in Eritrea, the economy will thrive as a result of the benefits that archaeological tourism produces. The need to balance the preservation of our heritage resources and promote them for tourism will be an increasingly important dilemma in the near future. Unique archaeological sites can attract many tourists and help increase foreign exchange. The presentation and preservation of our heritage resources should be seen as a way to increase tourism and promote national development. The conservation of archaeological resources can be properly conducted with foresight, guidance, and adequate planning.
Importantly, archaeology can support rural development in different ways. Surveys of the landscape can provide information about long-term land use, agricultural sustainability, indigenous knowledge systems, human- or naturally-induced environmental change, and the human effect on biodiversity. As well, archaeological research can offer insights into the problems we face today. For example, it can help us better understand broad patterns of human adaptation to massive global climate change or community responses to local environmental shifts. An archaeological perspective can also provide us with a better understanding of how human resource consumption affects our environment.
In conclusion, it is clear that archaeological research provides us with a number of important benefits. However, we still need to comprehend its full value. Archaeological research in Eritrea aims to involve the society in preserving and interpreting the past. A harmonious relationship and partnership is crucial for the practice and will help ensure a better understanding of not only the Eritrean past, but also its present.