There are certain words or phrases that exist in the archaeological vernacular that drive me bonkers. For the people who use them, it’s often not their fault. I assume the words pass from person to person without much thought. Sometimes it may be from mentor to student, or other times from colleague to colleague. Either way, these words stink, and it’s not anyone’s fault they’re sticking around (except for lack of thoughtful reflection, perhaps).
- Virgin soil: Oh my god, this one drives me crazy. First of all… gross! At some point, did someone say, “hey, we need a word to describe this soil that has no cultural remains in it. Since I’m the first man to penetrate this dirt, I’ll call it virgin**.” Let’s stick with sterile soil, people. Sure, sterile has some funny medical connotations, but at least they apply to both genders.
- Campaign (as in excavation campaign): Are we in a war? Is it the colonial period again? Are we sojourning to the countryside? NO! So campaign should be replaced with less colonialist term.
- Patronage: Article introductions that list the sponsors, patrons, affiliations, institutional histories, and so on, are BORING! Put this in the acknowledgements like the rest of us. Try being specific when you say patron: did your patron give you money? Is your patron merely the institution with which you are affiliated? Are you a client, who has an obligation to your patron, similar to the Roman system of patronage? or the style of patronage which funded excavations when archaeologists were antiquarians (you know, like, a hundred years ago)?
These terms are distracting, and do nothing to further archaeological knowledge. Do me a favor and refrain from using them. Maybe in a couple decades they’ll be gone!
**note: Paradoxically, once you’ve penetrated virgin soil, it ceases to be virgin any longer!