What Heritage Pattern Do We Weave?

Positive academic discussions

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People construct their heritage from multiple layers of identity-based meaning. My visit to Pompeii was viewed through the lens of an archaeologist with no direct ancestral connections. Others may find a visit to Pompeii, the equivalent of punching a ticket to Disneyland. Some my regard Pompeii as a home to cultural ancestors. A feeling of shared heritage.

Paul Ramírez, in his paper “What Can We Weave? Authority, Reconstructing, and Negotiating Heritages Through Archaeological Open-Air Museums” uses the analogy of weaving a textile to get at the complexity of heritage.

I refer instead to images of weaving such as strands, threads, fibres, and baskets. Ultimately, this imagery is utilized to holistically consider the many aspects and agents that take part in heritage work, in the process.

Ramírez goes on to say that

The weavers of heritage are numerous and with their designs in mind. These designs become images that aim to fulfill differing needs and desires as brands.

I think using the idea of interweaving strands of thread to get at the complexity of heritage is an interesting idea. From this perspective, I wonder what the overall pattern is? If everybody is weaving their aspect of heritage, than how can we develop a finished product with a recognizable design. Is it abstract art?

In this analogy, I think it is the authorized heritage experts that layout the design of the textile to fit in conflicting notions of heritage. Undoubtedly a biased process, but one we rely upon for a cohesive public narrative.

Another important aspect of the paper is the discussion of heritage as related to open-air archaeology sites. Ramírez offers the intriguing idea that open-air archaeology sites, where archaeological research is still uncovering the heritage of the past, create places where people can participate in multiple heritages. I do think it becomes a type of scientific heritage, but one that changes as archaeologists unearth new information.


Ramírez, Paul Edward Montgomery. 2020. What Can We Weave? Authority, Reconstructing, and Negotiating Heritages Through Archaeological Open-Air Museums. Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 16: 1-27.

Smith, Laurajane. 2006. Uses of Heritage. Routledge, London.

Pompeii World Heritage Site

Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata


The site of Pompeii is part of the world heritage site that also includes Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata. Pompeii was inscribed onto the world heritage list in 1997. The famous volcanic explosion on the 24th of August 79 A.D. tragically sealed the fate of many. The entire town as it stood in 79 A.D is fairly well represented, and to walk these streets is to really get a sense and feel for what urban life was like in a Roman town.

Map Location

My wife and I visited this site in January of 2012, and we like to call it our “prehoneymoon” trip. We took our awesome vacation prior to our wedding rather than before.

Pompeii is located along the eastern coast of Italy in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. We were based in Rome for our trip so we took a train from Rome, to Naples, and then another to Pompeii. A highly recommended excursion from Rome. My wife and I do not speak Italian, however, it was an adventurous and interesting way to see other aspects of Italy.

In my introductory classes in archaeology as an undergraduate, Pompeii was always a site included in the textbook. An example of a static snapshot of what life was like at one point of time sealed by a volcanic eruption.

To see this site in person is an experience I will never forget. The greatest heritage aspect of this site, in my opinion, is the ability to walk an entire town. Walking through amphitheaters, a colosseum, a bakery, prostitute houses, temples, residential homes, etc. is a unique heritage experience.

A feeling of tragedy permeates the entire site, and a question of why we never seem able to learn our lessons from history. Mount Vesuvius will likely erupt again one day and will likely bury the city of Naples. Yet, people continue to live in the path of the volcano with each generation tempting fate.

Place of Ill Repute



Chavín de Huántar

Chavín de Huántar

At over 10,000 feet Chavín is the highest cultural world heritage site in the Americas.

Chavín was inscribed onto the World Heritage list in 1985.

The main occupations at Chavín date between 850-200 B.C. An early ceremonial center that contains a series of sunken courts and platform mounds. Depictions of animals that originate in the Amazonian basin indicate exchange between neighboring peoples was an important aspect of this society. This site represents an early Andean civilization and the development of a socially stratified society.

The Lanzón stone is a rock pillar in the shape of a lance and is located in Building B at the site.

The Chavín de Huántar site and the Lanzón stone has been laser scanned by CyArk, with detailed images and 3D models for viewing.


World Heritage: First Steps


Our heritage begins approximately 2 million years ago. An early hominid Homo habilis “handy man” began making simple pebble tools. This is our first evidence of our ancestors making and using tools.

Stone tools are not easy to make. Knowledge of rock properties and how to manipulate the properties of the rock to control how the rock fractures is required to make a stone tool.

The significance of this moment in time is the knowledge exhibited in making stone tools. This knowledge illustrates a culture had developed. It is not enough for one person to figure out how to make a stone tool by chance. After learning of the advantages of chipping stone for tools, these early people transmitted this knowledge to others in the group and to future generations. This is culture, this is heritage.

Discoveries of Homo habilis crania remains indicate this group had a larger brain size than previous generations. The larger brain size likely allowed for the development of higher order cognitive reasoning and the development of a culture.

Louis Leakey discovered, in the 1930s, these simple pebble stone tools in a sediment layer sandwiched between volcanic ash layers in Olduvai Gorge. Olduvai Gorge is located in the East African Rift Valley. The rift valley formed from the continental plate pulling apart and exposing ancient sedimentary layers dating to the development of our early ancestors. Potassium-Argon (K-Ar) dating of the ash layers provided an estimate of when these tools were made.

Louis Leakey defined the process of making these pebble tools and called it Oldowan technology after Olduvai Gorge. Oldowan technology is the oldest known cultural tradition preserved in earth’s heritage record.

First Steps: World Heritage Sites

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, located in the United Republic of Tanzania, was inscribed onto the world heritage list in 1979. This 809,440 ha site encompasses Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera, and Olduvai Gorge. The famous Lake Laetoli footprints, discovered by Mary Leakey, is also located in the park. The Lake Laetoli footprints provide evidence of early bipedalism approximately 3.6 million years ago.

Ngorongoro is also home to a diverse population of ungulates and the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa such as the lion. The Maasai, a pastoralist people, also inhabit a portion of the park for the grassland.