Marshall College scandal: Dr. Jones denied tenure!

Love you anyway!

Sad, but true.  Here’s an excerpt from the Archaeology department’s T & P committee letter to Dr. Jones (h/t Monocle Man for this one):

January 22, 1939

Assistant Professor Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr.
Department of Anthropology
Chapman Hall 227B
Marshall College

Dr. Jones:

As chairman of the Committee on Promotion and Tenure, I regret to inform you that your recent application for tenure has been denied by a vote of 6 to 1. Following past policies and procedures, proceedings from the committee’s deliberations that were pertinent to our decision have been summarized below according to the assessment criteria.

Demonstrates suitable experience and expertise in chosen field:

The committee concurred that Dr. Jones does seem to possess a nearly superhuman breadth of linguistic knowledge and an uncanny familiarity with the history and material culture of the occult. However, his understanding and practice of archaeology gave the committee the greatest cause for alarm. Criticisms of Dr. Jones ranged from “possessing a perceptible methodological deficiency” to “practicing archaeology with a complete lack of, disregard for, and colossal ignorance of current methodology, theory, and ethics” to “unabashed grave-robbing.” Given such appraisals, perhaps it isn’t surprising to learn that several Central and South American countries recently assembled to enact legislation aimed at permanently prohibiting his entry.

Moreover, no one on the committee can identify who or what instilled Dr. Jones with the belief that an archaeologist’s tool kit should consist solely of a bullwhip and a revolver.

I wonder if in the 1930s even professional archaeologists were very much different from grave robbers.  (At least, here in the American Southwest, there was a lot of grave robbing of Anasazi and Puebloan sites that was not only tolerated, but celebrated and rewarded by academia!)  Archaeologists, please fill us in on the (comparably recent) professionalization of your field.

5 thoughts on “Marshall College scandal: Dr. Jones denied tenure!

  1. I’ll just note for the record here that this applicant clearly uses/used the neologistic–or maybe I should say “neo-SPELLogistic”–form of his preferred nom-de-prof. Inability to hit a crater-wide bed of magma with a human offering(for which specification see the link) would disturb any credible body of adjudicators and at least suggest the need for re-review in a subsequent year. The most intriguing part of the report is the committee’s expressed disdain for Dr. Jones’s “complete lack of disregard for…current methodology.” At some edgier institutions than dear old Marsh C., that might have been viewed as an unmitigated plus, depending on the direction of departure for said methodology, the interpretive results, and the applicant’s q-score on various citation indexes. I wonder what would happen if we made search committee members take a step back and not pass GO in the event that hires flamed out several years later? Or maybe even penalized whole departments in the coin of the realm, such as three pallets of reams of copier paper in the year of the denial? Just kidding.


  2. My experience, with emphasis on my, is that tenure is seldom denied based on professional basis. If it were, half of my department would be cashiers (and rightly so). Naturally then, I would treat the letter as a cover to what exactly was the real cause of tenure denial. My guess, “she knows too much” or jealousy and risk avoidance.


  3. This has been floating around my facebook wall for a while, shared by various colleagues and friends all excited to remind us that we decided to become academic archaeologists because we watched Indiana Jones as a kid! It’s quite funny.

    In answer to your question about archaeology, as you probably know, it started out as an outgrowth of antiquarianism and had become quite popular by the end of the 19th century. I’m not entirely certain of when the first academic positions specifically in archaeology became available (although many people came from a Classics background and/or were in Egyptology), but V Gordon Childe, one of the most famous early archaeologists, was the Abercromby Professor of Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh from 1927-1946. The Abercromby Professorship was established in 1916, but Childe was the first to hold the position. John Abercromby, who endowed the chair, was similar to the more famous (today) Augustus Pitt-Rivers: both were soldiers, gentlemen (in the class sense), titled, Oxford-educated, and connected with societies like the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

    Another early figure in academic archaeology, Flinders Petrie, held the first chair in Egyptology, the Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology, at University College London. This was set up as a bequest of Amelia Edwards (another amateur antiquarian and quite an interesting Victorian lady) in 1892.

    Another early sign of academic archaeology is that Mortimer Wheeler, who would go on to be a very famous archaeologist in the 20th century, took up a studentship in archaeology offered by UCL in 1913; his first job out of uni was to work for England’s Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, which evolved into English Heritage, today the main governmentally-funded archaeology authority in England.

    However, many archaeologists from the late 19th and early 20th centuries held PhDs and/or were professors in other related fields: classics, philology, and anthropology. Outside of the UK, Max Uhle, a German archaeologist famous for his work in South America, received his PhD in philology from Leipzig in 1880. Dorothy Garrod, famous for her work in Palestine on the Palaeolithic (and incidentally the first woman to hold an Oxbridge chair), had a degree in anthropology, but went on to be the Disney Professor of Archaeology in 1939 (which may be the oldest archaeology professorship — established in 1851).

    Finally, as for the southwestern US — I don’t know too much about it, although I have read a book by Richard Wetherill (who was not a professional archaeologist and was the very essence of what we might consider a ‘graverobber’ today). Alfred Kidder, known for his work at Mesa Verde, had a PhD in anthropology from Harvard. In general, in the US, archaeology has been treated as a sub-field of anthropology. Kidder started the Pecos Conferences, which continue to this day, to discuss southwestern archaeology (these were started in the 1920s).

    All of the people I’ve mentioned above were instrumental in developing the archaeological methods that are still in use in the field, although ethical concerns and technology have changed some of those things. Stratigraphic techniques, developed from cross-disciplinary ties with geology and geography, were well-developed by the 1920s/1930s and excavation methods were generally standardised (although occasionally one will come across some terrible excavation standards in older field reports) (then again, new ones can be just as bad if not led by a conscientious field director!). Ethically, archaeology’s development has been similar to anthropology, probably because of the close ties between the two. Archaeology did lagged behind anthropology in some post-modern theory, but nowadays things like Marxist archaeology (which V Gordon Childe was an early proponent of), feminist archaeology, queer archaeology, etc. are all well recognised, taught as part of most curriculums, and spoken about at conferences/published in journals.

    The short answer: archaeology became an academic discipline in the late 19th/early 20th century; field techniques had progressed beyond disorganised ‘grave robbing’ in many places by the 1920s/1930s, and archaeology progressed in a similar way to anthropology through all of the ethical and philosophical movements of the 20th/early 21st centuries.


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