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Old 11-29-2017, 04:04 AM   #32
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
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Location: The north-west of the Old World, east of the Sea
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Hypothetical discussions are all very well, but let us not forget that there is an actual, genuine, canonical archaeologist in Middle-earth, and his name is Gandalf.

Not convinced? Consider the following chain of events: when Gandalf decided to investigate a certain ancient artefact, his first thought was to trace the chain of custody. He knew that Bilbo had received the Ring from Gollum, but where had Gollum got it? He took Aragorn (a specialist in tracking) and went hunting for him.

But as with many archaeological investigations, it wasn't as easy as 'this is what we need to find, and here it is'. Met with apparent failure, Gandalf didn't give up, but moved onto a different avenue of investigation: the documentary archives at Minas Tirith. He delved through old texts until he found a primary source concerning the Ring, and how its identity could be established.

That would have been enough to go on, and indeed he started back to the Shire at that point, but then came word that Aragorn had found Gollum. Did Gandalf say 'welp, waste of time, I've got what I need'? No! He followed his archaeological instincts and got as much information as he could before reporting back.

Okay (you may say), but that was the Ring, it was kind of a big deal. True - except that Gandalf has a full-blown habit of investigating questions this way. They find a tomb in Moria, and what does he do? He immediately finds a primary source text to determine the events that led up to it (despite the obvious presence of orc-scimitars in the room, and the general time pressure the Fellowship were under). Admittedly it was only 25 years old, but that doesn't make it not archaeology!

When helping Thorin organise an expedition to the Lonely Mountain, he recruited Bilbo as someone who could enter the site without leaving any traces and extract artefacts without disturbing anything - call him a burglar or an archaeologist as you will! When he found ancient swords marked with runes that he (apparently?) couldn't read, he took them directly to Elrond, who is noted as knowing 'all about runes of every kind'. He also took Thror's map there, in case Elrond could get more information out of it than he could. Whenever he wanted to teach someone about a country, he did it by singing ancient songs - songs that no-one else seemed to know any more, that he had perhaps dug up out of the same archives as the Isildur text.

Of course, Gandalf was never a traditional archaeologist with shovels and trenches, but rather a documentary archaeologist, tracing written evidence whenever he could. Nor was he, admittedly, a particularly careful archaeologist - his reaction to priceless artefacts like Glamdring was 'plunder and use', so he's about on the level of the early Victorian stages of the science. But an archaeologist he most certainly was.

(All said with tongue firmly in cheek. Next up (not actually next up), a discussion of Tom Bombadil's investigative skills, and the decontextualisation of Barrow-wight treasure...)
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