Jim Leary published in April 2023 three creative essays on “Archaeologies of the Near Future” in Epoiesen: A Journal for Creative Engagement in History and Archaeology. This relates to his TAG session in 2021 with the same title.
Leary’s aim was to imagine the role of archaeology in the year 2223 of the common era. His goal:
“to project yourselves, not into the past, as archaeologists are wont to do, but into the near future – a future still two centuries away. To think about a future world in which we are the past. A future none of us will ever know, but one not so distant, I think, to be completely unimaginable.”
Did he succeed in what he calls “extreme horizon scanning” and “archaeo-futurology”? Only partly. The essay Brushstrokes questions a number of archaeological practices as we know them today, and it certainly does revolve around a fascinating idea not known from the present. The Site diary of an Interplanetary Heritage Officer is set on Mars (a bit as in the movie The Martian).
But much of the scenarios presented are less “unimaginable” and “extreme” than I was expecting and hoping for. Archaeology is still about discoveries about the past. Even on Mars there are interplanetary heritage officers maintaining the Martian Historic Environment Record, identifying interplanetary heritage sites (IHS), and designating Sites of Importance under the Outer Space Treaty. The narrator of the story did his PhD on the archaeology of starships and writes reports about a level 2 robotic survey recommending designation.
Time travel it may be, but not necessarily to the future.