Future Archaeology

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Future Archaeology: Macaulay's New Zealander

Gustave Doré
Science fiction often invokes archaeology. Even before science fiction an early invocation of a future New Zealand archaeologist was that of Lord Macaulay (1840)[1].

"And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's."

Conceivably the sketcher must be an archaeologist and in 1840 must have been taken as being a Maori New Zealander.

The quote is from an essay about the Catholic Church ("she" in this case) and Macaulay was using the idea to emphasise - despairingly - the persistence of that church. His point was to exaggerate that persistence rather than to explore the idea of a Maori archaeologist in the future - but still the idea is there. Macaulay wrote in poetic form on Ancient Rome (written in India) and in other form on his ideas of the future, so he was used to spanning time.

The idea was not entirely original (see Colenso 1882)[2] and the quotation has been the subject of other essayists [3]

The quotation is often shortened to one starting with "...some" - but that rather looses his point.

Distant relative Rose Macaulay amongst her many other works wrote on The Pleasure of Ruins (1953) but did not include her relative's vision of London in ruins.

Of course for a future archaeologist to stand on the arch now requires a relocation to the site of the rebuilt bridge in Arizona [4].

Noted French illustrator Gustave Doré was inspired to depict the scene but no Maori characteristics can be discerned.

References

  1. Thomas Babington Macaulay 1840 Essay, On Ranck's "History of the Popes". Edinburgh Review
  2. A FEW REMARKS ON THE HACKNEYED QUOTATION OF "MACAULAY'S NEW ZEALANDER." By W. Colenso, F.L.S. [Read before the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Institute, 12th June, 1882.]- on line at http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Stout65-t2-body-d2.html accessed July 2014
  3. e.g.David Skilton - see http://traumwerk.stanford.edu/projects/71/47 and Aidan Baker http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/CULIB/CULIB51/culib_51.htm
  4. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Bridge_(Lake_Havasu_City) Accessed March 2015