Archaeology of the Soul
Is there such a Thing?
Zahi Hawass

I received a book written by two American friends, a man and a lady, the book discusses Archeology of the Soul called Showing Up! They asked me to write a preface for this book. When I first began to read the book, I mistook it for just another New Age work of imagination. There are many writers and books that claim to base their own theories upon the wisdom and the practices of the ancients, but they have little or no foundation. Upon a closer examination of the book I began to see elements in Showing Up! that set it apart from that scene.

The word archaeology means simply the study of things ancient. Such a broad definition leaves the discipline open to investigate any aspect of an ancient civilization. Traditionally, archaeologists base their studies upon hard, tangible, verifiable evidence.  Archaeology is grounded in scientific method, that is a careful and methodical examination, interpretation and preservation of the physical remains of ancient civilizations.  It makes use of the skills of many scientific disciplines to shed light upon the physical evidence unearthed from the ground. All evidence, however, is subject to interpretation, and the clues left for by our ancestors rely upon the wisdom and senses of the archaeologist to communicate their meaning and importance to the world. Communicating the importance of a find is fairly direct. Communicating its meaning is quite another matter. True understanding of the religious or spiritual practices of an ancient people often eludes us as we endeavor to interpret and reconstruct them through only the physical remains of temple walls, votive objects and inscriptions. We continue the practices but the impact and effect of the actual people often remains a mystery. As I once heard Mme Perreault say in reference to working with pottery shards, "without the soul of the person who drank from it, it’s just a broken cup".

Brian Fagan, anthropologist at UC Santa Barbara, in his recent book, From Black Land to the Fifth Sun, called this yet uncharted pursuit, the archaeology of the intangible, a new, somewhat gray area of our profession that dares to ask hard questions that were considered taboo just a decade or two ago. “How did ancient peoples actually relate to the world around them, what were their true beliefs and attitudes?” In what ways can traditional archaeology discover these answers? These questions walk a fine line between our established scientific approach and what Fagan calls the free-for-all world of imagination and pseudo-science.

And yet, while archaeologist will publish only which they can prove with tangible evidence, there is an almost magical inner feeling that goes along with archaeological work. The feeling of wonder that accompanies any new discovery is virtually indescribable. People often ask me, Well, it’s not really as exciting as Indiana Jones, now is it? And I reply that to the archaeologist, yes, it certainly is. So where do we draw the line? At some point in time, a body of work may arise that bridges these gaps.

Unlike other works of this kind that I have seen, in Showing Up!, Mme Perreault’s early studies in archaeology coupled with Mr. Horres practice as an attorney give each of them the ability to examine and experience the questions and issues raised in their work free of prejudice or preconceived expectation that seem to pervade other works of this nature. Their experiences in the various ancient way which they have gathered comparative information from a host of ancient cultures and then worked to corroborate it, albeit their own experiences, is admirable. With respect to the Egyptian elements of Showing Up!, the meaning they attach to the sky goddess Nut, the daily cycle she governs and how deeply ancient Egyptians may have embraced it is not something that can be verified archaeologically, but, it is not out of the realm  of possibility. Their spiritual interpretation of the New Kingdom temples is radical, but raises interesting questions about the depth of information that may be gathered from the remains of the monument. The temple as a model for healing and spiritual growth is, once again, beyond the scope of archaeology to assess. However, if Schwaller de Lubicz’s claim proves to be correct, that the same mathematical functions used to build medieval cathedrals are also found at the Temple of Amon in Luxor, that matter may indeed deserve further study.

So, archaeology of the soul? Is there such a thing? I leave that to you, the reader, to decide. Do the work and make your own discoveries. Showing Up! Certainly makes a good and solid case for it.

BACK to The Plateau Homepage