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Public Presentations and Private Concerns: Archaeology in the Pages of National Geographic


Joan Gero and Dolores Root examine how archaeology is represented in National Geographic and how it has been tied to the formation of the dominant political ideology in the United States. The authors argue that the magazine’s coverage of archaeology helps to further the ideological goals and perspectives of American expansionism and capitalism. The article follows the evolution of the National Geographic Society, which was founded in 1899 to promote geographic education and understanding, and its magazine from a storehouse of geographical knowledge to a platform for reporting on human interest stories set in exotic settings. Since the first National Geographic issue containing exotic photos was released in 1903, there has been a continuing curiosity about the geography of foreign females (Gero et al., 1990). The authors argue that the rise of National Geographic Magazine reflects the expansion of American power around the world, with the magazine sharing the nation’s values and serving the government in a variety of ways, including the provision of maps and photographs to the armed forces intelligence and security branches.

The author claims that National Geographic’s coverage of ancient findings encourages viewers to harbor imperialist aspirations. As this article demonstrates, the publication promotes a Eurocentric viewpoint that portrays indigenous people as primitive and backward, distorting and misrepresenting their history and practices. According to the author, the United States is depicted as more advanced and civilized than other countries because National Geographic images of “the Other” is often manipulated to highlight the contrast with American life and values (Gero et al., 1990). Furthermore, the study contends that the magazine’s coverage of archaeology is skewed due to its ideological and nationalistic connotations, as well as its systematic geographic, thematic, and chronological emphases.

This article also investigates how the prevailing political ideology in the United States promotes expansionism, imperialism, and capitalism and how National Geographic Magazine has contributed to this process. According to the authors, the newspaper is in sync with the United States political and economic ambitions since it serves the interests of the country’s capitalist elite. By raising significant questions about archaeology’s connection with the news media and government, the article promotes careful discussion of archaeology’s position in contemporary society (Gero et al., 1990). The authors believe that if archaeologists are to create a more egalitarian, diverse, and socially responsible technique for investigating and interpreting the past, they must be cognizant of the ideological context in which their work is presented. The study contributes significantly to the critical investigation of the relationship between media depictions of archaeology and political ideology.

However, the authors of this study argue that National Geographic’s coverage of archaeology is neither neutral nor objective. It is instead organized in a way that promotes American ideas and interests. Images of archaeologists uncovering antiquities in exotic locales such as Egypt or Mexico, for example, are frequently idealized and thrilling. The accompanying writings highlight the excitement of uncovering precious relics while ignoring the social and political environment in which archaeologists work (Gero et al., 1990). The portrayal of archaeology in National Geographic Magazine reinforces the notion that historical objects are private property rather than essential to the growth of continuing civilizations. It contributes to the widespread notion that non-Western civilizations need Western involvement and governance since Western culture is superior to theirs. By presenting archaeology in this fashion, National Geographic Magazine serves the objectives of American imperialism and capitalism rather than developing a more nuanced and critical understanding of the past.

Moreover, the authors argue that National Geographic’s coverage of archaeology demonstrates how the social, political, and economic milieu in which knowledge is formed has a significant influence on the ultimate product. Archaeology is used here to support rather than challenge or complicate the dominant paradigm of American imperialism and capitalism. In addition, the author goes on to suggest that the magazine’s bias toward Western archaeology and the achievements of Western civilization gives the message that Western culture is superior (Gero et al., 1990). The publication instills in Western readers a sense of cultural superiority by stressing the exploits of Western explorers and archaeologists, as well as the achievements of ancient Greece and Rome.

Notwithstanding, the author goes on to say that the newspaper often deviates from its professed editorial ideals of impartiality, fairness, and praiseworthiness. Rather than concentrating on the nuance and complexities of the historical record, the journal typically sensationalizes and simplifies its coverage of archaeological sites and discoveries. The author argues that this tactic is motivated by a desire to capture readers’ attention and strengthen the magazine’s image as a reliable source of widely accessible worldwide news and opinion. Finally, this study provides a thorough examination of how archaeology is depicted in National Geographic. It focuses on how the publication supports American imperialism and capitalism by supporting American interests, points of view, and values. As a result, it serves as a helpful reminder that knowledge generation is always contextual and never apolitical and that we must be cautious of how information is created and utilized.


Gero, J. and Root, D., 1990. Public presentations and private concerns: Archaeology in the pages of National Geographic. The politics of the past, pp.19-37.


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