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Historical reconstructions have had considerable success for a number of years. Long discredited and criticized, these are now essential and take many forms. By their evocative power and their intrinsic uncertainties, they pose a certain number of problems. The part of the imagination that most of these interpretations take on tends to disappear in the face of the finite nature of the production offered to the public.
It is on this problem, on the different forms of reconstruction and the tools used that the new issue of Archeology files titled “Reliving the Past. The restitution of monuments and archaeological sites ”and coordinated by Jean-Claude Golvin and Marc Azéma dedicates its pages.
First of all, it should be noted that the dossier offers a wide variety of articles. If Antiquity constitutes the heart of the dossier, prehistory is not to be outdone and the questions posed by the restitutions over this period make it possible to measure that a production of this kind can end up in a museum by its historiographical interest. For antiquity, we can think of the 19th century models kept at the National Archaeological Museum of Saint-Germain-en-Laye which echo those of the Arles Antique museum and which benefits from an article in this file. Reconstructions do not only come in the form of a model: digital 3D reconstructions and drawings are an essential, but not exclusive, part of the productions in the field at the beginning of the 21st century. The watercolors of Jean-Claude Golvin offering views of ancient cities are particularly appreciated and have given rise to the publication of numerous works.
Each contributor presents a project on which he has collaborated and explains the issues and the methods used. This file leaves a large place to the computer techniques used today as in the article on the 3D rendering of the decorated cave of the Baume-Latrone and to the artistic choices as in the article on the reconstruction of ancient Nîmes. This last article shows that 3d renditions can be influenced by traditional renditions for the viewing pleasure of the viewer. The last articles are devoted to contemporary uses of reconstruction. The first two articles are devoted to comics with an article on the comic strip Blake and Mortimer and the Horus room which benefited from a life-size reconstruction during the exhibition at the Carré Sainte-Anne in Montpellier in 2005 on the work by Edgar P. Jacobs and another on the restitution of Antiquity by Jacques Martin in his comics. This article shows how the lack of reconstruction has led teachers and textbook authors to use these drawings which pose a certain number of problems identified since the 1980s. Finally, a last article is devoted to restitutions for television and cinema. This last part is very pleasant and allows you to get out of the educational and scientific uses of restitutions.
Once again, les dossiers d'archéologie offers us a successful issue bringing together various contributions that complement each other despite everything, as the coordinators of this dossier indicate. This historiographical and epistemological assessment is welcome at a time when this practice is spreading. Accessible and once again richly illustrated, this file shows that if history is written in the present, the reconstruction is also created in the present and that by its evocative power and its wide distribution, its creation must require certain precautions and that it It is necessary for professionals as well as for the curious to wonder about the conditions of productions. Certain excesses are denounced, as in the last article on television and cinema renditions, which could lead the public to a skepticism which would harm the message that the actors wanted to convey.
Relive the past, the restitution of monuments and archaeological sites. Archeology Files n ° 361. January-February 2014.