Archaeology is wide open in regards to its deepest meaning as a science and its profound implications as a living process, and archaeology is like water – the harder you try gripping its edges to define it, the faster it slips from your palm.
Amongst many sub-definitions, archaeology means carefully excavating the evidence of a dynamic, evolving, often subtle, sometimes overbearing and obvious collective consciousness that simultaneously rests as the result and acts as the creative agency for a sentient group of beings we refer to as the human race.
Given time, and a developed sixth sense about where, when, and how to best excavate substantiating evidence of collective consciousness begs the question, “What would be considered valid evidence of a conscious element such as a spiritual faith unproven yet known as a shared experience?” In the hard science though interpretive art of archaeology, symbols known to evoke a collective specific significance may act as evidence or aid in pointing to evidence of a collective mode of thought of our hoary past. These symbols are known as icons and the study and interpretation of these symbols is referred to as “iconography.”
These symbols, in and of themselves, are not so valuable. It is the shared conscious experience from which the symbol evolved – the cross as a symbol of torture and death, an end – to the birth of a new aspect of collective consciousness that the same symbol journey’s through in its ever dynamic becoming – the cross as a symbol of political power, and finally, the cross as a symbol of humility and faith that humanity is a small part of a much larger and intelligent agency and we do not end so much as we transform in God’s light.
An icon may not always relate to the current artistic sensibility, though often it is art, however, an icon is always alive with a sense of creativity, that sense of what it was, and what it may become.
Icons are found on buildings, pottery, funereal apparatus, jewelry, eating utensils, tools, in manuscripts, on clothing, symbols urging us to war and to peace. Icons can be welcoming or warning. As a rule, to be classified as an icon, the symbol in question must have evolved and sustain or create a collective consciousness message.
The study of iconography does not stop at archaeology. The study of symbols in the history of our collective consciousness have been made famous in behavior sciences such as Jungian Psychology, and in the psychology of advertising and the fine arts. That archaeological iconography is alive and well creates new meanings and responses waiting to be discovered. Today’s refuse is alive with tomorrow’s golden story of our past.