Reconstructing the Past

The site of Knossos is a very popular place. Nearly one million tourists pass through this archaeological park every year, making it one of the most visited locations in all of Greece. This is largely due to the fact that, unlike other Minoan sites, this palace was extensively reconstructed by Evans and is therefore easier for the average visitor to understand. Some, though, have questioned both the accuracy of Evans’ restorations and the overall effect they have had on the actual remains of the site. From their point of view, the reconstructions have introduced incorrect ideas about the past. What is more, they point out that the materials Evans chose (cement instead of wood, for example) have caused the site irreparable damage. http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2010/06/palace-of-knossos-discovery-and.html#.UkzhEGQa80w This raises the question of whether it is better to leave things in an unrestored state if we cannot know for certain their original appearance. These issues are not limited to Knossos. Here is a recent discussion of the merits of reconstruction at Pompeii. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/29/restore-painting-pompeii-itself?newsfeed=true And here’s an informative article concerning the restoration of the Parthenon in Athens. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Unlocking-Mysteries-of-the-Parthenon.html When considering alternate options, have a look at this. http://youtu.be/4XJd88cTRsU But, some might argue, this virtual reconstruction is not the same as seeing it for yourself. All this makes me wonder about a couple of things. Are reconstructions at archaeological sites necessary or useful? How should we deal with the fact that a reconstruction typically focuses on one point in time, which essentially presents that moment as more important than any other? What would it do to tourism to not reconstruct monuments and artifacts? Should it even matter? What if we are not sure our reconstruction is completely accurate? Is there a better alternative? What do you think?