The shifting role of monuments in our public spaces has recently consumed public debate across the country. What are we to do with hundreds of statues of slave-owning Confederate generals or native-conquering Christopher Columbus, for example? The answers are rarely clear-cut, and opinions are strong. What few people realize is that these debates are hardly new. Today’s headlines are merely the latest manifestation of a phenomenon that archaeologists have recognized in times and places the world over: the constantly contested nature of monuments and their violent destructions.
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