'Three, Two, One...?' The Material Legacy of Global Millennium Celebrations

Harrison, Rodney (2009). 'Three, Two, One...?' The Material Legacy of Global Millennium Celebrations. In: Schofield, John ed. Defining Moments: Dramatic Archaeologies of the Twentieth-Century. Oxford: Archaeopress, pp. 147–156.


New Year's Eve 1999 saw what could be argued to be the biggest collective international celebration which had ever occurred in human history. New Year's Eve celebrations were held throughout the world, and although they varied from country to country, and culture to culture, each country was involved in some formal celebration of the change from 1999 to 2000. But what remains of this world-wide celebration? An attempt to document the global archaeology of this event is outside of the scope of this paper. What I want to do here is to focus particularly on the range of archaeological sites associated with the material legacy of Millennium celebrations and commemorations in the United Kingdom, and to consider what these material remains might tell us about the ways in which Britons felt about, and approached, the Millennium as an event. In fact few obvious legible material remnants of Millennium commemorations remain at the time of writing, less than ten years since New Years Eve in 1999, yet an analysis of the particular forms of commemorative monuments produced as part of these celebrations suggests a focus almost entirely on the past, revealing a widespread Millenarianism at the close of the twentieth century in the UK. Concerns about global technological catastrophe and the end of the world centred on international fears surrounding the 'Millennium Bug', fears that were manifested in monumental building programmes which looked to the past to emphasise stability and the absence of change. In addition to these monuments, this chapter briefly considers the potential for the archaeology of a range of more ephemeral and enigmatic traces associated with the Millennium, including underground bunkers and digital artefacts of the 'Year 2000' problem, as well as the possibility of a global comparative archaeology of the Millennium.

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