John Lydon (better known as Johnny Rotten), former lead singer of punk legends the Sex Pistols, must be having a good chuckle right about now, as archaeologists are comparing graffiti the band scrawled on walls of a London flat in the mid-'70s to prehistoric cave art made by early humans, like the famous Lascaux caves in southern France.
According to Dr. John Schofield of the University of York's Department of Archaeology, the eight graffiti cartoons (most of them done by Rotten) are worthy of preservation as heritage pieces, despite their offensive nature. (These are the Sex Pistols after all.) The drawings, discovered behind some cupboards in an apartment the band had rented on central London's Denmark Street, depict members of the Pistols, their manager Malcolm McLaren, and other associates.
Dr. Schofield, apparently not joking, said:
"The tabloid press once claimed that early Beatles recordings discovered at the BBC were the most important archaeological find since Tutankhaman's tomb. The Sex Pistols' graffiti in Denmark Street surely ranks alongside this and — to our minds — usurps it."
I don't get it. Johnny Rotten, probably high on glue at the time, scribbles some images on a wall that look like the handiwork of a two-year-old and he suddenly has the imprimatur of some academics in the journal Antiquity? Maybe they were just bored from scooping all that dirt and wanted to give their profession a shot in the arm? Schofield further elaborates:
"We feel justified in sticking our tongues out at the heritage establishment and suggesting that punk's iconoclasm provides the context for conservation decision-making. Our call is for something that directly follows punk's attitude to the mainstream, to authority; contradicting norms and challenging convention. This is an important site, historically and archeologically, for the material and evidence it contains."
I'm sorry, but Indiana Jones is about as punk rock as archaeology's gonna get.