Sadly this is not a new phenomenon. Let's remember that Competitive
Tendering and majority Developer funding have been an aspect
of 'Commercial' Archaeology since the end of the 1980's. Every now and then
one of the old regional units folds completely or is subsumed within the
machinery of one of the "Mega-Corporates" (Whose success, let's not forget,
is not due to better archaeological practice but often it is opportunistic
management and the financial resources to soak up the pressures of
competitive tendering) but there is only ever a ripple amongst the
archaeological community when this happens.
There are of course a few 'notorious' units who probably deserve a bit of a
shake-up and many more who would benefit from better management, but to
have 3 or 4 uber-units running the whole show will be bad for the
profession and bad for the archaeology.
Ultimately, however, we have ourselves to blame for the current situation
as every "crisis" is met with almost unilateral apathy by the vast majority
of those employed within the profession.
We now have more opportunities to have our say than ever before, but unless
we start getting involved en masse we face the stark reality of looking
back in 10 years time and mourning the loss of all the old "regional" units
and a whole lot more.
On Sun, 26 Oct 2003 00:44:10 -0700, George Chaplin
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>"Does anyone really believe that in not too many
>years time, the whole of archaeology in England
>won't be monopolised by just 3 or 4
>mega-corporates? Perhaps this lack of diversity
>may not be to the overall benefit of the
>Yes this might be the outcome of the current changes in the structure of
>archaeological units. A process that may be accelerated by developer led
>archaeology and the way the bidding process works. In order to win a bid
>unit has to undercut the competition. As I see it (and don't claim to be an
>expert) there are no benchmark standards as to what work is essential in
>performing an archaeological investigation (Although I fully agree with the
>statement that most archaeologists attempt to employ the highest standards
>they can with regards to their work, and also am not sure that the concept
>of standards works in this field). Without minimum standards, their will
>always be financial pressure on the unit to cut work standards in order to
>secure work. This will keep units "alive" in the short term, but will
>eventually lead to staff reductions and a failure to keep up with
>Just to clarify what I mean by example - many evaluations call for a
>amount of fieldwalking, in a tender response, two organisations could
>with exactly the same description of how they would perform that work, but
>the one that assumed the lowest amount of effort by the cheapest labour
>would get that work. Many developers would prefer it that research is
>skimped rather than thorough, thus they may tend to select purely on lowest
>price. This being the case, and without a specific minimum standard
>(assuming one could be found) to stick to, the pressure on the unit will be
>to drop standards in order to stay in business. Without the council or
>body to provide the financial security then the unit on it's own will have
>great difficulty in this environment.
>This may well lead to a consolidation down to just a few units, who are
>to deliver the economies of scale to stay in business and up to date.
>As to this being good or bad for the profession I'm not sure, I think it
>would lead to less jobs in the medium term at least. Also this does not
>into account the universities, who should not be ignored.
>Just some idle thoughts.