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BRITARCH  September 2007

BRITARCH September 2007

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Subject:

Re: The Archaeology, the Public, and the Wardrobe (was: should be interesting)

From:

Gareth Dean <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 1 Sep 2007 06:35:48 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (63 lines)

This is along response culled from emails that I have an urge to repond to but have not had the chance. I f in my cutting and pasting of text something has come across wrong I apologise.

 'One can find a myriad of cost-related excuses to defend the notion that Developers have no responsibility to their community, but that is simply untrue......The opportunity for access should be there in every
community that is having its historic archaeological assets taken away
from them by these profit driven land developers'

I would have to ask how many of the people that level critiscism at commercial archaeologists have actually worked in that environment either a/recently and for more than 6 months at more than basic digger level where you are often unaware of the issues of setting up, running a project or b/are career academics or archaeologists who last dug 20+ years ago,  who perceive that archaeology is a problem without experiencing the realities for themselves, leveling critiscism from the safety of an ivory tower?

Archaeology pre 1992 or PPG16 was a different beast. Then there was arguably more scope to incorporate the public as the develper was not directly responsible for funding, sites were bigge. Projects are costed  to make sure that archaeology is recorded before it is destroyed- we do not take archaeological assets away which almost makes archaeology sound like a form of ethnic cleansing. Also bear in mind that your profit driven land developers are often ACME builders based in the town that we are allegedly callously stripping of its heritage with out telling anyone- how often do those builders show an interest? many are more concerned that we are holding them up and preventing them from getting their weekly pay packet.

'Health and safety and insurance is a major issue- These are major
issues, but not unmanageable. If regulations can be followed onsite by
archaeological employees they can also be followed by the public and guided by the professionals.....Developers need to pay for more professional archaeologists on site and
should be responsible to offer at least some sort of open-house session
accommodating the interested local public for every single project. If
they propose a two day dig, then 10% of that time should be offered as
opportunity for the community to participate-even if its just from
2-4pm one day' 

As for site safety, why do you think that as a rule the public access is etiher from a walkway or behind a fence away from the archaeology? to mitigate some of the risks. The public don't often grasp the issues of safety and why things are dangerous- especially small children. No matter how much you manage these issues some sites will never be safe to allow the public on. Ok, its not a matter of more archaeologists on site solely. To talk about a site as its coming out of the ground requires you to be there or the time for someone to explain the site to someone else which is unrealistic. If a developer is paying for more archaeologists on site then he will wont to see them doing something. That is why a project will be costed for a set number of archaeologists to cope with the work ahead. You cannot parachute in exrtra arhaeologists for a community slot. If you look at projects that are big enough to have an open to the public mentaltiy there is a raft of logistics in place to talk to the public, arrange tours, take the money etc. for a small 2x2 to 1.2m deep hole which is evaluating the archaeology, looking in one of them ain't gonna mean alot to anyone and generally is not that interesting if it s urban, rural sites which are often big trenches in a field often finding land drainds and a feature if you are lucky also pretty dull to thfor the public.

Are we as a scientific community so beholden to 'developers' that we  are robbing of their heritage and have lost sight of who and what our research is for and about? 

Are we a scientific community- I wouldn't say so and I dont see much robbing of heritage. In its own  way PPG16 and the principle of preservation by record was to try and stop this robbing of heritage. As said about these developers often are LOCALS not outsiders and only a minorty are generally interested in what we are doing on site. 

Are we so concerned about cooperating with these developers that we have sold out the very descendants of the material researched? Just because it is not the way things are now, does not mean that we cannot envision a change for the edification, unification, and betterment of our interested communities. 

This is a theoretical concept- people do not necessarily perceive themselves as the descendents of the material researched. They see it as something vaguely interesting- they don't think that great granded 20 or more  generations ago was a Roman or a medieval artisan. If these local societies in this scientific community are so intereseted why are their secretaries who arrange events, lecture series etc phoning units and saying 'I noticed that a dig has occured in Sainsbury's car park, did you find anything and would you give a talk on it?' that has happened to me once in over a decade. This is the interested scientific commiunity?

In other words, we shouldn't wimp out because we are currently  overwhelmed in the field. Rather we should work smarter, be less overwhelmed, revel in and expand our body of knowledge, and require  those benefitting financially from our efforts, either in land development or in the tourism industry, etc., to be financially and morally responsible to us and our communities.

Currently overwhelmed- archaeologists are always overwhelmed- this is why as I posted before there is a massive backlog of unwritten sites- not through lack of will but through lack of funding and amount of work carried out.How do you propose to be less overwhelmed? We cannot change the pace of development- that would mean a reveloution, over throw of governments and a change from a capatalist society. Does tourism benefit direcrtly from run of the mill archaeology- no . it s the big shiney and stunning that make the difference. An excavation that finds a pit, a post hole and a modern drain don't.

'Well maybe its time that the budgets are not so tight. We really must
realize how much money archaeological research and development brings 
to
Britain every year. My guess is that it is a general number far higher
than that of what the Royal Family generates. This certainly isn't my
specialty, however it seems British Archaeologists are in a very strong
position to start demanding more from the government. 



Commercial archaeology and tourism are not related- Archaeologists in
a strong position to demand more from the governemnt? APPAG was
designed to look at appplying pressure and not alot happened,
archaeology is exactly where it was before. Budgets are forced to be
tight because of contracting archaeology.

'You should bother because the process of your 'work' is forever destroying a local archaeological setting which can never be returnedto the community. Considering this, it seems only reasonable to include the interested public in the process toward a fair way to compensate them for their loss. I realize another way is to offer the report, this is true, but most professionally prepared archaeological reports are in surveyor-archaeologese and can be difficult for laymen to digest. Rather, a place in their local excavation would go much further for their understanding of how archaeology is accomplished and what existed in the historic landscape of their home'

This assumes that archaeology is something that can be picked up by anyone awho can merely dig away plucking artefacts from the ground- no. Even A present commercial site with a training dig has areas considreed too complex for the trainees to excavate. Reports written in archaeologese to complex to understand- well unless the requirement is ut there fr us to write a popular article it wont happen and what is needed more is that it is made clear to the public by the wider archaeological community how archaeology really happens. Sme one having a go or shown round for the afternoon wont see what really goes on.

sorry for the length of the post

G




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