I agree with John Wood's assessment. As a contract archaeologist in the
USA for over 20 years, and as a self-employed archaeologist for the past
ten, I view each request for proposal, or brief, as the opportunity to
do good local research for the community. When lucky, my findings are
sufficiently interesting to warrant publication in a regional or
national journal. In fact, I tend to bid lower, reducing my profit
margin, on those projects that I 'know' will have publishable results. I
have also found myself to be the advocate for otherwise silent
'resources' (read sites) and have discovered scores of sites that would
not have been noticed were it not for a contractor like me helping a
client comply with federal, state, county, and municipal preservation
Many American archaeologists working in review agencies and universities
view contract archaeologists as mercenaries wreaking havoc on the
nation's archaeological resources. But check out the publications in
regional and national venues. Examine the institutional affiliations of
presenters at conferences. You will find, at least in the USA, an
increasing majority of those individuals are contract archaeologists
working with data that they collected during the course of one or more
legally mandated projects. Some are seeking traditional academic
positions by building their publications record. Some are strutting
their stuff for potential employers in the public and private sectors.
Some just appreciate the opportunity to do what they have been trained
to do and are having a hell of a good time doing it.
Motivations aside, legally mandated archaeology has opened incredible
new vistas and opportunities in American prehistory and historical
archaeology. The wealth of data made available for this work, the
interdisciplinary and institutional collaborations, the superlative
training opportunities, and now the drive to share the exploration and
discovery process with the public far outweigh any shortcomings the
field may have. Hand wringing and philosophical angst will not earn
archaeologists prestige and higher incomes. Those who are new to the
field will advance by capitalizing on research opportunities and writing
well for all kinds of audiences. Whining and stereotyping is
counterproductive and will help neither the individual nor the field.
Buck up and let's get back to work.
The Lost Towns of Anne Arundel Project
Annapolis, Maryland USA
John Wood wrote:
> Paul, and anyone else who agrees with this rubbish...
> The job of contracting archaeologists is emphatically NOT to be clearers
> of sites for development but professional, specialist experts who carry
> out site evaluation and recording to high professional standards.
> Developers employ them because they have to, or because they think they
> should, don't assume they are all hostile. I think they are often taken
> aback by the self-defeating attitude of archaeologists they encounter.
> Soil scientists, environmental consultants and others expect to get
> respected and they are (by and large). Why can't archaeology grow up?
> John Wood