In response to J Gibbs (or support of) I emphatically agree. I too
am an American contract archaeologist and I am a bit tired of the
University types telling me that I am a shill for developers.
Developers and Engineering firms may pay my salary, but they
are hiring an archaeologist, not a facilitator. My job is to accurately
assess the cultural resources on the land in question, and make
recommendations. If what I find requires additional work that is what I
recommend. If additional work will add nothing to the corpus of knowledge,
then I write up what we found and the developer developers. Yes, to an
extent my job is to do the minimum amount of archaeology required. But, if
the minimum is properly established it gets the job done both in terms
contractor and the archaeological data base/resourse preservation. I have
rerouted sewers, moved power lines, and caused other reengineering. I have
also cleared ROWs and let the project go through. It all depends on
in the ground. If you are competent the ground does not lie!
I have never deliberately overlooked a site. Although, given prehistoric
artifact densities here in Virginia, statistics says I have missed some.
There are firms that miss sites that a blind man could see. I have looked
through the windows of 18th century houses that other firms claimed were not
there. On one survey that paralleled earlier work I found 27 sites, where
they found 3. There are a number of possible explanations. In some cases
the explanation is just sloppy work, either documentary searches or in the
field. Many large firms hire people who are not really qualified to do
field work. I would like to believe that sites were never deliberately
overlooked to facilitate a project. But people being people, it undoubtedly
happens. Fraud is also possible. When the only sites you confirm from an
earlier survey are where the roads are, it is rather likely that the earlier
company did a drive by survey.
Again when someone hires me they hire an archaeologist. If they
facilitator, they had better hire someone else.
James G. Gibb wrote:
> Fellow Britarchers:
> 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.
> Jim Gibb
> 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