BAJR Federation Archaeology

Full Version: Empire of Dirt: time to call time on commercial archaeology in Northern Ireland?
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[h=5]I don't imagine that this is going to win me many friends, but it's a debate that professional archaeologists in Northern Ireland (and elsewhere) need to have before the decisions are made for us. I'm no longer convinced that we have the time, or ability, to put our own house in order.

So, what are our options?[/h]As a consequence of the Drumclay crannog fiasco, Minister Alex Attwood has proposed a wide-ranging review of archaeological practice in Northern Ireland. The scope of this review has yet to be made public, but I would hope that it will be broad enough to consider such matters as the planning process, along with the operation of both the private and state sectors – not just in this case, but in how the practice of archaeology is conducted generally. I have a sneaking suspicion that a path may not be beaten to my door to solicit my opinion – it certainly hasn’t been sought so far. As we all know, this has never stopped me! For this reason this blog post may be regarded as my – deliberately provocative, but no less serious – position paper on what should happen in commercial archaeology in this corner of the island.

From Robert Chapple:

Another unpublished find
Good stuff....very thought provoking and certainly applicable to the mainland uk!
dont agree that the point of archaeology is publication. I would say that the point of excavation is the possibility that there might be some form of publication if the archaeologist in question deems it necessary not the curators. This mob seem to want to say that archaeology can only exist after publication; the essance of which seems to be that the archaeologists must give their interpretation of observations away without any concern about the "market" value of those interpretations might be. To me archaeology is archologists simply looking for they dont know what. So what that they have published and it took them so many months, I dont see that their publication has any value to me or even archaeology just because its "published". I particularly dont see that it should be paid for under polluter pays principles. I think that publication should be paid for through demand for the publication or if you like the charge for the publication should be based on demand.

As far as I can tell the Drumclay crannog fiasco has that oft repeated problem where the landowner was the public or its agents who had bought or was sold the land from previous owners and what I would say was the crime was that no value was incorporated in the sale to account for the archaeology. Whats wrong with ni archaeology is that its still public service dominated it seems to me and it wont change until they get rid of the curators. If anything there does not seem to be a critical mass of commercial archaeologists to have tried to have made some money out of this situation, presumably too busy going around asking what is archaeology? I think the previous owners should consider that their archaeological assest was taken from them and not paid for and should seek compensation from the public purse. Sob public archaeology.
Couldnt disagree more, while publication is not the only product it is the main one, without archaeology is just the public paying for archaeologists to play in the dirt. Commercial archaeology has no purpose if the results are not disseminated!
Publication of even quite minor archaeological evidence can have ramifications down the line - having spent much of the last year getting my head around the bits-and-bobs that came up on a fairly narrow linear job I've been able to do any amount of 'joining up the dots' with other evidence from the surrounding landscape, mostly from published sources. If that evidence wasn't easily available I couldn't have done half as much, what with trips to the HER costing £100 a shot! The latest hot-off-the-press was realising last thing on Friday afternoon that two bits of Roman archaeology (neither in themselves of much interest, a bit of field system and part of a roadside settlement enclosure) four fields apart do, when taken together, show that Margary and the OS have a major Roman road marked in the wrong place - this realigns it over a length of about 4 miles and shows that a major river crossing was not where all the literature says it was (and relocates it in a town centre, not off in the fields) - quite a difference down the line for the curators making recommendations I'd suggest? Wouldn't have been possible without the information being easily available. Job No.1 on Monday am is writing it up...for publication :face-approve:
Of course it would help if a lot of archaeological publication reports hadn't been trimmed/dumbed-down to the point of containing no useful archaeological information, bit annoying when you've spent ages hunting the thing down in a library and then having read it can only let out a howl of exasperation... Sad!
Has anybody heard of the practice of a site being dug then tenders being sought for the post-ex. ie. the excavators having to tender against others for the post-ex and publication work? Sounds mindless to me.
Seems to happen in Northern Ireland.
Having had to 'ghost write' numerous site reports over the years for other reasons (mostly people moving on etc), and having always been left with the nagging doubt that it would all probably have made some sense if I'd actually seen/dug the site, I can't help thinking that wilfully putting writers in that position really isn't helping to move archaeology forward? The modern rather 'dry' single-context recording systems remove all the 'feel' from the archaeology that you have when you're actually on site and which hardly ever gets written down for posterity :face-thinks:
I've had to prepare numerous site plans for publication (some very large scale) on sites where I never set foot. It takes far longer to do than the ones where I worked because it takes a while to get my head around what's going on.
Presence on site means everything when it come to post-ex expediency. Tendering for post-ex is daft.
And yes 'feel' means a huge amount, couldn't agree more.
but almost equally daft is the handing on of post-ex to other people within the same organisation - same loss of insight
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