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"Are Archaeologists Killing the Goose?" - A sign of things to come...
While I entirely agree with you in principle, I think that there are also deep structural problems with cash flow.
trowelmonkey Wrote:While I entirely agree with you in principle, I think that there are also deep structural problems with cash flow.

Which rather emphasises my point that mineral extractors need to sort out the variabilities in their business model, rather than suggesting archaeologists are to blame....
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
I suspect that they are looking at the variabilities Kevin. I am sure that they are looking at a range of cost issues for their business models with a view to reducing them and increase profitability during the downturn. Archaeology is just one of those costs.
Arguably, client groups across the range of end-users have partaken in grumbling/lobbying about the "high" costs of archaeology imposed upon them-not the aggregate industry alone. The development industry also has a fairly loud voice on this issue. The Localism Bill is in my view, a reflection of the influence of many of these corporate lobby groups. As a profession, we could re-assess the role of consultancies in an effort to rebalance some equations. Government is all too aware that a significant proportion of budgets are spent on consultants. It`s always been a mystery to me-why does a client pay a thousand pounds a day to a "consultant" for the same advice and project management that they could procure from a commercial unit? Consultants have (in my experience) assumed the roles of Local Government Curators and in some cases, dictated to those Curatorial staff. Consultancies are simply project managers who have assumed the mantle of "consultants" and in the process command often ridiculous fees for advice available elsewhere at more agreeable costs and often offered by professionals with far more experience. I don`t get it.
Many-if not most- of the larger established commercial archaeology enterprises offer a `cradle to the grave` service to clients and yet, many potential clients choose to employ consultants first. Isn`t that paying for the same services twice? The role of consultants should be separated from the role of Curators. If a client seeks the services of a reputable commercial company and that company is regulated by a professional Institute and is monitored by Government Curators-why on earth are "consultants" needed? If a client chooses to pay silly money for an archaeologist that does the same job as another archaeologist simply because the magic terminology "consultant" is employed.......then more fool them. Consultancy across the UK and in a range of industries is bleeding client groups for all they can get. Good game. Ridiculous, but good game nonetheless. Oh and by the way....What goose?.:face-stir:
I think that there are issues with the practises of clients who insist on using consultants. When dealing with subcontractors where costs and margins may vary hugely and charges may be inflated wherever possible, consultants are often a good deal. In the case of archaeology, while this sometimes happens, often prices are pared down to as low as possible and rarely moreso than at present. Then again, some large clients have begun to get rid of consultants as a result of longstanding relationships so this is being increasingly recognised by construction businesses.

I'd like to bring it back to David's earlier point: what is the value of commercial archaeology in this environment? Is it publicity? Is it ethical compliance and socially acceptable practises? Is it the nice warm fuzzy fealing a project manager of a construction company gets when he's allowed to handle the couple of pieces of medieval green-glaze saved from destruction by his investment in heritage, or his mind-blank at how those clever (if slightly grubby looking) archaeologists decifer the mystery of that important post-med drainage ditch?

Passing the costs of justifiable work onto the construction industry seems entirely right to me, as does the defining of that justifiable requirement within research frameworks, by people with the appropriate knowledge and just using common sense (if its interesting or 'archaeologically productive' or contributes to increasing our knowledge then it deserves attention). But I've put slots into countless post-med drainage ditches and tested what seems like a never-ending number of land-drains and I'm yet to find one that has told me anything much more than that people have been farming here for a few centuries. Did it need ten slots when it could have been characterised with one or two?

What's more, can we push techniques forward so that it at least appears that we're trying to make an effort to move in the contruction friendly direction? It takes ten minutes to GPS in a site and overlay appropriately selected hand illustrations onto it rather than 10 hours of planning it in detail.

The problem we have is that we've been calling for better employment benefits and significantly increased pay for a long time now, and I think we can say that without any question we deserve that and a lot more (some respect and treatment like members of the developed world from time to time wouldn't go amis in some quarters). But, there is no way on earth that a client with any common sense is going to allow our industry to simply pass on those increases directly to them without the business/economic necessity or a return. We have to justify ourselves. I don't feel comfortable with where that sometimes leads me, but I also feel like we have been going round in circles for quite a while in this industry and perhaps now is the time to bite the bullet and begin to unravel these issues.
....and I'd like to add that the increased costs clients have been seeing, and the mentality of squeezing clients for whatever they'll give hasn't resulted in any return for archaeologists or archaeology. We need to put ourselves forward as an industry and show we are a valuable and transparent resource if we want to move forward or we'll be desperately scrabbling for every last penny just to survive forever more.
I agree.
Any commercial-based archaeological work should seek to mitigate the damage caused by the client. Should be targeted towards recovering / recording an appropriate sample to hit current research agendas.

But should not be aimed at total recording / recvovery, or getting what you can out of a client. Use of technology like GPS, rectified photography, etc are vital tools in speeding up laborious recording. Geophysics, trial trenching and advisments on small redesigns can limit the damage on the archaeological record by the construction AND archaeological excavation.

Something that I always bear in mind is that archaeological excavation is destructive, totally...once its excavated its gone forever! (except for the baulks) Who mitigates that damage?

I wonder if archaeologists of the near future, with their new techniques and technology will think of work done in this decade. Will they bemoan all the information lost in the rush to excavate? Or will they appreciate (some) archaeologists efforts to preserve stuff under the topsoil?
Right here goes...I have been both gamekeeper and poacher in this nefarious profession of ours. I have also advised national quarrying associations as and published for them. Clients use consultants because they are aware of having been ripped off in the past (by some unscrupulous units). They rightly demand an independent voice to counter the sometimes absurd demands of the Curatorial quarter. The Consultants can also (and do) stand on site and point out cock ups and mistakes and also praise when and where required. A consultant will also drive a client into a friendly direction thus generating more work for the Unit (extra publications, digging time, TV time, press days and even public open days). All that can be done by the unit but rarely seems to happen unless driven by a consultant. In quarry work Curator led design programmes have led to some stunning archaeology with an appreciative quarry owner being seen as archaeo friendly by the public and the planning authority. Curators have also generated public support to stop some of the nastiest planning decisions ever made.

If we want this 'profession' to be a Profession then we need to generate the money to drive that forward. If charging the developer more so that the diggers earn more moves us forward to a pay-scale similar to other degree led professions so beit. If in turn that forces the price of aggregates up that can be no bad thing as it might slow down the destruction of this green and pleasant land in which we all live.

Rant over.
Slightly OT but not entirely irrelevant
i came across a brief today that suggested that the applicant 'could use a competent and qualified archaeological organisation' but that if they wished to use an amteur group that would be considered... er ... is this appropriate?
i have been using an archive about 30 yrs old created by amateurs which i have dragged a few things out of, but there was a lacuna of knowledge which even the input by a professional attached to the then county unit never fully overcame at that time
result 25 yrs later a WB on a site which should have been evaluated and programmed appropriately
this is a profession in which we work
not an amateur interest. we have real input. that it has allegedly limited interest is neither here nor there.
there never was a golden goose for archaeology. my contempt for this article is inexpressible.
Your Courage Your Cheerfulness Your Resolution
Will Bring US Victory
my contempt for this article is inexpressible

arnt you realy finding that sites/jobs now have a recent archaeological history and clients have "previous". As someone who digs "my" own sites I am constantly comeing accross the results of jobs done near by or directly for the client. I must admit I always hope that they were right royaly screwed so it makes my cowboy opperation look like value for money....
Reason: your past is my past

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