Thursday, 1 April 2010

Can't we all just get along?

As I said a long time ago, archaeologists often start with an innocent belief that they share the interests and roles of all otehr archaeologists. If only, they think, we could get the planners and builders and architects out of the room, we could sort out the rescue response required in two minutes flat, and everyone would be happy. Maybe. But probably not - because, just as lawyers are supposed to protect their client's interests, archaeologists have a responsibility to their clients, whoever they are. An archaeologist who agrees to do more archaeological work than the situation requires is acting unethically. A planning archaeologist who demands more archaeological work than the evidence supports is acting unethically. Strangely enough, in all the concern that has been expressed about the strains that commercial interests may impose on archaeological judgements, this has never been said. A recent research project looking at the Evaluation of Archaeological Decision-making Processes
and Sampling Strategies in Wales

"a valuable opportunity to step back, take stock and think more generally about the strengths and weaknesses of developer-funded archaeological work and the role of development control archaeologists in Wales."

This project would look carefully at the data used in DC responses to developments, whether the judgements were reasonable, and whether the predicted archaeological resource was present or not. Well, it would if I had scoped it. The report has now been produced and I will return to it in another post.

For now I just want to emphasise that no, we can't all just get along. But this need not mean that we are in league with the devil. Andrew Marvell made this point eloquentaly in his paper to the IfA Conference last year, now published on Scribd:

The New WHS Trowel-Paper given to the Institute for Archaeologists conference 2009.

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