The pitfalls of consulting archaeology

I have finished my literature review for my directed studies topic “Archaeology and the development boom: an analysis of professional ethics and standards in Australian archaeology’’, and faced with the challenge of fitting the numerous threats to ethical standards posed by issues in the industry in a 500 word blog have decided to summarise them in one sentence thus; that heritage surveys do not constitute true archaeological research and over-emphasise conservation over research, the results of this work are rarely published and funding is not provided in contracts for any research, CHM has changed focus from managing sites for their archaeological value to managing them for their Aboriginal cultural or social value, the role of State-based archaeologists is being changed from research to being desk bound, excavation has been de-emphasised in favour of survey work, the public service agencies which administer legislation also benefit from expanding this role, consultants often deal with the client through the intermediary of the regulatory authority, copyright of information can be retained by the Minister in some situations, site surveys can be determined by boundaries which have no other scientific significance, pressure exists to finish work as quickly as possible and significant finds made have the potential to delay the project and cost more money, consulting archaeologists often have to work in less than ideal conditions and there is pressure to move on the next job to keep earning a living, salvaging and recording as much information as possible often just prior to earthmoving equipment beginning work, the idea that a place can be destroyed as long as all information is recorded is flawed because it is not possible to record everything at a site or its environmental context (nor can anyone predict what information may be valued by later research), developers consider consultants can be interchangeable because they are applying standard techniques, the code of ethics is not legally binding, and not accepted by all archaeologists.

In my next blog I hope to have nailed down a list of survey questions for the consultant archaeologists who have volunteered themselves for the project.

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One response to “The pitfalls of consulting archaeology

  1. Hi from Berlin, Germany. Let me tell you that it is absolutely the same here. I therefore liked your post very much and am looking forward to hear more from about this topic.
    Personally, I am not working at rescue archaeology, but scraping a living doing “scientific” archaeology, but many colleagues tell me about their experiences with rescue archaeology and it seems to be increasingly frustating for them and their archaeological ambitions, especially when it comes to ethical questions.
    Best regards from Berlin: Maria