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Profit and Archaeology
#41
Posted by diggingthedirt:
Quote:quote:I am assuming from this that you think the environmental sector also operates at an appropriately high standard (according to internationally agreed guidelines). In other words, there are no quality issues in the provision of these services in a commercially profitable way. You may be right. I'll look into it.
My previous posts made no comment at all about quality, but as it happens, I have researched the quality of both archaeological work and other environmental work, and read a lot of other research about it, at least in relation to the relatively limited field of EIA. Also, my job involves managing/coordinating not just archaeologists but a wide range of environmental specialists, including reviewing/editing reports from all those specialists.

There certainly are weaknesses and quality problems, but the long-term trend is one of improvement, both in archaeology and across the board.

In relation to more general archaeological work, I have commissioned and monitored archaeological fieldwork of every kind over a 15-year period, all of it commercial. The units have included charities, university-based units, council-based units and private companies. Generally speaking, the university-based units have had the most academic focus in their approach, but that hasn't necessarily translated into higher quality. The best quality overall, defined in purely archaeological terms, has come from a specific unit that is a private company, set-up, owned and run by two partners.

It is specifically because I am aware of quality problems that I see consultants like myself having a valuable role to play in promoting quality work. However, I also worked for a long time as a field archaeologist, mostly before archaeology was commercialised, and I have also looked at a lot of relevant literature. All I can say is that the quality and quantity of rescue/salvage work done in that era were far below current standards. Most people's rosy-tinted view of that era is based on research excavations, not on rescue work.

That improvement in both the quality and the quantity of archaeological is derived mainly from the vastly increased resources that became available after PPG16, as a result of developer funding. Developer funding is the root source of the commercialisation of archaeology and the idea that it can be done for a profit.

1man1desk

to let, fully furnished
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#42
Quote:quote:Originally posted by Paul Belford

I use the word [u]research</u> deliberately.

For, regardless of how it is paid for, or under what circumstances it comes about, we must remember that all archaeological work is research.


I have a bit of a problem with the use of the term 'research' in relation to developer-funded work. When dealing with large important sites, it is very seriously and justifiably taken into consideration. But, for every large site there are probably a dozen smaller ones were very little is found, or certainly not enough to make much difference to any local research. In some cases, say watching briefs or small building recordings, there is no mention of anything approaching research aims in the brief and so no-one in their right mind would include in their costs ('we're going to look at the socio-economic regional importance of you former pig shed Mr McNulty') because they wouldn't win any work.

If you started waving a word like 'research' around with most developers they would have a fit, or wonder what the hell you were on about. I also don't think it's very efficient in many cases to deal with larger research aims on a piecemeal, project by project basis. Far better to save the developers some money and have a larger synthesis of results published every once in a while (this would certainly be useful for small buildng recordings), perhaps EH could stump up some cash - only joking!

I seen my job largely as producing a record of what is there, as objectively as possible (which isn't very in archaeology) and putting into its local, regional and national context. Is that research? I'm not sure.

How does this relate to the topic? If research is included within each project then, as such a potentially vague term (you could, after all, carry on researching something indefinately and I'm sure there are plenty of people who have/are currently doing so), which might be dealt with in very different manner from one organisation to another (1man mentioned about university units being heavier on it than others) it makes for quite a lot of potential variety in cost.
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#43
Quote:quote: I seen my job largely as producing a record of what is there, as objectively as possible (which isn't very in archaeology) and putting into its local, regional and national context. Is that research? I'm not sure.

That is actually what I meant by research.

The key thing is putting it into its context, whether it is the whole of Hungate or Mr McNulty's pig shed. What worries me is that regional, period and specialist research frameworks do not often find their way to the people actually doing such research, and that many organisations find it difficult to give people the time to keep up to date with the latest syntheses in the field to which their current project portfolio might relate.

For instance, placing Mr McNulty's pig shed in the appropriate local, regional and national context might require the person writing the report to be aware of the recent Research Framework on Pig Habitations produced by the Society for Porcine Studies.

A small watching brief should be as well informed by prevailing research as a large scale excavation. After all, you might find something!

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#44
Quote:quote:Originally posted by Paul Belford

Quote:quote: I seen my job largely as producing a record of what is there, as objectively as possible (which isn't very in archaeology) and putting into its local, regional and national context. Is that research? I'm not sure.

That is actually what I meant by research.

The key thing is putting it into its context, whether it is the whole of Hungate or Mr McNulty's pig shed. What worries me is that regional, period and specialist research frameworks do not often find their way to the people actually doing such research, and that many organisations find it difficult to give people the time to keep up to date with the latest syntheses in the field to which their current project portfolio might relate.

For instance, placing Mr McNulty's pig shed in the appropriate local, regional and national context might require the person writing the report to be aware of the recent Research Framework on Pig Habitations produced by the Society for Porcine Studies.

A small watching brief should be as well informed by prevailing research as a large scale excavation. After all, you might find something!


Phew, that's a relief, I was getting a bit worried there - thought I was doing it all wrong!

The problem is the term 'research' in that it potentially has very broad connotations, and must sound quite distressing to a developer who's having to pay for what he might see as somewhat over indulgent. After all, the developer doesn't have to pay for geological 'research' after having boreholes sunk (and I'm sure there are research aims that could be achived by such work).

Anyway, this is straying from the point somewhat
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#45
It is straying from the point, but interesting nonetheless, so I have started a new thread on it, 'Research in commercial archaeology'.

1man1desk

to let, fully furnished
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#46
"After all, the developer doesn't have to pay for geological 'research' after having boreholes sunk (and I'm sure there are research aims that could be achived by such work)."

True Redearth, but boreholes would go some way towards establishing the viability of the development, or the scale of work required for stabilisation - whether the job went ahead under its present plan in short. Stuff the developer has to know. Where-as the archaeology of the site, unless structurally significant, has nothing to do with the final development, and could be swept away in a morning with no discernable difference to the end development (with the exception of some notorius Indian burial sites*).

*See Poltergeist (Speilberg et al, 1982) and Pet Cemetary (King, 1989 ).
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