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Chapter Summary

  • Many nations believe that it is the duty of the government to have policies with regard to conservation, and these conservation laws often apply to archaeology. Construction, agricultural intensification, conflict, tourism, and looting are all human activities that damage or destroy sites.
  • Built on a strong legal foundation, Cultural Resource Management (CRM) or "applied archaeology" plays a major role in American archaeology. When a project is on federal land, uses federal money, or needs a federal permit, the law requires that cultural resources are identified, evaluated, and if they cannot be avoided, addressed accordingly in an approved mitigation plan. A large number of private contract archaeology firms employ the majority of archaeologists in the US. These firms are responsible for meeting mitigation requirements, overseen by a lead agency and an SHPO. Publication of final reports is required, but the variable quality and usually limited dissemination of these reports remain a problem.
  • Archaeologists have a duty to report what they find. Since excavation is, to a certain extent, destructive, published material is often the only record of what was found at a site. Perhaps up to 60 percent of modern excavations remain unpublished after 10 years. The Internet and the popular media can help to fulfill one of archaeology’s fundamental purposes: to provide the public with a better understanding of the past.
  • Besides nationalistic or religious views in the interpretation and presentation of the past, we have to be aware of gender-bias in the often still male-dominated world of archaeology. Museums are increasingly seen as "theaters of memory" in which local and national identities are defined.
  • Another source of bias is the ubiquity of the use of the English language in archaeological discourse, and the dominance of one ethnic group or class over another in different parts of the world. Prehistoric archaeology, with its emphasis on material, non-verbal culture, is well-placed to overcome these difficulties.

Key Concepts

Survey, Conservation, and Mitigation

Survey, p.568
Environmental assessment, p.568
American Antiquities Act, p.569
CRM, pp.569, 572–75
Conservation, pp.570–71
SHPO, p.572
Portable Antiquities Scheme, UK, p.576
UNESCO, p.577
The World Heritage List, p.577
The 1954 Hague Convention, p.577

Heritage Management, Display, and Tourism

Heritage, p.580
English Heritage, p.580

Who Interprets and Presents the Past?

Public presentation, pp.581–82
Museum studies, p.582

The Past for All People and All Peoples

Scientific colonialism, p.582