Saturday, March 22, 2008

In safe hands
The work of archaeologists reminds us of our own mortality and tells us that we must preserve our cultural heritage, not just for ourselves but also for future generations. That is the reason why I believe archaeology has to be given a higher prominence and status in government thinking than perhaps it occupies now.

There are big issues facing archaeology. The most important is to see that the teaching of history is related to the archaeological dimension, so that students can see history not as a list of dates and events, but as an understanding how people and societies lived in the past. Secondly, there needs to be more attention paid to seeing that local people can help unearth the past of their own community.

The key factor in the work Steve Sherlock undertook at Loftus was that it involved Loftus people acting as volunteers in the discovery of their past.

It's an opinion essay and worth reading. He makes a number of good points, the most notable being the involvement of locals and adequate facilities for storing excavated materials. The former gives local stakeholders some responsibility for their own area's history by using volunteers to do some of the planning and recovery work. The second is probably more important and knottier, in large part because it takes funding. The more development that requires remediation, the more space you're going to need to store the stuff, and store it adequately for the long term.