Community archaeology

Community archaeology is archaeology by the people for the people. The field is also known as public archaeology. There is debate about whether the terms are interchangeable; some believe that community archaeology is but one form of public archaeology, which can include many other modes of practice, in addition what is described here.[1] The design, goals, involved communities, and methods in community archaeology projects vary greatly, but there are two general aspects found in all community archaeology projects. First, community archaeology involves communities "in the planning and carrying out of research projects that are of direct interest to them".[2] Second, community archaeologists generally believe they are making an altruistic difference. Many scholars on the subject have argued that community collaboration does not have a pre-set method to follow.[3] Although not found in every project, there are a number of recurring purposes and goals in community archaeology. Similarities are also found in different countries and regions—due to commonalities in archaeological communities, laws, institutions, and types of communities. It has also been suggested that public archaeology can be defined in a broad sense as the production and consumption of archaeological "commodities".[4]

Community archaeology by country

Community archaeology in the United States

In the United States community archaeology can broadly be separated into three distinct types: projects that collaborate with American Indians, projects that collaborate with other local and descendant communities, and outreach specifically for public education.

American Indians

Archaeologists have a long history of excavating American Indian sites without consulting or collaborating with American Indians. Points of tension include, but are not limited to, the excavation and collection of human remains, the destruction and collections of sacred sites and objects, and archaeological interpretations that ignored or contradicted the opinions and beliefs of American Indians.[5] Even the so-called ‘father of American archaeology’ Thomas Jefferson excavated adults and sub-adults from a site still visited by American Indians[6] and Pilgrims plundered an American Indian grave days after anchoring at Cape Cod.[7] Indeed, “American Indians tend to equate archaeologists with pothunters, grave looters, or, even worse, animals who feast off of the dead (i.e., the “Vulture Culture”). Most do not trust the system supposedly designed to protect their heritage.”[8] Also, any prehistoric archaeological excavation in the Americas will involve the material products left by the ancestors of American Indians. For these reasons, community archaeology projects with both federally and non-federally recognized American Indians are different from those that collaborate with local and other descent communities. Some have found that collaboration can be a means to “break down barriers” between American Indians and archaeologists, and that in collaboration “[e]ach side learns something from the other.”[9] There are many unique ways archaeological collaboration can benefit American Indians. Kerber reports that:

. . . archaeology benefits American Indians and First People of Canada, respectively, by contributing important historical information; assisting in land claims; managing cultural resources and burial for protection from current and future impacts; promoting sovereignty; offering employment opportunities through field work, interpretive centers, and tourism; educating the young; aiding in nation (re-)building and self-discovery; demonstrating innovative responses of past groups to changing environmental and social circumstance; and providing populations themselves with skills and experience in doing archaeology. Clearly, collaborative archaeology is not a panacea for the difficulties facing indigenous groups, but in certain situations . . . it can be a powerful tool[10]

Dean and Perrelli have noted that collaboration with American Indians is only new “from the perspective of the dominant culture”[11] and that “American Indian people have been cooperating and collaborating with their neighbors and visitors for hundreds of years.”[12] Some have argued that archaeologists should attempt to collaborate and repatriate materials to non-federally recognized tribes in addition to federally recognized ones.[13] Blume has contended that when collaborating with American Indians should design "forms of public outreach specifically for the Indian audience."[14] Many recognized and non-recognized tribes have explicitly asked archaeologists for consolation and collaboration.[15] Two particularly well known examples of indigenous collaboration are Janet Spector’s book What does this Awl Mean and the Ozette Indian Village Archeological Site.[16] Collaborations have occurred throughout the United States, including with Alaska Natives.[17] Many tribes have also begun hiring full-time tribal archaeologists.

Local and descendent communities

Many other community archaeology projects occur in the United States aside from those with American Indians. These projects focus on local communities, descendent communities, and descendent diasporas.[18] A goal of some of these projects has been to recover and publicly present forgotten aspects of the race relations in local communities—such as histories of slavery and segregation.[19]

Public education

As a form of public outreach and collaboration, many archaeology projects in the United States have taken steps to present their work in schools and to children. These projects vary from a "one time" presentation to local schools, to long-term commitments in which public education is an intricate part of the research design.[20]

Community archaeology in the United Kingdom


Community archaeology in the United Kingdom has existed for many years, although only recently has it come to be known by that name. The roots of archaeology in the United Kingdom lie in the tradition of antiquarian and amateur work,[21] and many county or locally based archaeology and history societies founded over a century ago have continued to enable the involvement of local people in archaeology. Up until the 1970s volunteers often had opportunities to initiate or take part in archaeological investigations. Since then the recognition that more investigations were required by the subsequent establishment of archaeological units eroded some of these opportunities; more significantly the introduction of archaeology to the legalities of the planning process through Planning Policy Guidance note 16 (PPG16) and the full professionalization of archaeology, has made public participation in archaeology extremely limited.

Public participation

Archaeology (including historic buildings, landscapes and monuments, as well as ‘traditional’ archaeology) is about people and the discovery of the past. As a subject, archaeology in the United Kingdom has been increasingly brought into the public eye in recent years. The most common form of community archaeology in the United Kingdom has come from the grass roots level. Local groups are smaller than the large, county societies, and operate in their own area and at their own pace. The work produced is often of a high standard, reflecting the amount of time and effort local people are willing to put into local projects they themselves initiated. Increasingly, over the last two decades, public participation has been pushed aside by developer-led, commercial archaeology, with the bulk of work going to contracting units. The reasons behind this relate to the professionalization of the discipline and the implementation of PPG16, as discussed by Faulkner who proposed a return to community-led archaeology in his article entitled “Archaeology from below”.[22] A recent investigation carried out by the Council for British Archaeology[23] identified the main perceived barriers to public participation, gave examples of good practice in encouraging public participation, and made several recommendations for future improvements. Its first recommendation was the establishment of full-time Community Archaeologist posts across the country, as it states, “such dedicated posts represent a very effective way of stimulating and guiding public participation at a local level.”[24] One of the longest running and most successful community archaeology projects is based in Leicestershire.[25] Leicestershire County Council (which incorporates the museum service) established the project in 1976 and today they have 400 members within 20 local groups across the county. Peter Liddle (Keeper of Archaeology) is the Community Archaeologist and was probably the first to use the term ‘community archaeology’ as the title for his fieldworker’s handbook.[26]

The Valletta Convention

The Valletta Convention affects the work of non-official or amateur groups who have been, or are, investigating their local historic environment. The European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised) was signed in Valletta in 1992, and ratified by the UK government before coming into force on 21 March 2001.[27] Article 3 of the document caused considerable debate as it stated that all archaeological work should be carried out by suitably qualified, authorized people.[28] This form of ‘licensing’ for archaeologists already exists in the rest of Europe, where it has limited the work of voluntary archaeologists and local societies.

Community archaeology in Australia

Australian Community Archaeology has a long history of community archaeology, with established disciplines and laws.[29] In her review of community archaeology, Marshall found that there is an “antipodean dominance” in field community archaeology, suggesting that Australian community archaeology may be more established as a discipline than in other countries.[30] This is reflected in anthologies on community archaeology in Harrison and Williamson[31] and Colley.[32] Generally Australian community archaeology projects have involved collaboration between archaeologists and aboriginal tribes similar to archaeologists in the United States collaborate with American Indians.[33]

Community archaeology outside of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia

Hundreds, if not thousands, of community archaeology projects have occurred throughout the world—including in Brazil,[34] Canada,[35] Egypt,[36] Mexico,[37] the People's Republic of Bangladesh,[38] South Africa,[39] Thailand (Praicharnjit 2006, Turkey.[40] Wikipedia would greatly appreciate if scholars, students, or members of communities affiliated with Community Archaeology projects would contribute to this page.

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Bahasa Indonesia: Arkeologi publik