Editorial

By Carver, Martin | Antiquity, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Editorial


Carver, Martin, Antiquity


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an archaeologist in possession of a research idea must be in need of a large sum of money. Ideas that win such grants are intended to support rather more than a wife and a mother-in-law: a veritable posse of new employees is acquired by the home university as well as kudos and ranking. As the research councils see it, cash makes knowledge; the more adventurous the idea, the larger the sum required to achieve the breakthrough. Thus national and international competitions are staged to attract applications from all and sundry and award the most 'sexy' with sums that would once have been thought unreal. This process is one of the more addictive in our time. Writers, sculptors and talent show competitors are made or broken by these random encounters with obscene amounts of surplus cash--so why not archaeologists?

It was not always like this. Archaeological projects used to grow like gardens, adding value now and then in the form of unexpected finds or the gradual dawn of a new paradigm. That was when we were empiricists, and exploring the past was a compulsion rather than an earner. Emeritus Professor Harumpher, now retired to the country, likes to boast that he has never received a grant for anything at all. That never stopped him from carrying out over 30 excavations, which he is now getting down to publishing in between telephone calls to nieces and long walks with the dog. His excavations were staffed by volunteers and students, whose principal asset was loyalty, and whose reward was the excitement of taking part, supplemented by the occasional sandwich. "In all the life-enhancing activity of humans, the amateur excels over the professional" that is another of his favourite sayings--though not of course applicable to his own 36 years of teaching.

If archaeological research needs fieldwork, then it has certainly got more expensive. It has also got more disciplined, more productive, more credible and more rewarding--more professional in fact. We can see more, and know more, thanks to precision digging, a battery of new onsite techniques and a willingness to match the area opened to the question posed. But the new field research is programmed through design, itself fed by evaluation where an idea is first tested against the terrain and the resources available. A field project can thus be initiated by quite modest sums, and becomes eligible for implementation at professional level, with consequent costs, only when the design has been completed and preferably reviewed through public exposure in advance of its implementation.

This procedure does not fit too well with the process of awarding research grants, which rarely allows a phase of prior evaluation; on the contrary, many of the councils seeking sexiness won't give grants to a project that has already started, or to study the results of one that remains unpublished. Thus when a million euros are offered to do a dig, they are often offered blind. Most applicants have understood this, so avoid including excavation, archaeology's prime research instrument, in their package. If started, it's ineligible, if not started, it's too risky. This is not at all satisfactory, but it is up to us to educate the research councils. Ground-breaking archaeology nearly always requires us to break ground; and this delving in the earth always needs a pilot study to determine the size of the excavation, the methods to be employed and ipso facto, the cost. Moreover, the wealth of new knowledge is not necessarily related to the size of the grant. Universities might like the award to be as large as possible, but the researcher is looking for funds to match the objective, not a massive windfall destined to submerge her/him in administration. Big questions can be addressed with small sums, and there are thousands of new ideas out there, sprouting in unexpected places. This is the academic reality. Meanwhile the economic and political reality is that persons of every walk of life shall compete for a government bonanza, whatever the subject, whatever the purpose, whatever the outcome, provided it has the 'wow factor'. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Editorial
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.