Caroline Malone & Simon Stoddart

By Postgate, Nicholas | Antiquity, March 2000 | Go to article overview
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Caroline Malone & Simon Stoddart


Postgate, Nicholas, Antiquity


* That `All archaeology is research' has long been accepted by academics, but is it not also true to say that much archaeology is concerned with education, teaching, explaining, popularizing and learning? In this issue, we celebrate the business of transmitting ideas and facts about the past to new generations of scholars, from primary-school children through to very adult people. Depending on the presenters, the audience and the location, archaeology takes on many different hues and flavours. The sheer variety of archaeologies taught around the world, and even here in Britain, may come as a surprise. Of course, archaeology is as varied as the people who created it, and as diverse as those who interpret it, but in the last half-century politics, curriculum reforms, educational experiments and the birth of archaeology as a degree subject across the world has resulted in wide recognition.

Over the years, ANTIQUITY has taken a positive attitude in making archaeology a clear and interesting subject, with a wide relevance to communities that extend far beyond universities and museums. O.G.S. Crawford made almost no reference to the use of archaeology as education outside universities (see particularly his Editorial Notes for March 1932 -- ANTIQUITY 6: 1-4), but in much of his writing he promoted the notion of archaeology for all, as important for the betterment of people. Glyn Daniel not only saw the beginning of archaeology as a widely taught university subject, but was also instrumental in promoting it as popular media entertainment. He chaired the very popular Anglia TV programme in the 1950s `Animal Vegetable Mineral', which included amongst its guests such popularizers of archaeology as Mortimer Wheeler and Stuart Piggott. By the 1960s there was a massive expansion of universities and of new university courses in archaeology. Adult education became very popular, and there was an explosion of excavation during the rebuilding and expansion of post-war Britain which involved a newly created profession of `Circuit' diggers and amateurs. Alongside this came new `A' level courses in archaeology which took the subject to schools and colleges. Since those times, there has of course been much rethinking about what archaeology can offer to children and to the process of learning about the world and its past, and there has been much debate about whether archaeology is history or classics or science, or whether there is a place for human sciences separate from geography or anthropology or sociology.

Since the formation of the Council for British Archaeology in 1944 (see Fox 1944: 158-9), the use of archaeology in education has become one of the key aims of the organization, alongside research, conservation, information, public participation and support for local and period societies (see http:// www.britarch.ac.uk/cba/strategy.html). The Young Archaeologists' Club, the junior arm of CBA, offers a splendid introduction to active participation, and many a child has joined, later to pursue university study and, for some, a career in archaeology. Alongside YAC are numerous junior sections in county Societies, and in museums, and outreach is active and generally successful. Archaeological magazines offer an important means of communication and some have specific sections for children. The Archaeological Institute of America has recently founded `Dig' for children (www.dig.archaeology.org) which offers a broad range of well-presented and stimulating items to young readers. Similarly, in Italy, Archeoclub d'Italia has launched `Archeoclub Junior'. More of these excellent introductions are needed if young archaeologists are to be encouraged.

Education has been a growing area of concern in CBA for decades, and information sheets and now web pages provide teachers with resources and the prospective student of archaeology with information on courses and degrees across the country. The success and impact of including archaeology within the teaching of history, geography and many related subjects in schools owes much to the persistence of successive CBA Education Officers.

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Caroline Malone & Simon Stoddart
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