Education in Archaeology

By Malone, Caroline; Stone, Peter et al. | Antiquity, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Education in Archaeology

Malone, Caroline, Stone, Peter, Baxter, Mary, Antiquity

This Special Section on Education in Archaeology celebrates the advances made in making archaeology a subject in schools and universities. Here we have collected together a number of short essays on aspects of archaeology and education. Peter Stone has invited a number of the contributions from colleagues around the world, and these have been included alongside others which had been offered or were specifically invited. The pieces address aspects of archaeology in education, from its use in primary and secondary schools to colleges and universities and beyond into professional and teacher training. It is timely, at the end of one century and the beginning of another, to consider just what our subject has done and aims to do in the realm of dissemination and explanation to our successors. All too often, and especially now with the pressure of academic assessments at all levels, and especially to research, there is too little thought paid to content and mechanisms of presentation.

The section opens with two historical papers, appropriately describing two outstanding women in archaeology who each had a major influence over education and archaeology in Britain. There has been much celebration of Dorothy Garrod in 1999, the 50th anniversary of her promotion to Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge. Pamela Smith has unearthed some revealing new documentation about Garrod's rise in academic status, and describes the quite scandalous situation that existed at Cambridge before 1946 regarding women in academia in this otherwise innovative university. Christine Finn has resurrected a remarkable educational film about archaeology made under the academic guidance of Jacquetta Hawkes during the last War. Surely this was one of the first attempts to portray prehistory and the pre-conquest world of Britain as a worthy and civilized place! Elements of the film and Hawkes' script would be useful to the curriculum makers of today, although much was rather sexist and the gender roles portrayed would not be appropriate in the modern age.

The next theme deals with archaeology as taught in schools from an international perspective, and the papers reveal how different backgrounds and political histories direct the establishment view of the past. Training teachers to overcome these constraints is still little developed, although one training course has developed particular strategies to train teachers in appropriate skills. Education does not end in schools, but normally begins at university where most serious students of the subject get their first taste of archaeology. What they get varies enormously between institutions, and from country to country. Universities are for specialization, and it is good for the profession that some students emerge qualified to deal with environments, whilst others are better versed in medieval towns, or in Classical pottery. However, surely all courses in archaeology should be presenting some unifying elements which go beyond the simple definitions of archaeology as the study of material remains of humans? In Britain now, according to the statistics from UCAS (the organization that deals centrally with university and college entries), some 38 institutions (many of them newer universities) offer between them some 431 courses which touch on archaeology. However, this touch may be in the form of `Waste Management and Archaeology' or `Tourism', and not through a focused degree course. Roughly some 30 humanities degree courses at 20 institutions saw 538 students accepted to read for degrees in 1998. Getting a place on a reasonable course is still quite tough, with a ratio of 1:6.9 finding a place. Is Britain now training too many students in archaeology too superficially, or alternatively, are students at last with a genuine interest in the past able to explore the academic side of the discipline? These are speculations, because here our concerns are with the papers gathered for this issue, which describe and discuss the situation in several countries and at school and university level. …

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