Practicing Archaeology

By Hill, Mark A. | Plains Anthropologist, May 2005 | Go to article overview
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Practicing Archaeology


Hill, Mark A., Plains Anthropologist


Practicing Archaeology. By THOMAS W. NEUMAN and ROBERT M. SANFORD. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, 2001. xii + 295 pp., figures, tables, appendices, bibliography. $78.00 (Cloth, ISBN 0-7591-0094-2).

Practicing A rchaeology is a practical and useful introduction to the field of cultural resource management as it is practiced today in the United States. As the authors state, ". . . the text means to inform the reader about what is involved in doing professional archaeology with particular attention given to those things that normally are not taught in a university setting but that are expected to be known by the student when entering private or government practice." The book very much meets this goal by providing background on the legal foundation of CRM and a step by step approach to project planning, inventory, testing, and data recovery. There are few other sources where a student or archaeologist can find an introduction to CRM that is as straightforward, comprehensive, and useful.

The book begins with a review of the development of archaeology and cultural resource management from the Works Progress Administration through the River Basin Surveys and on to the National Historic Preservation Act. It then uses some rather impressive statistics to show that the majority of archaeologists working as such in the United States are employed in private industry or government within the realm of cultural resources management. The authors rely on this as a central theme - namely that although most archaeologists in the United States work, or will work, in cultural resource management, the current educational focus falls short of preparing students for employment in the field. This, then, is the role that Practicing Archaeology sets out for itself-to prepare the student or new CRM archaeologist for employment in the private or government sector.

The following chapters do an excellent job of presenting the basics in a readable and useful format. Chapter 2 presents a good overview of laws and regulations. In this chapter, the authors address and define concepts such as integrity, significance, undertaking, criteria of effect, criteria for evaluation, and area of potential effect. If you have not worked before in cultural resources management, an on-the-job introduction to these concepts can be (and often is) a confusing experience.

Chapters 3 and 4 introduce topics rarely presented to students. In Chapter 3 the world of proposals and contracts is discussed. Where do you find out about projects? How do you prepare a proposal and bid? These are covered in detail sufficient to develop confidence in submitting proposals and quotes in response to RFPs and RFQs (and even defines RFP and RFQ for the reader). Chapter 4 addresses background research, including a good discussion of understanding and outlining the project history and need for the project, as well as the more familiar historic and prehistoric background. It presents the reader with many valuable sources of information, including SHPO files, interviews, and Sanborn maps.

Chapters 5, 6, and 7 discuss fieldwork, including planning, staffing, and logistics, while Chapter 8 addresses laboratory analysis. Inventory, or identification of historic properties, is well covered in Chapter 5. The following chapter delves into the methods, logistics, and objectives of testing, while Chapter 7 presents data recovery in a readable and useful format. How do you set up a lab? How much space will you need? What equipment will be required? These are all addressed in Chapter 8 along with the more commonly taught methods and objectives.

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