Applied Archaeology

Article excerpt

The need to examine applied archaeology stems from the long-held recognition by archaeologists that study of past societies has an important impact on living ones. The pace of applied work in archaeology has greatly accelerated over the past 25 years. While legislation is the engine that drives much applied archaeology in cultural resource management, archaeologists also are developing many other creative and autonomous areas. This paper offers a typology and examples of applied archaeology in seven areas: resource claims, cultural identity and representation, technology, public education, cultural resource management (CRM), cultural tourism, environment, and ecosystem projects. After examining ethical considerations in applied archaeology, we conclude with discussion of how applied archaeology relates to applied sociocultural anthropology, including attention to methods, local community and social groups, culture-broker roles, and qualitative program evaluation. Applied anthropology, and archaeology in particular, has much to offer in building bridges outside the academy. Sociocultural anthropologists can benefit from being more aware of areas of potential collaboration with archaeologists in applied work. Archaeologists can benefit from becoming more aware of where sociocultural expertise is needed, in oral history and other interview methods, for example.

Key words: applied archaeology, CRM, public education, tourism, ethics


The study of past societies can have an important impact on living ones (e.g., Childe 1925,1942; Fowler 1987; Trigger 1986; Wood and Powell 1993; Zimmerman 1995). Like applied anthropology, in general, practical applications of archaeology have a long history. However, the pace of applied work in archaeology has greatly accelerated over the past 25 years. Worldwide, a host of laws now mandate archaeological involvement in cultural resource management, or CRM (Carnett 1991; Cleere 1984; McGimsey and Davis 1984). In the U.S., annual archaeological expenditures by federal agencies alone exceed $75 million (McManamon et al. 1993:6-8). Even more archaeological work is undertaken on a contract basis for private developers, government land management, and to fulfill the needs of aboriginal peoples. CRM legislation is the engine that drives much applied archaeology. However, there also exist less obvious types of application that deserve attention; we will discuss some of these below. While one early collection of papers (Angrosino 1976) included archaeological practice, the literature of applied anthropology (e.g., Anthropological Society of Washington 1956; Chambers 1987; Foster 1969; Stull and Schensul 1987; van Willigen 1986; Wulff and Fiske 1987) has favored sociocultural practice, often omitting archaeology altogether. Certain recent publications (e.g., McEwan, Hudson, and Silva 1994; Wood and Powell 1993) suggest that this oversight is being partially addressed. Archaeology's increasing visibility is also evident in recent articles on heritage tourism (Howell 1994), ethics in contract archaeology (Garrow 1993), and an entire issue of Practicing Anthropology (Treitler and Stoffle 1994) that focuses on newly expanded roles of CRM specialists who collaborate with Native American groups. However, it is clear that the four subfields of anthropology have not been represented in applied journals and books proportionate to the amount of work accomplished.

Even within the discourse of archaeologists themselves, there have been remarkably few explicit discussions of something called "applied archaeology" (but see Gunn l978; Pyburn and Wilk 1995:75; Staski and Marks 1992:674). Furthermore, much recent discussion of archaeology's role in society has concentrated on deconstructing the political content of archaeological interpretations (Shanks and Tilley 1988; Watson 1990). Nevertheless, applied work in archaeology is real and it is growing. As Wood and Powell (1993:406) note, over half of new Ph. …