Editorial

By Malone, Caroline | Antiquity, December 2000 | Go to article overview

Editorial


Malone, Caroline, Antiquity


As readers will see, the Colour Notes continue to flood into the Antiquity office, and we are delighted to include diverse and stimulating material from around the world. Clearly there is no crisis in the enterprise and energy that archaeological colleagues direct towards survey, excavation and general observations in the world of archaeology, regardless of difficulties of politics, geography or resources. Over the year, every continent has been represented, and we hope that these news reports will continue to provide interest and information.

In September, we described the activities of English Heritage's review of Heritage and the Historic Environment. The results of the Mori poll conducted to examine the results are now released before discussion by Government in November. Pertinent to the Special Issue we published in March 2000 on Education and Archaeology is the extraordinary interest shown by the respondents to the survey which suggests 98% of people believe `the heritage is important to educate children about the past and that all schoolchildren should be given the opportunity to find out about England's heritage'. In addition apparently 96% thought `the heritage is important to educate adults about the past' and 76% reckoned `that their lives were enriched by the heritage', indeed 58% of the population had visited sites and museums in the last year. However, particular sections of the population, especially ethnic minorities, felt excluded, and the press release makes clear that these groups are to be specially targeted in future policies on presenting and preserving the historic environment. You can read the results of the poll on www.english-heritage.org.uk/discovery/heritage-review/mori

In this issue we include a long Retrospective paper by GEOFFREY WAINWRIGHT, the former Chief Archaeologist of English Heritage. We invited Professor Wainwright to review the changing world of archaeology in England since 1960, and comment on the development of the practice and the discipline. The paper reveals how the various directions over the years have come about, and how the current structure of archaeology and heritage has been gradually formed. Many readers from outside England will doubtless consider that the archaeological services that now operate here are a strange anachronistic affair lacking centralization. However, as Wainwright recounts, there were moments in the fairly recent past, when opportunities could have been taken to set up a far more centralized and coherent archaeological service. As always, in this subject, individuals and their passions have been the major force behind change, one way or another.

The Quality Assurance Agency have begun the country-wide review of archaeology departments over 2000-2001. Cambridge was the first department scrutinized, and, as we write, staff are breathing heavy sighs of relief on the completion of the assessment. They scored a fine 23 out of the maximum 24. Presumably, being the first place seen, 24/24 was not likely -- after all, better places may exist. The reason given was not enough bureaucracy -- in spite of the mass of departmental files on show! Can archaeology ever win such games?

There are few sites in England that represent so clearly the beginnings of English society than Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. The discovery of the great treasure in 1939 and the subsequent ongoing academic research, publication, prominent display in the British Museum, as well as inclusion in the National Curriculum for History, mean this is a key site. It is all the more surprising that a muddle has developed over how future work should be undertaken at the site.

Sutton Hoo

It has been said that each generation gets the Stonehenge it deserves: in May 2000 I was prompted by a visit to Sutton Hoo to wonder if that is true of that site also and, if so, what version the 21st century is about to create.

Excavations took place in early summer 2000 in advance of the construction of a visitor centre by the National Trust in the grounds of Sutton Hoo (now Tranmer) House, some 500 m away from the burial mounds. …

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