Practicing Archaeology: A Training Manual for Cultural Resources Archaeology

By Driskell, Boyce N. | Southeastern Archaeology, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Practicing Archaeology: A Training Manual for Cultural Resources Archaeology


Driskell, Boyce N., Southeastern Archaeology


Practicing Archaeology: A Training Manual for Cultural Resources Archaeology. THOMAS W. NEUMAN and ROBERT M. SANFORD. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, CA, 2001. 295 pp., biblio., 2 appendices. $78.00 (cloth), ISBN 0-7591-0094-2.

Reviewed by Boyce N. Driskell

For the past two summers, I have offered an archaeological field school dedicated to the subject of practicing archaeology; this volume has served as the textbook. According to the authors, Practicing Archaeology is a volume that "means to inform the reader about what is involved in doing professional archaeology, with particular attention given to those things that normally are not [sic] taught in a university setting but that are [sic] expected to be known by the student when entering private or government practice" (p. 4). Thus, after an introductory chapter that presents a background to practicing archaeology, they take the reader through a chapter devoted to the legal basis of the practice, followed by a chapter on proposals and contracts. The latter will likely be quite helpful to the prospective or newly practicing archaeologist, who rarely gets much background in college courses on the business of archaeology. Other chapters take the reader through the Phase I, II, and III process. The final two chapters treat laboratory processing, analysis, and reporting.

Before discussing other aspects of the book, I must express a bit of dismay as to why the authors and AltaMira Press have published two books that share most of their content. Both have 2001 publishing dates and neither refers to the other nor professes to be an update or expansion of the other. In fact, in the Preface of the other book, Cultural Resources Archaeology: An Introduction (reviewed in 2003 by David Brose in Southeastern Archaeology 22 [1]: 112-13), the reader is informed that the book gives "some sense of what a person needs to know-in addition to the standard classroom, field, and laboratory courses-to archaeology after he or she gets out of college." This seems to be about the same goal as articulated for the volume reviewed here.

Perhaps the authors intended to make Practicing Archaeology more useful as a textbook by organizing the book's sections with hierarchical section numbers and a brief introduction to each chapter that reads like a student study guide. Comparisons will also show that Practicing Archaeology offers expanded discussion of proposals and contracts with an extra chapter (chapter 3) devoted to the subject. Chapter 8 is also a fuller discussion of laboratory processing and analysis than found in the other book. Finally, the appendices are expanded in this version. Appendix A includes a photocopy of federal regulations as published in the Federal Register. This is useful but can become dated, which of course the authors recognize and they provide references elsewhere to websites where updated federal laws are published. Appendix B, titled "Basic Training," presents a discussion of training for the practicing archaeologist that is divided into auricular, field, and laboratory topics. While not agreeing necessarily in all particulars with their list of didactic and experiential credentials for practicing archaeology, I applaud Neumann and Sanford for going on the record in this very critical area of concern by today's practicing archaeologists. There is no glossary, as is found in Cultural Resources Archaeology: An Introduction, but there is an index which seems to be fairly comprehensive.

Chapter 1, a "brief history of extra-academic and professional archaeology," is the least successful discussion in the book. …

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