Practicing Archaeology: An Introduction to Cultural Resources Archaeology

By Brennan, Tamira K. | Southeastern Archaeology, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Practicing Archaeology: An Introduction to Cultural Resources Archaeology


Brennan, Tamira K., Southeastern Archaeology


Practicing Archaeology: An Introduction to Cultural Resources Archaeology. 2nd ed. THOMAS W. NEUMANN and ROBERT M. SANFORD. AltaMira Press, Lanham, MD, 2010. xvii, 346 pp., illus. $99.00 (cloth), ISBN: 978-0-7591-1806-5; $89.99 (e-book), ISBN: 978-0-7591-1807-2.

Nearly all North American archaeologists get their start in a university or college setting, but only a small percentage of these grads ultimately make their careers in or around the classroom. The bulk of these extraacademics (an astounding 85.5 percent of all archaeologists employed in their field, according to the authors) practice archaeology within the broadly defined field of cultural resource management: finding employment with the government, private sector firms, and inhouse archaeology branches of larger companies. Despite this fact, 'most introductory and many advanced-level archaeology texts fall short of providing the amount and type of information that these statistics warrant, thereby failing to actually prepare an aspiring archaeologist to do the job for which his or her degree is intended. The result is that many fresh graduates both at the undergraduate and graduate levels require an unacceptable amount of entry-level training upon securing their first postgraduate job. Practicing Archaeology is intended to remedy this issue, and it does so in a thorough yet manageable volume.

Neumann and Sanford organize Practicing Archaeology in a manner that encompasses the process of a project from start to finish-a helpful tack for students whose only practical experience may be the meaty middle portion of archaeological investigation, wherein actual excavations take place. The authors open Chapter 1 with a summary of the beginnings of professional archaeology, the legislation that brought it to be, and its current station in academic and nonacademic sectors alike. They track important historical events that affected the current state of our field and provide examples of projects that made an impact on how archaeology is done today. In Chapter 2, Neumann and Sanford detail the important legal and regulatory aspects of cultural resource management, stopping along the way to ensure that the reader understands the significance of these laws and the different scales at which they may take place (local, state, and national).

In Chapter 3, the authors remind us that professional archaeology has a business end for which certain nonarchaeological skills are required. The chapter is divided into two sections: government and private sector contracts. The different needs and expectations of both are covered, including how to tailor the bid and contract to meet each. This chapter covers everything from where a private firm searches for work to how a bid is secured. It also outlines what elements belong in a technical proposal and details how a reasonable budget is constructed. Along the way, the authors highlight the variety of demands and expectations that a contractor might face in a day's work and how to best prepare for these.

Chapter 4 follows by outlining what data a project background requires and directs the researcher toward finding it. Some of this information, such as searching site files, compiling relevant soil surveys, and when and why to conduct informant interviews, may be unfamiliar to those whose archaeological experience is limited to fieldwork alone. The authors describe how this part of compliance is typically done and provide their opinions on how it might better be done.

In Chapters 5-7, Neumann and Sanford take us into territory that is more commonly covered in the standard archaeological texts: the Phase I, II, and III processes. They go beyond the basics, however, and include important logistics such as the many pre-field requirements of contract work. These topics range from staffing needs and estimating labor costs to onthe-ground applications of sampling techniques and safety measures. The authors not only cover the factual aspects of the job but also delve into information that is usually gained through experience or, in some cases, learned from mistakes made. …

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