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Teaching Archaeology in the 21st Century:

Thoughts on Postgraduate Education/Professional Development

Phyllis E. Messenger, Dennis B. Blanton, Tobi A. Brimsek, Noel Broadbent, Pamela Cressey, Nancy DeGrummond, John E. Ehrenhard, Dorothy S. Krass, Charles R. McGimsey III, and Nancy M. White

Editor's note: This article was prepared by the Postgraduate Education/Professional Development Work Group (Phyllis E. Messenger, chair) at the SAA Workshop on "Teaching Archaeology in the 21st Century" held at Wakulla Springs, Florida, February 5-8, 1998, George S. Smith and Susan J. Bender, workshop cochairs. See SAA Bulletin 16(5):11 for a discussion of the workshop.

Recognizing that the Principles of Archaeological Ethics adopted by SAA provide a framework for archaeological practice in a rapidly changing world, archaeologists must ensure that they have the adequate training and experience necessary to conduct their work. It is incumbent on the profession to identify and develop opportunities for all professional archaeologists to acquire, maintain, and update their knowledge and skills to keep abreast of changing sociopolitical and technological contexts. To encourage all practicing archaeologists to become lifelong learners, professional societies must encourage through various incentives the participation of their members in continuing education opportunities, such as courses, workshops, attendance at conferences, publications, and guides to resources. These professional development opportunities should be rigorous and continually evaluated and updated to be consistent with the guidelines offered by the ethical principles and "best practices" identified by the discipline.

Principles for Ongoing Professional Development

All practicing archaeologists should have access to continuing education opportunities. The target audience includes teaching faculty, cultural resource managers, contract archaeologists, archaeological technicians, public interpreters, and archaeology educators, as well as professionals in related fields of research, teaching, decision making, and resource management. Professionals in diverse work settings require access to continuing education opportunities in a variety of formats: courses, workshops, symposia, online seminars, moderated listserves, resource guides, case studies, booklets, and other publications. Development of the resources to meet these needs will require the participation of many educational institutions and professional organizations, especially those with an entrepreneurial approach.

Some preliminary steps to facilitate the development of continuing education opportunities can be taken, such as compiling information on existing workshops, classes, and educational resources including publications, web sites, and videos, and evaluating their appropriateness for professional development. Another step is the identification of mechanisms to deliver professional development opportunities via collaborative efforts involving professional societies such as SAA, Society of Historical Archaeology (SHA), American Institute of Archaeology (AIA), Register of Professional Archaeologists, and credit-giving institutions. The executive boards of professional societies and organizers of conferences and meetings should be enlisted to encourage participation in these learning opportunities.

Access to resource materials is an important component of professional development, in both the dissemination of information about existing materials and the development of new resources. Work group participants cited the need for cultural resource management texts, collections of case studies, online syntheses of federal regulations, and a source book for archaeology--a sort of "Whole Earth" catalog for archaeologists. Current issues in such areas as public education, sociopolitics, and ethnography could be addressed in a series of booklets or pamphlets, as well as through regular electronic communication. Increased access to unpublished reports and other "gray" literature should be promoted on a state-by-state basis, with online availability of technical titles and bibliographies encouraged as a first step.

Principles of Archaeological Ethics as a Framework for Learning

While the potential audience for professional development is broad and the formats are multiple, the work group concluded that the Principles of Archaeological Ethics, adopted by the SAA Executive Board in 1995, provide a unifying set of themes for postgraduate education. The eight principles address stewardship, accountability, commercialization, public education and outreach, intellectual property, public reporting and publication, records and preservation, and training and resources. The following states the core concept of each principle and lists examples of the relevant professional development needs and opportunities.

Stewardship--All archaeologists must work for the long-term conservation and protection of the irreplaceable archaeological record by practicing and promoting stewardship.

The overarching stewardship principle should be supported by a broadly defined set of continuing education opportunities that enhance archaeologists' abilities to promote widespread participation in preservation issues by members of the public and professionals alike. These should address archaeological ethics, law, and professionalism in a manner similar to that discussed in the report of the Graduate Education Work Group under "graduate core competencies." Laws should be addressed on both a national and state-by-state basis, providing accessible and updated information about laws and compliance issues, as well as state-based workshops on laws for target audiences, such as contractors, resource managers, and archaeologists.

Within professional societies, plenary sessions and forums at annual meetings or other conferences should address the theoretical and applied contexts of the principles. The work group also recommends that as part of the profession's commitment to the stewardship principle, there should be strong encouragement of thesis and dissertation research based on archival collections rather than excavation. Workshops and other training sessions to facilitate such research and its supervision are highly recommended.

Accountability--Responsible archaeological research requires public accountability and active consultation with affected groups.

Seminars on partnerships, lobbying, and consultation practices might address advocacy with politicians, developers, and others controlling and affecting the resource base. Relationships with ethnographic and affected communities should be addressed in relation to theoretical contexts of project design, as well as all aspects of communication and consultation. Workshops and interactive courses on conflict resolution, management skills, and human relations should be offered.

Commercialization--Archaeologists should discourage and avoid activities that enhance the commercial value of archaeological objects and contribute to site destruction.

There is a general need for access to case studies and information on looting and prosecutions related to the archaeological record. Short courses on international laws and agreements and ethical issues related to the antiquities trade, museum and private collections, and specialized areas such as shipwrecks would be valuable. Continuing education also should address popular images and public perceptions of archaeology as a treasure hunt.

Public Education and Outreach--Archaeologists should participate in cooperative efforts with others to improve the preservation and interpretation of the cultural resources by enlisting public support and communicating interpretations of the past.

Training to improve communication skills, including technical and popular writing, can be addressed through workshops, distance learning, and disseminating writing guides with examples. Working with the media includes developing skills in producing a media kit and discussing complex issues in clear and simple language.

Emphasis should continue to be placed on working with elementary and secondary school teachers and other educators. Information about existing resource lists, resource exhibits, and workshops at annual and other meetings should be widely disseminated and targeted to all professionals in the field. Federal and state agencies and other organizations with public education programs, including museums and parks, should be encouraged to enhance their outreach to archaeologists in all areas of the profession.

Intellectual Property--The knowledge and documents created through the study of archaeological resources are part of the archaeological record and must be made available to others within a reasonable time.

Among the continuing education needs in this area is the development of case studies to illustrate the need for this principle. Relevant information would include guides to the proper use of archaeological archives and databases, copyright laws, and proper citations, including electronic formats. Guidelines for proper paper presentations and ethnographic ethics and courtesy would make valuable contributions to the continuing education of professional archaeologists.

Public Reporting and Publication--Archaeologists must present knowledge gained from investigation of the archaeological record to interested publics in timely and accessible forms.

Topics for workshops and guidebooks include technical writing with clarity, ethical issues in public presentation of archaeological information, and developing programs, displays, and popular publications from technical information. Professional development in this area relates closely to the principle on public education and outreach.

Records and Preservation--Archaeologists should work actively for the preservation, responsible use, and accessibility of archaeological collections, records, and reports.

Professional development needs include curation and collections management of materials and records. Technical guides, bibliographies,and case studies of proper and improper collections management would be useful resource materials for this topic. Training should include raising awareness and developing strategies for preserving the records and reports of archaeologists who retire or leave the profession.

Training and Resources--Archaeologists must have adequate training, experience, facilities, and other support necessary to conduct research in accordance with the foregoing principles.

Continuing studies offerings must provide opportunities to gain specialized training or expertise related to job responsibilities. They also should address changes in laws, technologies, and archaeological practices. Maintaining the expectation of staying up-to-date in these areas and having the means to do so are as important for the professor of undergraduate and graduate students as for the field archaeologist and lab technician.

Additionally, the work group identified the need for self-evaluation, which might be accomplished by writing a personal mission statement vis-a-vis the Principles, and the documentation of skills through résumé writing. This self-reflection should be mirrored by a protocol for evaluation of the workplace. A model of such evaluation might be developed and presented via the SAA Bulletin or sessions at annual or other meetings.


The Postgraduate Education/Professional Development Work Group promotes the development of a wide range of continuing education opportunities for all professional archaeologists as a way to keep abreast of new research and teaching strategies and technologies, and changing laws and practices in the field. The SAA Principles of Archaeological Ethics provides an organizing framework for maintaining professional competencies in archaeological practice for the 21st century.

Phyllis E. Messenger is the director of the Center for Anthropology and Cultural Heritage at Hamline University; Dennis B. Blanton is with the Center for Archaeological Research at the College of William and Mary; Tobi A. Brimsek is executive director of SAA; Noel Broadbent is chair of the Archaeology Department at the University of Umea, Sweden; Pamela Cressey is president of the Society for Historical Archaeology and head of the Alexandria Archaeology Program; Nancy DeGrummond is chair of the Classics Department at Florida State University; John E. Ehrenhard is director of the Southeast Archeological Center, National Park Service; Dorothy S. Krass is the SAA Public Education program manager; Charles R. McGimsey III is with the University of Arkansas Department of Anthropology (emeritus); and Nancy M. White is with the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida.

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