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News from the Register of Professional Archaeologists

Charles M. Niquette

The Executive Committee of the Register of Professional Archaeologists (the Register) met in Washington, D.C., on December 28-29, 1998. This meeting was held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). While in Washington, we learned that the AIA Board of Governors had voted unanimously to join the Register as a sponsoring member along with the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) and the Society for American Archaeology (SAA). In so doing, the Register has gained the commitment and financial support of the three largest archaeological organizations in this country. The AIA decision also presents the Register with new challenges, particularly because of the diversity of archaeological specialties and interests within its membership.

AIA has been dedicated to the encouragement and support of archaeological research and publication and to the protection of the world's cultural heritage for more than a century. A nonprofit cultural and educational organization chartered by the Congress, it is the oldest and largest archaeological organization in North America, with more than 11,000 members worldwide. Members of AIA have conducted fieldwork in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. AIA has further promoted archaeological studies by founding research centers and schools in seven countries and maintaining close relations with these institutions, including the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the School of Classical Studies at the American Academy in Rome, among others. The education and training of many AIA members varies dramatically from the more traditional career tracks shared by the SHA and SAA membership. Instead of holding advanced degrees in anthropology, many AIA archaeologists hold degrees in art history, the classics, history, and other, similar fields. As a result, many AIA members are not field archaeologists, but instead, are professionals whose research interests and expertise are predominately (or even exclusively) laboratory- and collections-based. Despite these differences, the three societies share a common link in their professional commitment to archaeology, desire to enhance professionalism within the discipline, and recognition of the need for a universal code of conduct and standards of research performance. The Register meets these needs.

Given the diversity of professional archaeologists who will wish to be registered, the Register's Executive Committee discussed the current application process. Just as SOPA suffered in its early days from a general perception that the application process was too cumbersome, similar comments and concerns have been continually raised about the Register's current process. Acknowledging the changes inherent in AIA's sponsorship, the Executive Committee wanted to ensure that the Register be as inclusive as possible. If the application process was considered an impediment to such inclusiveness, then a modification to the process was deemed appropriate.

It was decided that a Register applicant could choose to submit his or her credentials using the current Register application or opt for a more expedicious, less burdensome process. The alternative application does not require documentation of field and lab experience per se, but requires instead that the applicant:

(1) hold an advanced degree with a specialization in archaeology;

(2) has designed and executed an archaeological study that has been reported in the form of a Master's thesis or doctoral dissertation; and

(3) accept the Code of Conduct, Standards of Research Performance, and Grievance Procedures of the Register of Professional Archaeologists.

To accommodate the AIA membership, the Register's Executive Committee has extended the application fee waiver until January 1, 2000.

We solicit the enthusiastic support of the members of the three sponsoring societies and archaeologists everywhere who desire to enhance professionalism within the discipline. By becoming registered archaeologists, we have the opportunity to demand accountability for our own actions and those of our peers, and to set examples for the next generation of archaeologists. The heart and soul of the Register remains: the personal choice to distinguish oneself as a professional, agreement to abide by the Code and Standards, and to support willingly the purpose of a disciplinary procedure that works to protect the profession. The payment of fees to the Register supports the professional community, just as our taxes support the communities in which we live. The Register is not a licensing or certification board; it is a voluntary step one takes to distinguish oneself as a professional archaeologist. By becoming a registered professional archaeologist, one clearly signifies acceptance of professional responsibilities. In so doing, we take a well-considered step toward recognition as professional archaeologists, distinguished from those who work within the field of archaeology, but who have not attained a professional level of education and experience, and from unscrupulous "peers," antiquities traders, antiquarians, looters, and others whose interest in archaeology will forever remain suspect.

Applications to the Register may be obtained by requesting a copy via email at or by downloading a copy from Alternatively, one may contact the Register of Professional Archaeologists at 5024 Campbell Blvd., Suite R, Baltimore, MD 21236, (410) 933-3486.

Charles M. Niquette, secretary/treasurer of the Register of Professional Archaeologists and a registered professional archaeologist, is at Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc., in Lexington, Kentucky.

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