Public Archaeology is…

Some commentary on and about Public Archaeology. Read what others have to say. Join this dialogue. Submit your ideas about Public Archaeology here.


Public Archaeology is…

…engaging the public in order to share archaeological findings and/or promote stewardship of cultural resources or to otherwise make archaeology relevant to society by providing the public with the means for constructing their own past….

…this growing field of archaeological research includes theoretical and practical work in archaeological heritage management (AHM), archaeological education, museum archaeology, the sociopolitics of archaeology, Cultural Resources Management (CRM), and a number of other arenas in which archaeologists and their publics interact….

                (Carol McDavid, (2002:2) From Real Space to Cyberspace: The Internet and Public Archaeological Practice. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Cambridge).

Public Archaeology is...

a subfield of practice evolving exponentially.
applied practice undertaken by educators with archaeology experience and or archaeologists with educational interests
… a sub-specialty of theoretical academic practice (e.g., Ph.D. dissertations, MA theses, taught courses and college/university programs)
… often required and or offered as a mitigation option in Cultural Resources Management.

As Public Archaeology matures, it increasingly involves hybrid professionals --
collaborative efforts done not by one archaeologist, one educator, or one institution but by a combination of any of these (e.g., individuals having formal training in both archaeology and K-12 education, formal interpretation training, public relations, etc.)

                Chair of the SAA Excellence in Public Education Award Committee (Patrice L. Jeppson) writing in the Committee Report to the Board, 2005.

Public Archaeology is...

Public archaeology, also called community archaeology in some places, is the passing along of information discovered in academic archaeology to people outside of the profession, whether that information is passed along via the Internet, or books, television programs, lectures, pamphlets, museum displays, archaeology fairs, or by opening up excavations to the public.

Many scholars are reluctant to participate in public archaeology, perhaps because it takes away time from their research, or because they are uncomfortable in public venues, or because they can't resolve the many ethical dilemmas that accompany making culturally sensitive data public.

The new article Public Archaeology describes many of these ethical issues, particularly those concerning preservation of archaeological sites, and the privacy of descendants of the people studied. Practicing public archaeology is complicated, and I for one greatly appreciate those scholars who do dedicate some of their research time to explaining what it is they do and what they have learned to the rest of us. Without their input into these pages, this public archaeology venue would be much poorer. Archaeology Guide K. Kris Hirst, Kris's Archaeology Blog July, 2010

    PUBLIC ARCHAEOLOGY, an international, peer-reviewed journal.

This journal is promoted by its publisher as “the only international, peer-reviewed journal to provide an arena for the growing debate surrounding archaeological and heritage issues as they relate to the wider world of politics, ethics, government, social questions, education, management, economics and philosophy. As a result, the journal includes ground-breaking research and insightful analysis on topics ranging from ethnicity, indigenous archaeology and cultural tourism to archaeological policies, public involvement and the antiquities trade. Key issues covered include the sale of unprovenanced and frequently looted antiquities, the relationship between emerging modern nationalism and the profession of archaeology, privitization of the profession, human rights and, in particular, the rights of indigenous populations with respect to their sites and, material relics representation of archaeology in the media, the law on portable finds or treasure troves, archaeologist as an instrument of state power, or catalyst to local resistance to the state. Public Archaeology is for all those who wish to take part, keep themselves informed, or build on a keen interest in the field, including: archaeologists, cultural historians, cultural economists, heritage managers, specialist journalists, political commentators, leisure and tourist operators, private consultancies, national and international lawyers and conservationists as well as those responsible for university courses in museum studies, heritage management, politics, anthropology and law.”



         Public Archaeology  Volume 8, Number 3, Autumn 2009


         Public Archaeology Volume 8, Number 2, Summer 2009

          Public Archaeology Volume 8, Number 1, Spring 2009

          Public Archaeology  Volume 7,  Number 3,   Winter 2008


          Public Archaeology  Volume 7,  Number 3,   Autumn 2008

          Public Archaeology Volume 7,   Number 2, Summer 2008          

          Public Archaeology  Volume 7,  Number 1, Spring 2008

Public Archaeology Volume 6, Number 4, Winter 2007

Public Archaeology Volume 6, Number 3, Autumn 2007

Public Archaeology Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 2007

Public Archaeology Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 2007



Public Archaeology is… 

  AP:  Online Journal in Public Archaeology

Public Archaeology is…

        Careers in Archaeology Education
-- an SAA Public Education Committee Handout
This handout produced by the SAA Public Education Committee for use at a CRM Expo in 2005 presents a pragmatic look at some career paths in Public Archaeology -- namely Archaeology Education jobs. Read the response to this handout written by Carol McDavid.


Public Archaeology is…

"Public Archaeology is a branch of modern archaeology that focuses on increasing public awareness and education about archaeology. A goal of Public Archaeology is the preservation of the fragile sites of our prehistoric and historic past that are being destroyed at an alarming rate through natural process and development."

                        Florida Public Archaeology Network (University of West Florida) web page, accessed April, 2007.


Public Archaeology is… A plea for Community Archaeology

A paper by Barbara Betz posted on the Saving Antiquities for Everyone website provides a very good definition of community archaeology:

"What is community archaeology? The most basic, widely applicable definition of community archaeology is that given by archaeologist Stephane Moser of the University of Southhampton in England: it is the practice of archaeological research in which “at every step in a project at least partial control remains with the community.” Packed within this definition are many implications and variations from project to project. This is to be expected in a technique that has emerged more or less independently in projects all over the world and which, by nature, must be highly reflexive and responsive to each particular archaeological site and its associated communities. There are, however, some factors common to all community archaeology projects: an emphasis on multivocality and genuine, two-way dialogue between archaeologists and the affected public, and an investment in empowering involved communities in political, social, and/or material ways.On the face of it, relinquishing total control over a project in this way may seem like a risky proposition that goes above and beyond an archaeologist’s call of duty and endangers scientific objectivity in the process. Yet current archaeological practice is riddled with problems and it is clear from several case studies that community archaeology is not only necessary but actually beneficial to all involved – including the archaeologists and their research."
Betz' full article, Putting the past to use: A plea for community archaeology, can be found here at SAFE

Sample Public Archaeology Job Description

These job specs reveal the evolution of the speciality of Public Archaeology and also indicate, to an extent, the locations where Public Archaeology is flourishing. This is not a comprehensive list. Please submit any examples you may know of for this list here .

Public Archaeology is....Public Archaeology Case Studies

Public Archaeology Case Studies 
The NPS Archeology and Ethnography Program is compiling a gallery of public archaeology Case Studies as part of its Archaeology for Interpreters on-line guide. Illustrated summaries of approximately 1000 words accessible through an interactive map. You can view these here.

Submit Your Own Story...What programs have you developed? What has worked or not worked? The NPS Archeology and Ethnography Program is compiling a gallery of public archaeology Case Studies as part of its Archaeology for Interpreters on-line guide. Share your own experiences in a short case study for the gallery here.


Public Archaeology is......Archaeology and Civic Engagement

Archaeology can play a role in efforts to strengthen communities and promote public dialogue, particularly as archeological projects increasingly involve the communities in which they occur and as archeologists recognize their ethical responsibilities to involve multiple stakeholders. This technical brief from the National Park Service provides explanations of civic engagement and social capital as well as case studies and suggestions for ways that archaeologists can participate in this effort.


Updated 10/13/2016