Sunday, 18 January 2015

Archaeologist? A charted archaeologist?

In the wind-whirl that seems to be my normal work week - 200 georeffed surfaces on top of planning applications, preparing a work trip to Rome and checking references - I noticed that the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) I am a Member of has changed its name officially to the Charted Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA). The Institute has officially got its charter from the Queen, so I am now REALLY an archaeologist - apparently. There have been a series of e-mails on how beneficial this is, but I assume I am not the only one who has to have prioritised keeping all the plates in the air and skipping the messages to be read at a later stage - the job newsletter, though, has seldom got more thorough 'find-and-search'. However, now archaeologists in Britain has an official entity that can say who has the level of professionalism to be employed as a professional archaeologist. And it is not necessarily the degree that counts, what what is your 'craft', your experience in it and your of 'craftmanship'.

I have recently written about the situations where a Finnish research student has suddenly found herself in between the categories and different practices in different countries. However, the issue of who is an archaeologist is a wider one. The postprocessual archaeology at least in its one form promoted relativism, so anybody who can considered a stakeholder could be an archaeologist. The discussions of the politics of archaeology and the access to archaeology has been an issue for a longer period now. And now we can give our comments, since before Christmas Cornelius Holtorf announced a theme for a coming Special issue of Journal of Contemporary Archaeology.

Now I have to quote direct Cornelius for his own words: "In recent years several archaeologists have stated, or implied, that “we are all archaeologists now”. On the one hand, this statement can be seen as democratizing the discipline and opening up the field of archaeology to contemporary society at large, in particular to all those who, like professional archaeologists, are interested in engaging with the material remains of the past. On the other hand, we have to wonder where exactly archaeological professionalism and their specific expertise lies if “we are all archaeologists now”. Are some people perhaps not archaeologists after all?"

I assume this blog does not open the invitation to the whole world, so I point out that his forum "invites archaeologists and others to submit responses to the short provocation contained in the first paragraph. Commentaries are welcomed in the form of short academic texts (1,000 – 3,000 words) or in any other genre suitable for representation in print, including drawings and images. We welcome especially original thoughts and specific examples from around the world. The best commentaries in terms of originality, diversity and depth will be published in a forthcoming Forum in Journal of Contemporary Archaeology. Deadline for submissions is 4 April 2015." If interested, find Cornelius via or google.

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