Alice O’Mahoney

Evaluating commercial and developer communication of archaeological finds with communities

The past has always been seen as an integral part of humanity’s understanding of identity. Heritage is incorporated into a community’s way of identifying themselves as a community and as individuals. Archaeology not only contributes to the understood heritage, but creates a rich and extending narrative for human society and culture.

Becoming Human Festival, University of Bradford: a day where the University showcased the Archaeological Sciences to visiting public. In the picture John Lord is teaching me how to knapp flint. Many thanks go to Karina Croucher for taking the image with John Lord’s permission.
Becoming Human Festival, University of Bradford: a day where the University showcased the Archaeological Sciences to visiting public. In the picture John Lord is teaching me how to knapp flint. Many thanks go to Karina Croucher for taking the image with John Lord’s permission.

Developer funded archaeological fieldwork is conducted on areas where development is to be undertaken and the land is deemed of archaeological interest. The work is usually conducted by a commercial archaeology company. The developer pays for any archaeological work undertaken on the land. Though guidelines may detail that the archaeological investigation is to record information for public benefit, there are no specifics as to how the information should be imparted to the public, nor how much. The reports created are often a similar template with overly technical language and little interpretation; within the discipline commercial reports are commonly known as ‘grey literature’. The recording of archaeology through developer funding generates a large amount of data, much more than excavations undertaken by academics for research purposes. Though prolific in creating data and information commercial archaeology has largely operated away from the gaze of the public. Those outside of the discipline are often uninformed concerning archaeological work that is undertaken for, and funded by, developers.

The current coalition government’s move towards localism gives more power to local authorities, as well as communities. However, there is still a need to develop infrastructure not just at a national level but also at a local level. A recent call by the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey, asks for evidence contributing to an inquiry into Local Government archaeological services and is supported by the The Archaeology Forum. The inquiry hopes to investigate the issues that surround the protection and preservation of current heritage sites. The inquiry also hopes to examine the current planning permission and development guidelines in relation to heritage. An opportunity therefore exists to review the current guidelines and legislation. This will not only open discussions regarding how developers and archaeologists can protect heritage, but what their duties are to the public. This opens a wider discussion concerning methods that render public involvement with commercial archaeology financially feasible, whilst maintaining the ethical principles of inclusive local participation in heritage.

Current academic literature discusses community outreach schemes; however, these are usually concerned with already established heritage areas. There is little to no research on community engagement during developer funded projects. To address this, the research will focus on evaluating two areas of developer funded archaeology: firstly, the current level of interaction between commercial archaeological companies and the public during developer funded excavation; secondly, the amount of collected data that is communicated to the public after the completion of these excavations. This will ascertain the current level of interaction and availability of commercially funded data to the public. The objective of the research is to inform the ways in which developer-community interaction with local heritage issues could benefit the public perception of archaeology as a whole; with the scope of using community led projects as examples to generate policies of ‘best practice’.

Biography

From a young age history and archaeology have been part of my life. My mother studied Classics and is a Latin and Ancient Greek teacher. Holidays were spent going to museums and interesting ruins. As I grew older my interest focused on Archaeology and I undertook the A Level at my local college, going on to study Archaeology at degree level at the University of Southampton. After graduating I undertook commercial excavations in the Republic of Ireland, and England. I worked on a range of different sites, from prehistory to multi-period sites, thus furthering my fieldwork skills and archaeological knowledge. In 2013 I undertook a Masters in Mesolithic Studies at the University of York. I am currently studying for my PhD at the University of Bradford, funded by the Heritage Consortium.

Supervisors: Dr Randolph Donahue, Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford, and Dr Liz Laycock, Department of the Built Environment, Sheffield Hallam University

https://brad.academia.edu/AOMahoney

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