What Does Contract Archaeology Cost?

Carina Andersson and Rickard Franzén at the Swedish National Heritage Board have put together a report in Swedish titled “What Does Contract Archaeology Really Cost?”. Their answer to the question is, briefly, “less overall than the County Archaeologists would actually allow”. County Archaeologists all over Sweden put out lots of contract work to tender and select who will do each job at what budget. And the archaeologists on average keep well within these budgets. Very likely, this is helped to a great extent by sites that look promising but turn out to be duds.

Another way of answering the question is that in 1996-2006, Swedish contract archaeology cost from 150 to 330 million kronor per annum, which currently translates to $19-42 million or €15-33 million. Divided by Sweden’s population the money translates to about $2-5 per capita, though not all of the money is of course public funds.


  1. #1 ArchAsa
    October 25, 2008

    Since most excavations are funded by infrastructure projects, it would be interesting to compare the cost in percentage of the whole cost for all infrastructure developments.

  2. #2 Martin R
    October 25, 2008

    I’ve never seen figures, but the general consensus seems to be that contract archaeology fills a very small part of the budget of a highway or railroad project. Far more for construction in the cities.

  3. #3 DamArcheologist
    October 26, 2008

    In Los Estados Unidos, no one has been brave enough to total up the cost of contract/compliance based archeology, primarily because we are a little scared that people will learn how much money is being spent and how little is getting out to the public in real, meaningful understanding of history and prehistory. Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, the Reservoir Salvage Act made it possible for agencies building dams to set aside up to 1% of the construction budget for archeological research. Now that tribes have elevated the concerns regarding traditional cultural properties, along with the generally increasing costs, we can see that the 1% figure has its limitations. I’d be interested in finding out what kind of percentage is being spent in Scanda-lands.

  4. #4 David
    October 28, 2008

    Åsa: When I worked at the National Heritage Board I think I saw such figures for infrastructure projects. IIRC they were about 3-5% of the total cost, but I could recall incorrectly. I´m sure the correct figures can be found in some report – not really my area of focus.

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