Back in February I posted snippets of an opinion piece I’d been asked to write about the current state and future prospects of Swedish archaeology. Now the thing has appeared on-line in Antiquity (behind a pay wall, but see below), though the journal’s autumn issue has not reached subscribers on paper yet.
For you nat-sci types, I should probably explain that Antiquity is my discipline’s equivalent of Nature. So, getting to inaugurate a new recurring heading there, “Prospects”, is something I’m very proud of.
Archaeology should have a popular/populist slant designed to please tax-payers. We should study site types that are comprehensible to the interested layperson and preferably do our fieldwork in or near densely populated areas. Proximity to population centres should be seen as an important independent quality in a site as it allows members of the public easy access. New archaeological knowledge is much more valuable to a person if it relates to a place they already know.
I advocate archaeological hedonism. While of course upholding our public duties as
custodians of the archaeological record, we should as far as possible avoid studying anything that is boring. Archaeology is after all not useful to anyone in the sense that food and housing and healthcare are useful. The hallmark of good archaeology, instead, is that it is fun. It is chocolate, not potatoes. And if it is not fun, then it is bad archaeology. Of course there is no accounting for taste, but I believe that there are many archaeological sites that nobody, scholar or layperson, could see any fun in whatsoever. Particularly so with poorly-preserved non-monumental sites.
Update 31 August: I’ve received Antiquity’s permission to place the paper on-line for free in PDF format.