Archaeology at the Crossroads

Tony Aldous reports on the latest developments in archaeological practice.

Archaeology has changed, is changing, but needs to change even more. This was the consensus among speakers at a conference held in November at Lincoln’s history-layered castle and cathedral hilltop. The conference, promoted by the English Historic Towns Forum and the Association of Local Government Archaeology Officers, came almost exactly seven years after an earlier EHTF conference there, at which the then responsible minister, Lady Blatch, unveiled a new planning policy guidance note on archaeology.

That guidance note, ‘PPG16’, has revolutionised the aims and practice of field archaeology in Britain. It laid down that developers, by an extension of the ‘polluter pays’ principle, should pay for pre-development examination of their sites under the supervision and to the satisfaction of the local planning authority. In the financial year 1996-97, their spending on this totalled some £35 million. By 1990, as a speaker at that earlier conference remarked, archaeology had already become a considerable business rather than the pursuit of dilettantes. It is now big business.

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