Forum: What Are We Really Learning through Publicly Funded Historical Archaeology ( and Is It Worth the Considerable Expense
Authors: William B. Lees Julia A. King
Summary: Historical archaeology has become an established discipline within the last 30 years, yet to some its value is unrecognized or open to question. The reason for this can be found in several areas. As a discipline, historical archaeology has yet to develop a coherent approach to the study of the historic past or to the identification of sites that are truly worthy of preservation or study at public expense. Reports of excavations are cumbersome and difficult to use by other archaeologists, let alone by professionals in other disciplines or the interested public. We are probably spending considerable money on sites that really do not warrant the effort. As a whole, our literature does clearly illustrate the value of our accomplishments. To remedy what is in reality a decades-old problem requires leadership from the profession and from individual professionals. We need to redefine what we as a discipline are attempting to accomplish and how it is best accomplished, redefine priorities for publicly funded archaeology, establish a meaningful threshold of significance, reinvent our reports, challenge other scholars with our findings and interpretations, and insist that publicly funded projects result in publicly oriented products.