No. 57 Vol. V, No. 10 Published July, 1977 Edited by Andrew & Wendy Selkirk, 9 Nassington Road, London NW3 2TX, Tel. 01-435 7517
Printed in Great Britain by David Green (Printers) Ltd. 10 July 1977 (7.76)
CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY IS PUBLISHED SIX TIMES A YEAR FOR A SUBSCRIPTION OF £3 ($6) A YEAR SUBSCRIPTIONS SHOULD BE SENT TO: CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY 9 NASSINGTON ROAD LONDON NW3 2TX
Back Numbers 50p each (1-4 out of print) Binders to hold 12 issues £1.75
Bureaucrats or Professionals? Over the past five years, the amount of Government money available for rescue archaeology has increased tenfold. The results, however, have not been commensurate: what has gone wrong? In a recent article in Rescue News, Professor Beresford Dew, of the Department of Management Sciences at Manchester University, highlights some of the problems. Much of the article is devoted to working out the total expenditure on rescue archaeology in 1976/7: a total of £2.6 million for England alone, of which the DoE provided 70% and Job Creation Programmes a further 13%. The crux of the article, however, comes in a series of despairing questions to which no answer is offered: If there is no flexibility, how can priorities be established? If established units take most of the allocations, how is innovation to be dealt with? How is an established unit to be run down? Should there be greater centralisation, or greater decentralisation?
Yet the answer to these questions is basically simple. We must admit straight out, that the unit system has failed and should be replaced as soon as possible. The unit system is essentially a bureaucratic system where archaeologists are employed on a fixed salary in a fixed area, and the unit goes on whether work is available or not, whether it is competent or not, whether it is successful or not. It is by nature inflexible. What is needed is to change over to a professional system, whereby the DoE allocates its funds site by site, problem by problem.
The fees should be comprehensive, and cover not only the basic excavation or other project, but also writing up, conservation, radiocarbon dates, and environmental studies, and there should be an allowance for fieldwork, to enable the team to carry out its 'market research'. Contracts should be allocated on a rolling basis and the DoE should take care to provide each team wit h a continuous stream of work. The model could be the former Rescue Archaeology Group, which was established by Chris Musson on the lines of an architectural practice, and which achieved great success in the short time that i t operated in the Welsh marches. Brian Philp's Kent rescue team and Guy Beresford also provide differing, but highly successful examples, and there would be an opportunity for teams to specialise on a countrywide basis on special subjects, such as barrows.
Under such a system, all would benefit: the present units, freed from the restraints of doing everything in a restricted area, could concentrate on what they do best; work could be spread out round the country as a whole; and by concentrating effort where the need is greatest, archaeology as a whole would benefit.