Grand Challenge

#265 CRMArch's Grand Challenge

Grand Challenges in Archaeology

This post is part of a blogging carnival taking place at Doug’s Archaeology during the month of January, 2016. The question is, what are the grand challenges in your archaeology?

What is My Archaeology?

I consider “my” archaeology to be what Tom King calls, “CRM Archaeology”. Ha! Just kidding, Tom. Actually, most of us practitioners of the archaeology part of CRM do call it CRM Archaeology. There is a debate, however, that archaeology is not CRM and CRM is not archaeology. I’m not going to argue either way here, suffice it to say that field technicians that work in CRM generally just do the archaeology part. So, we call it CRM Archaeology.

The Grand Challenge

After editing and listening to Episode 76 of the CRM Archaeology Podcast where Chris, Doug, Bill, and Stephen discussed their ideas of the “grand challenges” to archaeology I realized that my idea isn’t really even an archaeological one. My grand challenge is this:

CRM Archaeology needs to join the 21st century before we can even have a discussion of what archaeology will look like in the future. If we don’t evolve our ideas, our tech, and our procedures then lobbying and litigation will simply destroy our field and we’ll be left discussing what when wrong while standing in the welfare line waiting for powdered milk.


Anyone that reads this blog or listens to my podcasts (here, here, here, and here) have heard me talk about technology and it’s applications to archaeology. I don’t champion different tech methods because I’m obsessed with Apple or because I don’t like to get my hands dirty. I do it because I fear for the future of our field and our livelihood.

Just about every other field that archaeology comes in contact with has advanced their field practices to include current and applicable technology. They’re staying relevant, and more importantly, they’re keeping their clients happy. When your field practices slow you down or take away your market advantage then someone else will step in and take your place. In the case of archaeology, they’ll just repeal the NHPA and then we’ll all be in a world of trouble.

I’m not going to go on and on here. It’s pretty simple, really. If we keep showing up on million dollar projects with clipboards, pencils, ripped up pants and shirts that should have been retired long ago then we’ll soon find ourselves working at a Starbuck’s. That’s a simple fact.

There won’t be time for pontificating on the latest theory to replace the Disco Archaeology (from Twitter, not me…) of the 70s if we’re all trying to figure out what went wrong. We need to be proactive and constantly seeking out better, more efficient ways to get our jobs done. However, we need to do it in a way that serves our purposes as well. Budget in conferences, papers, publications, public talks, and whatnot if you’re saving your client money with your use of efficient tech. Don’t just low-ball to get the project. Show your client that you can make them look good by doing the archaeology justice. It’ll work if we all do it.

The Real Grand Challenge

That last sentence is key to this entire enterprise. We’ve got to stop fighting amongst ourselves. I know of a few large firms, and a few smaller ones, that are trying to use tablets in the field and are trying to become more efficient. This field, however, isn’t a retail business and we shouldn’t be looking at our “competition” like that. That’s difficult to say when you’re just trying to make payroll; trust me, I understand. If we don’t work together, though, we’ll all fall behind.

Rather than develop apps in-house so you can gain market advantage, market your methods so others can use them. Level the playing field so we can all benefit. DIGTECH will never develop something that just stays at DIGTECH. That’s not how a harmonious society works. I believe in working together for our mutual benefit.

What do you think? Am I off the mark? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!!