What is Community Archaeology?

Dorset Diggers

The Dorset Diggers

I have always known that community archaeology is a hard topic to define. I thought that I could acknowledge this, create my own definition and move on, but does this make my research relevant and comparable?

I was hoping to use the definition ‘groups of people that carry out archaeology projects because they want to’. I had assumed that this would be either fieldwork or archive based. However…

I gave a presentation to the Dorset Archaeological Committee (DAC) who questioned this. One chap asked if I meant ‘amateur archaeology’. Another response was ‘but I do it by myself’ and a lady apologised that their project would not be doing community archaeology during their next season, because they would not be having open days, school visits or new volunteers.

Later in the month I then attended a conference session on Defining Community Archaeology in a Global World- see my review here. In different places community involvement with archaeology is appropriate in different ways. In Ireland, for example, it is illegal to carry out archaeological fieldwork without a license. Examples were also given of projects in Romania where school kids were involved in the creation of a travelling archaeology exhibition and in Moldova various communities were involved through providing practical assistance e.g. the local fire brigade provided ladders.

In the UK the term ‘Community’ has become a popular, but also political, term. It is sometimes misappropriated and is often now applied to many projects and ideas, archaeology or not, in order to gain popular support. It is a buzz word, and buzz words often mean funding. Community Archaeology is no exception and, although this is why I have a funded PhD, I should not fall into the same trap.

I’m going to have to create a definition of community archaeology that is appropriate to Dorset.

It is important that I work out my definition from the phenomenon and not make assumptions about an ill-defined buzzword.

These events have broadened my perspective but now I need to narrow my definition, hmm. I think I need to continue to find more out about what is happening in Dorset.

For some examples of please look here 

Dorset Diggers

The Dorset Diggers


2 thoughts on “What is Community Archaeology?

  1. Gill

    I always assumed that Community archaeology is advertised for, and has the potential to, engage anyone in the community (how do you define ‘community’?) as opposed to local society archaeology which is carried out by members of the community you could argue, but is actually limited to the members of the society, and not necessarily inclusive

    1. Hayley Post author

      But some people consider Community Archaeology to be that created by the ‘community’. It’s complicated and I need to decide what I am focusing on


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