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Insights --

The Many Faces
of CRM

CRM in Introductory
Archaeology Textbooks

 

Associate Editor's note: This article represents the second in a series of book reviews being conducted by SAA's Committee on Consulting Archaeology. The reviews consider introductory archaeology textbooks with regard to their treatment of cultural resource management. The reviewers were asked to consider a number of questions regarding the treatment of cultural resource management: (1) what aspects of CRM are covered; (2) what essential topics are not addressed; (3) of the topics covered, is the discussion accurate, thorough, and up to date; (4) is the discussion fair and free of anti-CRM bias while at the same time addressing the real problems and limitations of CRM; (5) does the presentation provide the student with useful information about CRM and opportunities therein?

In the Beginning:
An Introduction to Archaeology

1997 (9th Edition)
Brian Fagan
Longman

Reviewed by Joel I. Klein

Brian Fagan's In the Beginning: An Introduction to Archaeology can certainly lay claim to being the doyen of introductory archaeology texts in use in the United States. It has appeared in a new edition on an average of every three years since the first edition was published in 1972. Its author is not only a highly respected scholar, but an individual who has done an outstanding job of communicating to the lay public the serious dangers facing the archaeological record from both commercial looting and amateur pot-hunting (excellent summaries of the Slack Farm and GE Mound cases are included). Given this background, I had high expectations for the ninth edition of In the Beginning. I can report that there is both good news and bad news.

A check of the table of contents indicates that there is an entire section (Part 8) called "Cultural Resource Management" totaling 30 pages. This is by far the longest treatment of CRM afforded by any of the introductory texts with which I am familiar. (By contrast, Thomas' Archaeology and Sharer and Ashmore's Archaeology: Discovering Our Past, reviewed in SAA Bulletin 1999, 17(1): 25­29, devote 18 pages and 6 pages, respectively, to the topic). That's the bulk of the good news.

CRM is mentioned only twice outside of Part 8. The discussion of archaeological research points out that "Research design has a critical part in cultural resource management" (p. 85) and in the discussion of site assessment where it is said that "very small test trenches, called 'shovel units,' or sampling with augers are methods commonly used when time is short, especially on sites located on cultural resources management (CRM) surveys" (p.169). While the first mention certainly reflects positively on CRM, the latter introduces a subliminal theme, taken up in Part 8, that CRM archaeology is usually associated with "salvage," or "rescue," is rushed, and is therefore somehow not up to the standards of traditional academic archaeology.

Fagan has missed a number of opportunities to integrate mentions of CRM into the text. For example, Part 2 "A Short [27 pages] History of Archaeology: Sixth Century B.C. through 1990" makes no mention of the pioneering work of the River Basin Surveys of the 1930s and 1940s, the origin of much of today's CRM in the United States. Interestingly, the survey was discussed in previous editions of In the Beginning in a section on "Salvage Archaeology" (e.g., the 1975 second edition). Another missed opportunity is his discussion of the "diversity of archaeologists" where mention could have been made of archaeological resource managers.

The discussion of excavation staff (p. 179) and their roles is that of the old-style, Old World model, with no discussion of the more typical model used on CRM projects in the United States. Leaving aside the discussion of foremen ("Sir Leonard Woolley worked with the same foreman, Sheik Hamoudi, from 1912 to 1941"), Fagan's description of staff organization is exclusively that of an academic type, and is virtually unchanged from the description which appeared in his 1972 first edition. Here was a perfect opportunity to discuss private consulting firms and the role of non-student field technicians. The section on administrative and managerial skills required of archaeologists (p. 79) makes no mention of the need to be knowledgeable about the laws and regulations under which work must be conducted. Instead we must wait until p. 449 to learn that "The administrative and legal skills required of a contract archaeologist are much further-ranging than anything envisaged by an academic researcher." A final example is the section on ethnicity and inequality (pp. 392­397) where mention could have been made regarding New York's African Burial Ground where major discoveries were made in advance of a proposed construction project, and which received international media coverage.

The introductory section to the chapter "Managing the Past and Public Archaeology" states that "The emerging crisis [of site destruction] is rapidly turning archaeology from an academic discipline into a profession" p. 436), but by p. 461 the change is complete and "Archaeology has changed . . . into a profession." Fagan closes this volume with a short but excellent code of ethics for everyone interested in and concerned about our archaeological heritage. However, the brief mention of the SOPA (now, the Register) code of ethics and standards of research performance (p. 450) seems to imply that they are for CRM archaeologists only and came about solely to "mitigate" the "problem of quality" with CRM work.

The same introductory section notes that "Because [CRM] work is done under contract to government agencies or private companies, it is sometimes called contract archaeology, to distinguish it from the actual management of cultural resources" (p. 437, emphasis added). This is another example of the unstated implication that "contract archaeology" is somehow a thing apart from the rest of the "profession" of archaeology.

The author's introduction for instructors, in discussing changes in the ninth edition, states that he has "updated Chapter 20 on cultural resource management to reflect the latest legislative changes, as well as the intense debate over repatriation of burials and funerary artifacts" (p. xix). I found the first part of this statement a little confusing since the eighth edition was published in 1993 and the most recent piece of legislation mentioned in the text is NAGPRA, passed in 1990.

The discussion of legislation does not appear to have been prepared by someone with a working knowledge of the cited laws. With the exception of the Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974 (Moss-Bennett), all the major laws are mentioned. The discussion of the National Historic Preservation Act emphasizes the National Register of Historic Places. No mention is made of Sections 106 or 110 or the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The discussion of NEPA incorrectly attributes to it requirements for archaeological site inventories and surveys. NEPA most assuredly does not order "all federal agencies to take the lead in historic preservation and to locate properties that might qualify for the National Register." Nor does NEPA require

 
"In the Beginning: An Introduction to Archaeology . . . has appeared in a new edition on an average of every three years since the first edition was published in 1972."

federal agencies to "develop programs to contribute to protection of important historic properties on federal land" (p. 441). Contrary to statements on p. 444, NEPA does not require environmental impact statements for all major state projects, nor does it in any way "override the notion of private ownership of archaeological sites." A summary section identifies NEPA, ARPA, and NAGPRA as the most notable pieces of CRM legislation without mentioning NHPA. Some additional minor points include mention of Executive Order 11593 even though its requirements were incorporated into NHPA years ago, and several references to NHPA as the "Historic Preservation Act."

Fagan does acknowledge that the majority of America's archaeologists now work outside academia. However, he incorrectly states that the majority of non-academics are employed by government. The discussion of "Archaeology as a Profession" contains what I found to be the single most distressing sentence in In the Beginning: "Jobs in archaeology, except those in involved in cultural resource management, are often hard to come by, even with a doctoral degree" (emphasis added, p. 460). Full-time jobs in CRM can be considered numerous only by comparison with tenure-track university positions. The myth of jobs aplenty in CRM which is perpetuated by academic archaeologists bears a stark contrast to the reality of the hundreds of part-time field technicians who, if they are lucky, work six months out of a year and are forced to leave archaeology after a few years. The same section also implies that CRM is something for those not pursuing an education beyond the M.A level. Its also contains a condescending statement to the effect that although the "M.A. does not give you as much access to research funds and opportunities as a Ph.D. . . . one can still do valuable work" in CRM.

In the Beginning comes closest to articulating the subliminal theme that CRM archaeology is somehow substandard archaeology in a statement on page 458; "The problems of CRM are a leading issue in contemporary archaeology and will never disappear." These "problems" apparently include, in addition to the "quality of work" issue, the fact that "most contracting parties assume that archaeology is a descriptive science," and "to be frank, a good deal of dubious research," and the problem of the gray literature (p. 451). The perpetuation of this last myth serves no purpose. The fact is that a much greater percentage of CRM work results in a final report (with generally greater availability) than does academic work.

Fagan does have some positive things to say about CRM. He notes that "CRM has brought extensive methodological benefits to basic research" (p. 451) and that some major CRM projects have yielded "major theoretical perceptions" (p. 447). Finally, as if attempting to disavow all of the stated and implied criticism of CRM, Fagan states: "There has been a dangerous and often unthinking tendency to segment archaeology into two broad campsthe academic, deductive researchers taking on specific problems on one side, and contract archaeologists involved with salvage, management, and compliance on the other" (p. 447). This positive statement, if not entirely accurate in its depiction of the difference between academic and CRM archaeology, is immediately qualified by the statement that this "insidious distinction is, of course, a gross simplification" because "many distinguished academic archaeologists are deeply involved in cultural resource management." ·

Joel I. Klein is a senior project manager with John Milner Associates, Inc., in Croton-on-Hudson, New York.

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