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11-06-2012
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Introduction to THE STANDARD AND GUIDE TO BEST PRACTICE FOR ARCHAEOLOGICAL ARCHIVING IN EUROPE#


1. THE AIM OF THE GUIDE

2. SUSTAINABILITY

3. THE CONTENT OF THE GUIDE

4. HOW TO USE THE GUIDE


Archaeological narratives of past socio-economic and cultural developments can give meaning and context to the present day life of each human being. They position the individual in the continuum of human development and history and help in coming to grips with the temporary nature of human existence and the relative nature of culture.

Archaeological narratives are based on research activities. By its very nature, archaeological field research destroys its own evidence by removing objects from their context by excavation. This makes archaeology unique compared to other scientific disciplines. As observations in the field can never be repeated, the process of excavation must be carefully registered and documented.

The objects found during the research are stored in archives, usually, but not always accompanied by the documentation recording the original find circumstances. This documentation is often called the raw or the primary data, consisting of field drawings, maps, databases registering the finds, reports, photographs, results of laboratory analyses etc. These primary data, together with the physical finds, are the closest we can ever get to the lives of past generations and especially non literate ancient cultures. These data and objects are the primary source of archaeological information. They are essential archaeological heritage which needs protection in its entirety. Only when this heritage is preserved in the archive in its entirety will it be possible for future generations to use the evidence to create their own narratives.

Archaeologists study the remains and their find circumstances before they are moved to the final archive. The results of their researches are published in monographs and articles which are shared among colleagues, sold on the market and made available through various channels of dissemination. These results are “static”, created on the basis of the knowledge of their epoch. Future scientists will have more data and more information available and re-assessment and recombination of the information of earlier research is likely to occur. To make the archaeological evidence and results sustainable, it is of vital importance to ensure that archaeological archives are easily accessible, legible and comprehensible for future generations.

The storage and accessibility of publications in libraries is well organised and governed by international standards of annotation and disclosure. The storage of the finds in the archives, together with the descriptive documentation is less standardised. The actual procedures followed are often built on local practice, unregulated by national or international bodies. This hampers the accessibility and the reuse of the available resources for scientific, educational or managerial purposes.

Today a wide spectrum of users needs access to archaeological archives such as: archaeologists operating in excavation units both in the public and the private sector, non-archaeologists such as civil servants responsible for local land use policies, landscape architects who want to incorporate archaeological added value into their development plans, citizens with various purposes, solicitors contesting claims and more. Since archaeological documentation has become increasingly reliant on digital technologies, the archaeological archives are, alongside the libraries, becoming increasingly important as central repositories of our knowledge of the past.

The ARCHES project is aimed at making the archaeological archives throughout Europe sustainable by guiding them into easily accessible collections of finds and documentation by accepted standards of procedures, ready for reuse, now and in the future by all who have a genuine interest in the past.