CBA Occasional Papers

Council for British Archaeology, 2000 (updated 2013)

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Council for British Archaeology (2013) CBA Occasional Papers [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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Research objectives in British archaeology

Charles Thomas (Editors)

CBA Occasional Papers No. 14 (1983)

ISBN 0 906780 32 2


Title page of report 14

Thirty-five years ago this Council produced A Survey and Policy of Field Research in the Archaeology of Great Britain (1948); in less confident but more socially sensitive times we now eschew a survey and baulk at stating policy, cloaking our aspirations in the neutrality of Research Objectives. The purpose, however, remains essentially the same: to inform, to encourage, and to add to the sum of human knowledge. Well over a hundred individuals, collectively contributing through seven committees deployed through the Research Board of the Council, have brought their minds, skills, and experiences to bear in producing these papers. I hope at least a few of those who read this page will then read the whole booklet through to the back cover so that they, like me, will of so much deliberation. be able to experience the cumulative effect.

These papers together place their strongest emphasis on research: this booklet is about what we want to know. This may be unfashionable, and indeed largely impractical, in 1983. After a decade, however, of pointless argument about the so-called rescue/research dilemma, of increasingly embittered argument with commercial, trivializing treasure-hunters, and of not always apparently fruitful argument to promote archaeology to its rightful place in the conservation world, to consider research on its own merits is both a relief and a challenge. We consider it here on a thematic rather than a chronological or geographical basis, reflecting the CBA's timely re-organization from period to subject committees in the mid-1970s; yet the considerations tend towards the empirical and intuitive in the well-tried tradition of British scholarship. Fifteen years after Analytical archaeology and all that it symbolizes, its lack of overt influence here, for better or for worse, is worth noting. Surely one hundred and more practising British archaeologists cannot all plead ignorance of 'New Archaeology' as the reason for its absence.

The old arrangements for conducting archaeology are changing, however, and this cannot be ignored. Archaeology in universities and archaeological societies in their communities, for example, are under examination; the state, at least in England, is about to discharge its statutory functions, and possibly more, through a new Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission instead of through the Directorate of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings of the Department of the Environment. The archaeological functions of the Ordnance Survey have recently been transferred to the three Royal Commissions on Ancient/Historical Monuments for England, Scotland, and Wales. Our objectives, defined without reference to such organizational matters, will surely nevertheless be affected by them and we can but humbly draw our deliberations to the attention of those in high places. In that context especially I would stress that this discussion paper is a publication of the Research Board and NOT a policy statement of the Council for British Archaeology.


  • Title pages
  • Editor's Introduction (pp vii-xi)
  • Research objectives in aerial archaeology (pp 1-6)
  • Research objectives in church archaeology (pp 9-14)
  • Research objectives in the countryside (pp 17-25)
  • Research objectives for historic buildings (pp 29-32)
  • Research objectives in industrial archaeology (pp 35-38)
  • Research objectives in urban archaeology (pp 41-45)
  • The contribution of archaeological science (pp 49-52)
  • Appendix A: Towards a national policy of data storage, indexing, retrieval, and use (p 53)
  • Appendix B: Membership of the Research Board and Committees at 1 January 1983 (pp 55-56)

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