Bad Archaeology

Welcome to the Bad Archaeology blog

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By Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

In a new departure, we are beginning a blog in addition to the static pages. Think of this as a magazine and the static pages as an ecyclopaedia. That way, you’ll know what to expect from each part.

The media are full of Bad Archaeology. Look at any link aggregator, such as Archaeologica and you will find that a small proportion of the stories it reports are Bad in one way or another. Perhaps it is a find that is being over-hyped by its discoverer; it may be a “radical re-evaluation” that turns out not to be so “radical” on closer inspection; it may be a spectacularly poor interpretation of fairly mundane data; or it may even be the lone anti-archaeologist, to whom the archaeological establishment is the Great Satan, hiding The Truth™© from us all.

Working at the east entrance of Chester's Roman amphitheatre in 2001

Working at the east entrance of Chester’s Roman amphitheatre in 2001 (this is an example of real archaeology of the sort that I do as part of my job!)

It can be amusing to poke fun at some of the mistakes promoted by the media in the name of archaeology (witness BBC News accommodating the fantasies of ley hunters), but these are soft targets. Archaeology as practised today is a fast-moving, commercially-driven enterprise, employing graduates whose understanding of the minutiae of the data with which they have to deal can be minimal, but who need to produce interpretations quickly for their funding organisations. It is here that major errors can occur, not through incompetence but through unfamiliarity with local archaeological remains, through work done too rapidly on an inadequate budget, through simple tiredness. We are none of us immune from these mistakes and I hope to include some salutary examples from my own work in months to come.

In the meantime, I welcome your comments!