Impact ? What Impact? Legacy ? What Legacy?

Archaeology and the loss of confidence

Organiser(s); Janet Miller (Director of Heritage, Atkins Heritage), Sefryn Penrose (Atkins Heritage), sefryn.penrose [at] and Brigitte Buss (Atkins Heritage) brigitte.buss [at]

At the end of his 1973 polemic Archaeology and the Loss of Innocence, David Clarke stated that “the practical excavator should appreciate more than any other archaeologist the degree to which his practice is controlled by his theoretical expectations, and these should accordingly be appropriate”. In the decades since that work was published, there have been other paradigm shifting moments for archaeological and heritage thinking. Have these challenges to the orthodoxy and the resulting heated debates led to revolutions in our practice? Or did the “expansion of consciousness” that Clarke urged us to embrace lead to a lack of confidence in the value of an archaeological perspective?

Attempts to measure impact and legacy join the continued dominance of preservation – in situ and by record – in archaeology’s preoccupation with the future; while concerns around social impact and conservation have prioritised the presentation of a perceived ‘authentic’ past and view ‘memories’ as data. Archaeological practice in and for the present, meanwhile, falls back on tried and tested forms that rarely carry the hallmark of major theoretical innovations.

The IfA is on the cusp of Charterdom, a cornerstone of establishment, and many of the anti?establishment figures of the post?processual movement and the vanguard of social archaeology and inclusive heritage are now part of the ‘old guard’. This session will critically examine the contribution of this extraordinary generation, their impact on practice, and the ‘legacy’ of archaeology’s loss of innocence for the generations of today and tomorrow.

This will not be a show?and?tell session. It will be substantial, challenging, critical, argumentative. Each paper will take as their starting?point one seminal work or project that proposed or reflected major theoretical or methodological shifts in our discipline and consider their lasting impact on archaeological and heritage practice.

Contributions are invited on (but are not limited to) the practical legacy of the following moments:

• Post?processualism
• The ‘Material Culture Turn’
• Archaeologies of the Contemporary
• Gender and Archaeology
• World Archaeology
• Conservation Management Planning
• The Heathrow Terminal 5 Excavation
• Community/Public Archaeology