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After ModernityArchaeological Approaches to the Contemporary Past$
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Rodney Harrison and John Schofield

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199548071

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199548071.001.0001

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(p.183) 7 Sites
After Modernity

Rodney Harrison

John Schofield

Oxford University Press

Sites are the staple of archaeological investigation, forming the basis of many an excavation or survey project, often within a wider landscape study where it is the relationships between sites that can matter more. Think of any archaeological project or great excavation of the nineteenth or twentieth century, and you have your archaeological site, defined by convention as incorporating either settlement or industrial, religious, or military remains. These sites are often the subject of either a lengthy process of investigation and then post-excavation analysis leading to publication of results, or sometimes a short Weld evaluation prior to their destruction through development or preservation in situ. Their initial discovery may be newsworthy, and perhaps the result of some significant new development, a new landmark in the making. As we have seen, by convention archaeologists and curators generally treat those places and objects from the past as precious, valued resources for their very historicity and their cultural value, and often (correctly) seek their protection from destructive forces of the present and future. But our view is slightly different. We do not recognize the distinction between that which is old/ancient and matters, and that which is new and does not. Rather we recognize all material culture, the artefacts and sites and the wider landscape, as being suitable for archaeological inquiry and potentially holding value for this reason: not just the objects of the deeper past threatened with destruction, but also the contemporary office building that now occupies the site. Archaeology of the contemporary past even gives recognition to the ‘site to be’, the places planned for the future, a site that exists only on a planning board or an architect’s computer, or as a model, or even in the mind. With the archaeology of the contemporary past, the past, present, and future are woven together in a way that gives the subject complexity, introduces new and unforeseen challenges and difficulties, and equally gives it a heightened sense of social relevance and meaning. That said, for archaeology of the contemporary past, many of the same rules apply as for earlier periods, although, as we have seen, the sheer numbers of modern sites, and the spatial continuity of human activity and our perception and experience of it, do complicate things somewhat.

Keywords:   Arabunna Going Home Camp, Bypasses, City centres, Ethics, Garages, Heritage, Industrial archaeology, Judiciary, Landscape, Merseybeat

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