, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 175–200 | Cite as

Full Spectrum Archaeology



Full spectrum archaeology (FSA) is an aspiration stemming from the convergence of archaeology’s fundamental principles with international heritage policies and community preferences. FSA encompasses study and stewardship of the full range of heritage resources in accord with the full range of associated values and through the application of treatments selected from the full range of appropriate options. Late modern states, including British Columbia, Canada, nominally embrace de jure heritage policies consonant with international standards yet also resist de facto heritage management practice grounded in professional ethics and local values and preferences. In response, inheritor communities and their allies in archaeology are demonstrating the benefits of FSA and reclaiming control over cultural heritage. Archaeology and heritage management driven by altruistic articulation of communal, educational, scientific and other values further expose shortcomings and vulnerabilities of late modern states as well as public goods in and from FSA.

Key words

Archaeological resource management Cultural heritage management History of archaeology International heritage policies 


L’archéologie à champ complet (ACC) est une aspiration naissant de la convergence des principes fondamentaux de l’archéologie et des politiques patrimoniales et préférences communautaires mondiales. L’ACC englobe l’étude et l’intendance de toute la gamme des ressources patrimoniales en vertu de la panoplie complète des valeurs connexes, et par la mise en œuvre de procédés sélectionnés parmi toutes les options appropriées à disposition. Des gouvernements modernes tardifs, dont celui de la Colombie-Britannique au Canada, adoptent, en théorie, des politiques patrimoniales qui résonnent de jure avec les normes internationales en vigueur, tout en résistant de facto aux pratiques de gestion patrimoniale ancrées dans la déontologie et les valeurs et préférences locales. En réponse, les communautés héritières et leurs alliées du milieu archéologique démontrent les bienfaits de l’ACC et reprennent le contrôle sur leur patrimoine culturel. L’archéologie et la gestion patrimoniale alimentée par une articulation altruiste de valeurs communes, éducatives, scientifiques et autres exposent plus fortement les lacunes et les vulnérabilités des gouvernements modernes tardifs, ainsi que les biens publics associés à l’ACC et qui en découlent.


La Arqueología de Espectro Completo (FSA, por sus siglas en inglés) es una aspiración que surge de la convergencia de principios fundamentales de la arqueología con las políticas internacionales patrimoniales y las preferencias comunitarias. FSA engloba el estudio y la tutela de la gama completa de recursos patrimoniales de acuerdo con la gama completa de valores asociados y mediante la aplicación de tratamientos seleccionados de la gama completa de opciones apropiadas. Los estados tardomodernos, incluida la Columbia Británica (Canadá), adoptan nominalmente de jure políticas patrimoniales en consonancia con los estándares internacionales pero también resisten de facto a la práctica de la gestión patrimonial basada en la ética profesional y en valores y preferencias locales. En respuesta a todo esto, las comunidades herederas y sus aliados en la arqueología están demostrando los beneficios de la FSA y están reclamando el control sobre el patrimonio cultural. La arqueología y la gestión patrimonial impulsadas por la articulación altruista de valores comunales, educativos, científicos y otros exponen las limitaciones y vulnerabilidades de los estados tardomodernos, así como también de los bienes públicos en y desde la FSA.

Archaeologists in the late 2010s face some big questions. Is cultural heritage best treated as a part of archaeology, or vice versa? Can (and should) archaeology hold together as a unified discipline in the face of ongoing growth and diversification, especially in heritage resource management (HRM) archaeology and other fee-for-service practice? Should we proceed in riveting our disciplinary focus upon places and objects having scientific and historical values? Or, are the interests of archaeology and our diverse clientele better served by and through what we refer to, following Welch and Ferris (2014: 97), as full spectrum archaeology (FSA)—an aspiration to employ an archaeological lens and other means to understand all cultural heritage, to attend to all values associated with heritage, and to consider management and treatment options that reflect and embrace those diverse values? Will we, archaeologists, continue the comfortably institutionalized ostensibly objective study and management of sites and artefacts within internal disciplinary logics and agendas, or shall we respond to international policies and increasingly vocal inheritor community preferences by expanding and diversifying archaeology into an essential if not always sufficient means for helping to identify, assess, and treat broad arrays of particularly significant cultural heritage? These seemingly academic questions go to the heart of practical and political relations between archaeology and late modern states, especially as regards to engagements archaeology and archaeologists are pursuing with international, national, regional, and communal partners to make decisions about what heritage will be carried forward and may help shape the future.

In dialogue with the other essays in this collection, we seek to set a course for archaeology that stems the rising tides of late modern state controls over and industry-based commodifications of heritage. We see in many late modern states a sort of Dr. Jekyll–Mr. Hyde duality wherein state policies recognize diverse heritage types and values while state practices constrain and streamline research, restrict management options and definitions of value, and commodify heritage. The international heritage policies that have scoped out the metes and bounds of a full, or at least fuller, spectrum HRM have encouraged states to extend authority over all cultural heritage. That said, asserting rights to manage seems to be less and less frequently accompanied by the shouldering of responsibilities to assure the creation of public goods in and through HRM archaeology. It remains to be seen, in other words, whether and under what circumstances state authority over heritage will prove legitimate.

For the present, our focus is on whether and how late modern states and the forms of site-focused, compliance-driven HRM these states have institutionalized, can and will embrace the aspiration of FSA. Such a shift could broaden and redirect attention within HRM and academic archaeology toward our external clientele—i.e., citizens who pay for our work and who we imagine value it. To the extent that archaeologists are able to figure out how our data, perspectives, tools, and relationships can service societal needs in the present (i.e., create public goods), we are more likely to earn the privilege to help write the future, not just the past. The path we pursue here, ever optimistically, involves identifying key issues at the shaky interface between archaeology and the late modern state, then seeking steady ways and sturdy means to address those issues as part of broader quests for just and sustainable archaeologies, governance systems, and societies.

Archaeology and the Late Modern State

Although commercial consultant practice is often referred to as cultural heritage management (Burke and Smith 2010: 26–28), archaeological resource management, or cultural resource management (Welch and Ferris 2014: 96), we use HRM to emphasize that we are dealing with heritage that has value for living people. HRM archaeology in the early 2000s continues to emerge as a neoliberal exercise (Coombe 2012; Hutchings and La Salle 2015a). Neoliberalism, a term that has become prominent in the past 20 years (Saad-Filho and Johnston 2005), includes arrangements of free trade and global market systems configured to enable states to fulfil their purpose to “safeguard individual, especially commercial, liberty, as well as strong private property rights” (Thorsen and Lie 2009: 14). Lured by policy intentions to assure consistent, systematic research attention to heritage threatened by state-sanctioned land alteration and resource extraction, archaeologists have participated enthusiastically in a gradual and seemingly inexorable commercialization of our field, effectively hitching the interests of most practitioners to the late modern state and relentless quests for economic growth (Ferris 2002; Klassen et al. 2009; Welch and Ferris 2014; Whittlesey and Reid 2004). These trends are manifest in the sequestration and privatization of data (Campbell 2011; Childs 1995; King 2014; Trimble and Marino 2003); development of contemporary and widely shared but variably applied state heritage policy instruments and elements (Messenger and Smith 2010a, b); unprecedented state extensions of bureaucratic control over heritage (Askew 2010; Bendix et al. 2012; Coombe 2012; Meskell et al. 2015); still-widening gaps between what state policies say as opposed to what they do (Guilfoyle and Hogg 2015; Klassen et al. 2009); and inattention to disciplinary, much less socio-economic, sustainability (Welch and Ferris 2014). The neoliberal penetration of archaeology is perhaps most poignantly reflected through HRM practice supporting industrial land alteration and resource extraction (Allen 2011; Altschul and Patterson 2010; Ferris and Welch 2015; King 2009).

It remains to be seen whether and how these trends will play out. Welch and Ferris (2014: 100) suggest that, while the institutionalization of HRM “has paved the way for unprecedented archaeological expansion and diversification,” both the current growth rate and the “extractive-consumptive” approach to HRM are unsustainable. Rich Hutchings and Marina La Salle argue that archaeology in the 2010s continues to emerge as “a form of disaster capitalism” that is rooted in industrial development (2015a: 699). Archaeology is increasingly bureaucratized and corporatized, with the majority of practice and research being state-sanctioned and highly privatized (Hutchings and La Salle 2015b; La Salle and Hutchings 2012). If these trends continue it seems possible that archaeology will continue along the neoliberal path blazed by the late modern state and ultimately split at the commercial–academic seam.

Even as powerful global forces make this prospect more likely, we think it is worth reviewing the logical, institutional, and practical bases for disciplinary solidarity. We do this, first, by looking at British Columbia as an example of archaeology largely beholden to the late modern state. We then suggest that the historical development and current status of archaeology are defined not only by opportunistic growth and diversification enabled by the rise of late modern states, but also by opportunities for coalitions with others who share interests in and commitments to thoughtful, context-specific, public-minded heritage conservation. In a subsequent section we review the broader development of international heritage policy and ethical guidelines as a rationale for and accelerator of FSA.

British Columbia and the Late Modern State

We see British Columbia as an apt example of archaeology in the late modern state. Although archaeology in British Columbia is not representative of archaeological practice throughout North America, it does represent key dynamics involving the late modern state. These include a retreat from modernist schemes of social engineering and state perfectibility, an encroachment of neoliberal schemes, and the assertion of modest forms of power by First Nations and archaeologists, both separately and in cooperation. The vast majority of archaeological research in British Columbia is via commercial HRM. Archaeological data are often privatized and challenging to access; archaeological practice is regulated by variably interpreted and applied state heritage policies. The province’s Archaeology Branch controls how much of what kinds of cultural heritage are addressed in land alteration impact assessments.

Some archaeologists in British Columbia recognize these problems, but often disagree on the solutions and bemoan a lack of data (e.g., Dent 2012; La Salle and Hutchings 2012, 2016; Lyons et al. 2012; Martindale and Lyons 2014; Martindale et al. 2016; Welch et al. 2010, 2011a). The discussion here emphasizes how, through British Columbia legislation, policy, and political willpower, neoliberal archaeological practice is failing to provide for the balanced and reasonable protection of cultural heritage wherever possible. On the other hand, the province is unable to prevent or squelch alliances formed to intervene in and disrupt the standard, endlessly repeating identify-evaluate-mitigate regime and alternative approaches and programmes are emerging from HRM partnerships and practices (Angelbeck and Grier 2014; Hammond 2009; Klassen 2013; Piccini and Schaepe 2014).

Because provinces, not the federal government, control most land and resource management, the majority of archaeology in Canada is mandated through provincial policy (Burley 1994; Lee 2002; Wiebe 2006). In British Columbia, archaeology is legislated through the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA) (Government of British Columbia 1996) and managed through permits issued and monitored by the Archaeology Branch. De jure, the HCA language generally follows international heritage policy standards; de facto, the practice of heritage conservation guided by Archaeology Branch mandates and interpretations have pushed British Columbia archaeology toward questionable and apparently unsustainable levels of practice (La Salle and Hutchings 2012; Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs 2013; Ferris and Welch 2015).

The HCA protects a defined range of heritage sites and items, including all archaeological sites, on public and private land, that predate 1846. It also protects against burials and rock art sites of any age. The 1846 cut-off date coincides with a legal rather than a social-developmental phenomenon—the signing of the Oregon Boundary Treaty and the date of British Crown assertion over British Columbia. This date cuts off the more recent history of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and creates a gap between “historic” and “prehistoric” Indigenous history (Klassen et al. 2009: 206). The legislation creates a Provincial Heritage Register, the official roster of recognized heritage sites. It also sets in place a permit system for archaeological excavation, inspection, and investigation. First Nations are notified of permit applications and are able to respond and comment to requests.

The HCA authorizes conservation of a broader range of heritage than the Archaeology Branch allows to be addressed in practice. In particular, Section 4 authorizes First Nations involvement in heritage management through formal agreements with the Province as regards to the conservation and protection of heritage sites that lack archaeological values, post-date 1846, or possess spiritual values. Section 20 allows First Nations to establish agreements with the Minister. Only two Section 20 (memoranda of understanding) agreements have even been signed (British Columbia and Hul’qumi’num 2007; British Columbia and Treaty 8 First Nations 2010; Budhwa 2005). Moreover, three decades after passage of the Act, the first Section 4 pilot programme, a collaborative venture between the Province and the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre, finally launched in 2016.

The HCA itself is less of a problem for British Columbia archaeology than the management decisions and policies rendered by the Archaeology Branch. These decisions have nudged British Columbia archaeology toward a neoliberal exercise by constraining research, restricting attention to heritage values other than historical and scientific, and limiting treatment options to site collection and recording. The bureaucratic behaviour and scant resources of the Branch limits its mandate to regulating permits—the vast majority of which service commercial archaeological activities, and ensuring a “streamlined” process of management (Hammond 2016a, 2009: 56–57), and a preoccupation with permittee adherence to procedure, and only limited ability to evaluate cumulative effectiveness of State imposed process on the heritage record. Restrictions by the provincial government on Branch participation in field visits and information sharing have left both First Nations and archaeologists frustrated (Hammond 2016b; Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) 2013: 3).

The large number of unauthorized HCA contraventions, and the almost identical number of non-prosecutions, is among the indicators of the Branch’s bureaucratic simplification of HRM. Although the HCA outlines significant penalties for unpermitted site alterations, it is likely that most archaeological sites in the province, and virtually all sites along the intensively used coastline, have been significantly altered or destroyed in recent decades (Hutchings 2014). The Archaeology Branch attempts to keep track of these contraventions but has no capacity for systematic investigation and no enforcement authority. This means most information is anecdotal, and both baselines and contraventions are effectively immeasurable (Welch et al. 2010, 2011a).

Issues with the late modern state archaeology in British Columbia have pushed archaeologists to engage with a small portion of heritage resources, values, and management options and to shoulder responsibilities as liaisons among land alteration proponents, First Nations, and the Archaeology Branch. Lack of effective enforcement, ongoing litigation, and the perils of proposing new legislation have left open only two narrowing avenues for First Nations and archaeologists to resist bureaucratic simplification: innovative negotiation and practice. First Nations have created their own land use plans and heritage policies, negotiated heritage protocols with companies and government ministries, and directly and indirectly resisted unwelcome land and site alterations within their traditional territories (Dent 2016; Hammond 2009; Klassen et al. 2009). Many archaeologists are advocating for a fuller spectrum of archaeological practices. Relationships, partnerships, and collaborations increasingly define archaeology in British Columbia, where some forms of practice are now community-led, consent-based, and inclusive; all occurring beyond intent and constraint of state bureaucratic process (Hammond 2016b; Klassen 2013). The next section takes stock of archaeological assets available to withstand and resist LMS incursions. We see FSA as a way of characterizing archaeology in the mid 2010s and of providing a discursive framework for addressing these challenges.

A Vision of Archaeology’s Sturdy-Yet-Flexible Foundations

Must archaeology continue down the neoliberal late modern state pathway to commercialized perdition? Most of the scholarship cited thus far shares a critical view of trends toward privatization, state regulation, and industrial service orientation. Threats stemming from these trends are real, as are archaeological practitioners’ complicity in accelerating these trends. Archaeologists’ inveterate interests in protecting sites from land impacts and in extracting as much information with as little site damage as possible have contributed to the rise of HRM. The growth of commercial archaeology created career opportunities and encouraged neoliberal valuations of the material past, even in the face of evidence that these processes do not achieve the long-term conservation imagined in HRM (Ferris and Welch 2014; Welch and Ferris 2014).

These trends require inventive and sustained responses by concerned individuals and organizations. Such responses can and we think should draw upon all relevant human, social, political, intellectual, and institutional capital. As archaeologists, inheritor communities, and other allies square off against neoliberal pressures toward commercialization of practice, privatization of data, and commoditization of research products, we would do well to draw upon a substantial history in archaeology of resilient adaptations to previous challenges and opportunities. We suggest that archaeology is in a position to resist the pernicious effects of neoliberalism at least in part because of four intrinsic connections between archaeology and the broader domain of HRM:
  1. 1.

    All or most cultural heritage has a geographical dimension and is, effectively, placed-based;

  2. 2.

    Most cultural heritage has material or spatial dimensions and is thus amenable to archaeological study; and

  3. 3.

    Much cultural heritage has a temporal dimension and, when this dimension extends beyond memory, archaeology’s tools and concepts may be particularly and even uniquely suited to identify and assess values in this heritage; and

  4. 4.

    Archaeologists are, almost without exception, personally invested in the creation of public goods and other broadly beneficial outcomes from the study and use of heritage, even while also invested in the creation of personal livelihood and remuneration.

Archaeology is, in other words, designed, built, and authorized to decode intricate-yet-powerful relationships between people, spaces, and stuff. Archaeology is, irrevocably, the study of how and why humans craft places, times, and technologies. Given these attributes, archaeologists might have relaxed through the last decades of the 1900s into quiet confidence of academic sinecure. Instead, largely spurred on by the apparently inexhaustible values possessed by the past—in the present and for the future—by persistent community interests, by proliferating international policy, and by individual initiative, archaeologists have continued to grow and diversify our discipline. Despite the ongoing challenges posed by neoliberalism, and in many ways because of the opportunities and challenges signalled by the rise of late modern states, our perspective is that archaeology has arrived at an enviable point in its disciplinary development. We see archaeology in 2017 as defined by at least six attributes:
  1. 1.

    Interdisciplinarity, including a history of liberal borrowing from and close and continuing collaborations with social, biophysical, and applied sciences. Archaeologists will leverage and use anything from social theory and backhoes to DNA, GIS, and XRF;

  2. 2.

    Extra to disciplinary engagement, including projects and programmes with Indigenous Peoples, local and inheritor communities, heritage tourism initiatives, and other commercial enterprises;

  3. 3.

    Intellectual and professional humility borne of a high tolerance for the ambiguities inherent in the archaeological record and of the methodological rigour and diversity required to address these ambiguities;

  4. 4.

    Favourable public profile, grounded at least in part in Hollywood’s assignment of archaeologists to enduring and mostly endearing roles as public- and posterity-minded explorers, excavators, and curators;

  5. 5.

    Authorized Agents, arising from local, state, federal, and international policies requiring archaeological participation in land alteration planning and impact assessment. Despite neoliberal regulatory restrictions and economic self-interest, and notwithstanding the well-acknowledged role archaeologists play as tools of the state (e.g., Smith 2004, 2006), archaeologists nonetheless occupy seats at planning and evaluation tables charged with representing cultural heritage. This gives archaeologists paired rights and responsibilities to identify heritage and heritage values threatened by land alteration, and to advocate for creative and appropriate treatments to avoid and reduce these threats, and to explore lateral solutions to contested values and communities playing out over the archaeological record; and

  6. 6.

    Ethical codes—the real rules for practice—that at least discourages some excesses of a purely profit-driven HRM and that otherwise encourages archaeologists to adopt the language of respectful treatment of the record, of its owners and inheritors, and of one another, if not the actual practice of these lofty aims.

These six characteristics are sturdy means for further development and institutionalization of archaeology as resistance to the late modern state, and the archaeological community’s own more venal self-interests, and for guidance toward broadly desired futures. Table 1 offers a historical perspective on how archaeology has, through four previous ‘releases’ established the foundations for FSA. Each previous iteration has its own characteristics, primary user groups, and shortcomings. Each subsequent version has added new advantages and issues, new clientele, and new critical responses to the previous version’s imperfections. From antiquarianism to post-processualism, each iteration has harnessed distinctive strengths and rationales for existence, while also sowing seeds for critique, succession, and improved resilience.
Table 1

Previous releases of archaeology


Primary uses

Main applications

Defining processes

Design flaws

Archaeology 4.0

Full Spectrum

2005 to present

1.0+ 2.0 + 3.0+

Heritage advocates


Embraces and synergizes values in treasured all pasts

Tolerance, humility, and collaboration; Knowledge mobilization; Openness (options)

Lacks critical focus? Promotes factions it purports to unify? Anti-theoretical?

Archaeology 3.0


1985 to present

1.0 + 2.0+

Community- and academic-based scholars

Recognizes multiple truths

Ethical and intellectual reflexivity;

Attention to all voices and create collaborations



Explicitly political

Archaeology 2.0


1960 to present


Scientific researchers

Resource managers

Finds patterns, builds inferences about social systems, and creates general laws

Rigour and testability; Apply scientific methods to research and management problems


Naïve wrt politics and formation processes



Archaeology 1.0

Culture History

1860 to present



Nation builders

Resource managers

Builds comprehensive time–space-ethnic frameworks

Traits = groups; Trace traits from past to present and from present to past




All about things

Archaeology 0.0


Time Immemorial to present





Commoditizes, recreates, and justifies the present on the basis of the past

Old + rare = good; Amass collections → make typologies → announce claims


Unilinear evolutionism context-insensitive

Archaeological practice may be usefully understood as the product and reflection of changing systems of multi-tiered rules of convention and norm. These rules include binding and non-binding policies ranging on the formal side from international policies to local ethical codes and on the informal side from broadly shared commitments to the conservation model (Lipe 1974), to common understandings of what archaeology is and is not, to project-specific protocols for collaboration. These rules guide archaeologists and help reveal why practice is the way it is within the various iterations. They set standards for effective and ethical practice, for understanding and assessing and broad arrays of heritage types, significances, and values, and for collaborative engagement to carry forward the best and most useful of those significances and values. The rules did not arise solely from within the discipline, and the next section examines the internal development of archaeology in relation to policies and standards developed by United Nations agencies.

International Heritage Policies and Full Spectrum Archaeology

It is important to recognize that the rules that have made FSA possible derive from and through international policy at least as much as through archaeology, per se. Whether referenced as FSA or via other terms that reference disciplinary growth and diversification, archaeology in 2017 amply reflects the promulgation, especially since 1989, of international cultural heritage policies. Unprecedented expansion in the number and scope of the rules and guiding principles has transformed the practice of archaeology, since about 1989, into a keystone of the global heritage enterprise (Figure 1; Jansen 2010). Democratic adjustments in public policies for archaeology and HRM have provided initial and substantial responses to the questions of whether and how archaeology should respond to threats emerging from late modern states (O’Keefe 2010).
Figure 1

International heritage policies organized by themes over time

Understandings of cultural heritage and archaeological practice are institutionalized in international heritage policies. These policies include conventions, declarations, and regulations issued by international organizations including the International Committee on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a global non-governmental organization, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). By focusing on the overall corpus of policies—not the differences between organizations or types of policies—we suggest that heritage policy has expanded over time, through the number of relationships between organizations, and spatially as different states have signed on and different organizations have been created and expanded their interests. FSA has emerged through this developmental feedback cycle of local and Indigenous community advocacy, expanding definitions of heritage, disciplinary reorientation, professional ethical adjustments, and international policy promulgation (e.g., Soderland and Lilley 2015).

Figure 1 depicts how international heritage policies have broadened the definition of heritage over time to encompass and emphasize diverse heritage types and values including intangible (UNESCO 1989, 2003), underwater (ICOMOS 1996; UNESCO 2001), and landscape (ICOMOS 1990; ICOMOS 2008a). International heritage policies have grown to include to the interpretation and significance of cultural heritage (e.g., Council of Europe 2005; ICOMOS 2008b), including under different values for different communities (e.g., ICOMOS 2013). Academic and practical separations of natural and cultural heritage have all but dissolved in repeated baths of realizations that heritage and its values are constructed rather than inherent (IUCN 2016). We see the corpus of international policies as part of the more formal rules of archaeological practice and the root of FSA. However, archaeological ethics and practices have also formed FSA, a topic we review in the following section.

Ethical Codes and Full Spectrum Archaeology

Heritage has always been considered important, but the scope of heritage, who it is important for, and how we exploit and preserve it have all changed over time. Archaeology, and the systems of rules that guide it, have developed in parallel with international heritage policy. Building first upon, then beyond antiquarian fascinations with savage arts and the monuments of European civilization, both archaeology and international heritage policy have expanded to recognize arrays of intangible, underwater, and landscape heritage, as well as the rights and prerogatives of Indigenous and descendant peoples to identify interests in heritage and preferences for its management (Figure 1).

FSA also derives from archaeological rules: suites of informal and formal codes that guide archaeologists and our practices. These rule sets exist as elements of organizational missions and member obligations in international organizations, local historical societies, and everything in between. They oblige heritage practitioners and professionals who are licensed and operate at various levels to demonstrate respect for the archaeological record and its diverse values, for its owners, their descendants, and for one another (e.g., Canadian Archaeological Association 1997; World Archaeological Congress Council 1990; British Columbia Association of Professional Archaeologists 1995). It is also fair to say that these rules are fluid and recursive, continually revised as archaeological sensibilities and role in the world—and thus experiential knowledge of what archaeology is in society—also continually revise.

Rules allow archaeological practice to continue within economic growth, while still ensuring that ethical concerns are met. While many of the rules systems are quite formal—especially international policies—enforcement is generally informal, inconsequential, or self-regulating. Only a few organizations, including the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA), have a grievance process (Register of Professional Archaeologists 2016). Others rely on peer pressure and the presumed prestige of affiliation and membership to maintain incentives for ethical compliance. That these rules are generally asserted rather than enacted, and open to variable interpretation, is certainly a limitation to enabling FSA. But the personal investment individuals hold in their identifications as archaeologists (e.g., Everill 2002; Ferris 2002) does create the basis for a notable segment of practitioners to want to at least strive to adhere to the spirit of these rules, and as a result, be open to embracing the aims of FSA as well.

FSA is grounded in these rules, and these rules have grown to recognize a variety of values and types of heritage. Since their emergence in the 1960s, ethical codes have attempted to forestall the pitfalls of practice and emphasize the importance of good fieldwork, the antiquities trade, and working with source or descendant communities (McGill et al. 2012). Although codes differ depending on the membership of the organization, they have all expanded to incorporate a wider range of issues (e.g., Canadian Archaeological Association 1997). Moreover, the creation and development of the World Archaeological Congress (WAC) is testament to the recognition of FSA and the need for more inclusive and responsive ethical guidance (Gero 1999).

Although de jure legal requirements, including the HCA, typically specify minimum requirements for consultation and seldom reward reaching beyond those minimums to seek true collaboration with descendant communities (Budhwa 2005; First Nations Leadership Council 2011; Klassen 2013; Klassen et al. 2009; Mason and Bain 2003; Pokotylo and Mason 2010), archaeological ethics increasingly reflect and stimulate interests in collaboration (Guilfoyle and Hogg 2015). Coaxed along by emergent, informal rules, archaeological practice now honours collaborative and Indigenous archaeologies. Atalay emphasizes that “archaeology’s sustainability is linked to collaboration” (2012: 7). The question of “why collaborate” is found within the context of a general movement toward a decolonized archaeology—a concept that has been widely explored in the past two decades in colonial countries (Clarke 2001; Ferguson 1996; Ferris 2003; Hemming and Rigney 2010; Marshall 2002; McDavid 2014; McNiven and Russell 2005; Nicholas 2010; Nicholas and Andrews 1997).

FSA enables and is enabled by this collaborative archaeological practice, both through the informal rules that define these best practices and in the good will of archaeologists working with inheritor communities around the world. We see FSA as anarchic—all parties have power and all are advised to allocate it for the collective good based on trusting relationships. In this sense no group has privileged preferences. FSA involves and engages a complete range of cultural resources; all the values associated with each resource or resource type; all the needs, preferences, and management actions of all the individuals espousing those values; and the full range of project types and applications (Table 2).
Table 2

Full spectrum of archaeology

Cultural heritage

Places ↔ objects ↔ traditions

Heritage values

Aesthetic ↔ economic ↔ historical ↔ scientific ↔ societal ↔ spiritual

Management options

Use/study/consume ↔ no intervention ↔ preserve into perpetuity

Management partners

Science ↔ industry/business ↔ government ↔ inheritor/local community

Project types/commitment cycle

Engagement → planning → ID → data coll. → interpret → mobilize → restore


Research → therapy → education/training → resource management

We recognize that archaeologists, trained to be prehistorians in a discipline with colonialist origins, may not be in the best position to oversee a spectrum of heritage and heritage values. We do not disagree with Smith and Waterton’s (2009) argument that archaeologists can be inadequate and inappropriate authorities to manage a full spectrum of heritage. However, as in our example of British Columbia, many jurisdictions rely on archaeologists to do this work. Archaeologists are gaining influence and involvements through the development of good and mutually beneficial relationships and increasingly are employed or regulated by First Nations communities and authorities (Atalay et al. 2014; Colwell 2016; Dent 2016).

Without ever really asking for permission, archaeology has effectively obtained technical and political licenses to access and interpret the material dimension of the human experience. Those licenses, while occasionally denied or revoked (usually as a result of ethical lapses), are largely exclusive for human experiences prior to the ethnographic present. This confers truly awesome privileges upon archaeology and its practitioners and provides what we think are and should be foundations for fortifying disciplinary unity and harmonizing the interests of archaeologists with others who value heritage altruistically.

Full Spectrum Archaeology Versus the Late Modern State

Although international policies and coda specify different practices and ethics for different HRM activities, one commonality lies in still-expanding conceptualizations of cultural heritage processes, manifestations, values, and options for treatment: heritage is the vital link between human pasts and futures. Cultural heritage is increasingly appreciated as infinitely diverse combinations of tangible and intangible elements that encode unique constellations of significance via aesthetic, economic, historical, scientific, societal, and spiritual values espoused (and almost as often rejected) by various local, governance, advocacy, and professional communities (ICOMOS 2013). This attitude toward heritage is becoming more prevalent in all forms of archaeological practice.

Archaeology, as a practice and discipline, is meaningless without cultural heritage (Leone and Potter 2007; Ferris and Welch 2014, 2015; Welch et al. 2009, 2011b). There is a critical distinction “between the internal act of doing archaeology and the external place where archaeological information beyond archaeology is variably made into a heritage of meaning and value for communities and descendant groups” (Ferris and Welch 2015: 71). Archaeological sites are largely unreadable to non-archaeologists without the heritage values drawn from that material record present rendering sites much more meaningful. Moreover, internal archaeological values are seldom shared beyond archaeology, and archaeologists cannot assume that these internal values are what draw the public to archaeological sites (Ferris and Welch 2015: 71).

Archaeology becomes cultural heritage when archaeologists recognize and interact with the “spectrum of broader based societal contested values that converge when heritage is made and carried forward” (Ferris and Welch 2015: 82). Therefore the values embedded in archaeological sites are cultural heritage, not archaeology (Pearson and Sullivan 2007: 196). For the majority of the history of archaeology, colonial norms, sensibilities, and priorities determined the values and significance of archaeological sites and artefacts, including Indigenous heritage. Although this is slowly changing in archaeology (e.g., Atalay 2006, 2012), HRM policies in many countries, including the USA and Canada, have yet to embrace these changes.

Heritage is a political resource. Laurajane Smith and others are showing how heritage is playing an important role in “legitimizing or bolstering claims to social justice” (Bendix et al. 2012; Smith 2012: 392). Heritage resources are intimately linked to struggles over the equitable distribution of power and privilege (Smith 2012). FSA reminds us of the power and privilege archaeologists have, and the need to use that power for the public good through equitable relationships. Its anarchic leanings promote power equalization, tolerance, and flexibility.

Rosemary Coombe suggests that heritage regimes are part of a “new decentralization and distribution of government power” (2012: 378). Archaeologists, even as agents of the state, can use their position to resist neoliberalism through the emergent, informal rules of archaeological practice. As with our example in British Columbia, change is not coming from legislation, but from the actions and practices of archaeologists, source communities, and other non-governmental stakeholders. These informal rules are filling in the vacuum between policy and practice (see also Dent 2016).

We see FSA as a way to characterize the state of archaeology in 2017. FSA does not change the structure of archaeology imposed by the state nor does it reinforce the authority of the state. Instead, as a descriptive model of archaeology, it reinforces the power of archaeologists and their ability to use that power for the common good. By using the power imposed on archaeologists by the late modern state toward equitable relationship building, FSA can diversify archaeological practice and our allies (Dent 2016; Little 2013; Lyons 2013; Nicholas 2014; Ross et al. 2010) and resist reliance on state experts and the heritage industry (Atalay et al. 2014; Ferguson 2014).

FSA is an aspiration that exists between the contractual pressures that the vast majority of archaeology is practised under and the rules of archaeology (Altschul and Patterson 2010; Welch and Ferris 2014: 100). FSA is an indirect response to the late modern state that reflects international commitments to broadening cultural heritage management as well as the growth and diversification within archaeology. The practice of FSA distinguishes and unifies archaeology without diminishing its ties to other disciplines, such as anthropology, resource management, and geography. As climate change modifies our landscape and environment and as the world becomes more “glocal,” heritage and heritage management issues will remain ever at the forefront (Harvey and Perry 2015). FSA is in a prime position to enable on the ground change through the respect of a diverse spectrum of treatment alternatives.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  2. 2.Department of Archaeology and School of Resource and Environmental ManagementSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  3. 3.Department of Anthropology and Museum of Ontario ArchaeologyWestern UniversityLondonCanada

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