Materiality and Meaning: The Search for the Rochambeau Camp in Fairfax County, VA

  • Douglas Comer
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Archaeology book series (BRIEFSARCHAE, volume 1)


Archaeologists play societal roles, ranging from the adventurer in popular culture to the expert in an esoteric realm who is entrusted with the care of minutia that the public understands to be of value in ways that engage them sporadically. In many places in the world today, the task that most archaeologists have been assigned it to inventory and evaluate archaeological sites and other materials. This began in the United States with the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and the scope of the task rapidly expanded with the development of implementing regulations. Most states and many local governments have developed comparable legislation and regulations. The trajectory and timeframes in many other countries are similar. Thus, archaeologists now contribute to the construction of collective memories, and the identities that follow suit. I argue here that the archaeological record is therefore best though to as a public good, and one that must be protected as are other public goods such as water, fresh air, and knowledge. The archaeological record provides data with which to evaluate histories and identities constructed in ways to advance transitory political and social objectives that do not benefit the public at large. The materiality of archaeological material can be more persuasive because it provides an experience and as such is often more difficult to evaluate critically than is text. Thus, it becomes incumbent on the archaeologists to provide a critical evaluation for the public; without this, chances increase that material will be presented in misleading ways.


Public Good Archaeological Site Collective Memory Historic Site Archaeological Material 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM)BaltimoreUSA

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