Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version



From: Perspectives on archaeological resources management in the "Great Plains." Edited by Alan J. Osborn & Robert C. Hassler (Omaha: I & O Pub. Co., c1987).


Copyright 1987 Alan J. Osborn & Robert C. Hassler


When faced with compiling an edited volume addressing cultural resources management the overriding problem is to maintain some resemblance of contemporanity with the current status of the field. Major changes have occurred over the last decade within "contract", "salvage" or "conservation" archaeology, now commonly referred to as cultural resources management. Some of these changes are due to additional state, provincial and federal rules, regulations and statutes requiring consideration of cultural materials to be affected by public "undertakings" in North America. Other changes are resultant of the boom and bust cycle of public-licensed private developments. The constant state of flux in CRM sometimes is viewed as reflecting the vitality of an emerging discipline. Others simply see it as exemplification of a disorganized, unproductive and contradictory program to provide an avenue to channel funds into a program for self-serving archaeologists. Like most issues the truth lies between the extremes. The problems caused by the rapid growth in the demand for cultural resource specialists needed to identify, evaluate and mitigate "significant" properties which would be affected, was at the very least unplanned for if not totally unexpected. The demand and the ensuing problems had a tremendous effect upon the archaeological profession which was still undergoing its philosophical "revolution". The massive influx of students of the New Archaeology, combined with the overwhelming demand for archaeologists to carry out compliance procedures, produced a brand of archaeology not always meeting the professional standards of the discipline. Jerald Milanich in "True Confessions of an Archaeologist" observed that as much as 80% of North American archaeologists obtained their livelihood from cultural resources management in 1982. If this figure was accurate, then probably 80% of North American archaeologists have experienced frustration in attempting to mesh the professional goals of academic archaeology with the real-world constraints of contract archaeology. This volume, in a way, was borne out of a desire to alleviate some of this frustration.