Contemporary archaeology

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Contemporary Archaeology is a field of archaeological research that focuses on the most recent (20th and 21st century) past, and also increasingly explores the application of archaeological thinking to the contemporary world. It has also been referred to as the archaeology of the 'contemporary past'.[1] The use of this term is in the United Kingdom particularly associated with the Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory (CHAT) conference group.[2] The field forms part of historical archaeology, or the archaeology of the modern period. Unlike ethnoarchaeology, contemporary archaeology studies the recent and contemporary past in its own right, rather than to develop models that can inform the study of the more distant past.

Often informed by anthropological material culture studies, but characterised by putting traditional archaeological methods and practices to new uses, research in this field generally aims to make an archaeological contribution to broader social scientific studies of the contemporary world, focusing especially upon contributing methods of studying material things (objects, landscapes, buildings, material heritage, etc.) to sociological, geographical and political studies of the modern world. The field has developed especially in heritage management, for example through English Heritage's "Change and Creation" programme on the landscapes of the later 20th century [3]

Key Works in Contemporary Archaeology[edit]

  • Bradley, A., V. Buchli, G. Faiclough, D. Hicks, J. Miller and J. Schofield 2004. Change and Creation: Historic Landscape Character 1950-2000. London: English Heritage.
  • Buchli, V. 1999. An Archaeology of Socialism. Oxford: Berg.
  • Buchli, V. and G. Lucas (eds) 2001. Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past. London: Routledge
  • Graves-Brown, P.M. (ed) 2000. Matter, Materiality and Modern Culture. London: Routledge.
  • Rathje, W.L. and C. Murphy 2001. Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.
  • Harrison, R. and J. Schofield (eds), 2010. After Modernity: Archaeological Approaches to the Contemporary Past. Oxford University Press, USA
  • Holtorf, C and Piccini, A. (eds) 2011. Contemporary Archaeologies. Excavating Now. 2nd edition. Peter Lang GmbH

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Buchli, V. and G. Lucas (eds) 2001. Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past. London: Routledge
  2. ^
  3. ^ Schofield, J. The Archaeology of the 20th Century.