128 BARNSBURY ROAD, LON DON, N .!. TEL. 01-278 2632 No. 16 SEPTEMBER 1969 vet. TI No. 5
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Excavations and the Public People love w atch ing men at work. Sites like Sou t h Cadb ury prove abundantly how much mo re att ract ive an archae ol og ical excav ati on is th an a museum or a 'dead' site . Yet paradoxically it is at th e private excavations like South Cadbury, run by private ini t iati ve on privately raised money, that the public is most welcome; where an excavation is supported by public funds, the public are excluded, and 'Keep out' notices are posted. Why is this?
The argument that is usually put fo rwa rd is tha t since the excavation s are carried out with public money, they should be done as efficiently as possible , and the refo re time shou ld not be wasted on the gene ral publ ic. This is sho rt sighted . Most of the excavations carried out by the M inistry of Public Build ing and Works are rescue excavations , and if we are to awa ken the gene ral publ ic to the need fo r rescuing or preserving something of ou r archaeological heritage, t hen it is the rescue excavation s in particu lar that should be w idely pub lic ised. Guiding vis ito rs need not take up a lo t of t ime, if it is properly organised: special volunteers can be recr ui ted for this purp ose (retired scho olmasters often make the best guides), or the task can form a valuable experience fo r recent recru its who t hemselves need to learn something about the site . And, if fi nancial considerations are uppe rmost, South Cadbury has shown how profitable visitors can be.
Of course, it may not always be possible to receive visitors: the site may be dangerous, or access may not be feasible. But in all other cases surely the Ministry of Public Building and Wo rks should insist that where excavations take place on sites in the ir guardianship, or are supported by publ ic money, then access for the general public should be made a condition of giving the grant. This is not merely a matter of common cou rtesy, fo r it is on ly prude nt that if archaeo logy is not to go unheard in the gene ral clamou r of confl ic t ing land usages, t hen rescue excavations should be publicised as w idely as possible .