In recent years, archaeology has grown accustomed to a steady, and at times rapid increase in government expenditure. In future, increases of a similar magnitude seem unlikely—indeed cuts are even threatened. If therefore the work of rescue archaeology is to grow, the main increase must come from the one source which has recently been rather neglected: the independent sector. In the past, the independent sector has been the great glory of British archaeology, and wit h the increasing length of holidays, the future for the independent archaeologist looks bright. Currently however, morale in the independent sector is low, and if we are to make full use of all available resources, we must do something about this.
No. 53 for November 1975 Vol. V. No. 6 Published July, 1976 Edited by Andrew & Wendy Selkirk, 9 Nassington Road, London NW3 2TX, Tel. 01-435 7517
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Current Archaeology therefore is joining wit h RESCUE to launch an annual award for the best and most original contribution to rescue archaeology by an independent group. This wil l be one of a number of awards which RESCUE is currently organising, and we hope it wil l prove to be an important one. Nominations should be made either to Current Archaeology or to RESCUE by the end of January, and after an initial assessment, the leading contenders wil l be invited to present their results to an open meeting—perhaps at the next RESCUE A.G.M. at which the winners wil l be chosen. We look forward to a strong and varied entry.
Behind all the razzmatazz, and the desire to give praise where praise is due, there is a deeper purpose. The danger with government archaeology is not just that it is unstable, but rather that i t tends to be unadventurous. Inevitably— and rightly—those who dispense public money must do so with caution, following the conventional wisdom. I f PittRivers had been alive today, he would have had all his money taken away from him in taxes, but his application to get some of it back as a government grant would have been rejected by the Area Advisory Committee on the grounds that i t was wildly extravagant and hopelessly at variance with the standards then prevailing.
Sir Mortimer Wheeler once defined an amateur as someone who was "free to choose her problem and her site". The virtues of the independent archaeologist is precisely that he is free to eschew the fashionable sites and the current trends and standards, and to branch out on his own , to do something original. Indeed, i t has been the tradition of independent ideals, surviving over the past 30 years that has enabled government money to achieve something of a 'Golden Age' in the '50s and '60s. This independent tradition now needs to be reinforced and re-stated. Our aim is to encourage archaeologists to be bold, to be original, and to be independent. If we succeed, all archaeology wil l benefit.