Change is happening, can we sustain it?

I think that when we look back at 2019, it will be the year that things changed in UK archaeology. While nothing seems to be very different, Rachel and I see a noticeable groundswell in support, and positive changes in attitude, toward broad equality issues in archaeology. A series of events in UK archaeology from August to November* catapulted these issues into conversations at both meeting tables and site huts. As I have been speaking about this for over a decade, my email, twitter and facebook messenger had literally days of relentless pinging. I had no time to blog, or frankly little time to think beyond being poised between ‘WTAF’ and ‘well, of course’. The undercurrent of misogyny in archaeology has been something BWA has been trying to highlight for a decade: the drip, drip, drip of the dismissal of women’s talents and contribution to archaeology that points directly to UK archaeology not being a women’s place.

The most common questions I’m now being asked are:

How do we investigate accusations? How do we implement sanctions?

 While this is understandable, and fair, I’m not sure this is the way we maintain momentum and move forward. If we prioritise the negative aspects, how can we encourage good practice for the profession as a whole? I am personally committed to the concept of rehabilitation. Everyone should have the opportunity to be educated as to why the position they’ve held is unfair or damaging; accept that their behaviour is not productive; and have the space and support to change.

This isn’t easy. To forgive is hard. To explain is time-consuming. But I meet many people who want to change and want to learn how to make archaeology fairer. So, in 2020 I’m going to focus my energy on solutions and forgiveness, not retribution. We need to build a better archaeology from the ground up, and not tear each other apart. Changing archaeology is just within our grasp, but we have to reach for it.



*If you didn’t catch the absolute sh*t-show here are the links to start you off.

Cambridge sexual harassment researcher ‘laughed at by men’


Society of Antiquaries in turmoil after vote to back sex abuser

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