The purposes of archaeology

13th January 2014

Professor Graham Connah.

Professor Graham Connah.

Graham E. Connah


Thank you Mr Chancellor for your kind introduction. Respected colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I have chosen tonight to address a topic of fundamental relevance, rather than examining some particular aspect of my own research as I was tempted to do. This decision was prompted not only by the nature of inaugural lectures in general but by the special character of this lecture. The chair to which the University has done me the honour of electing me is a foundation chair, that is to say that I am the first to hold a position that will, I hope, have a long line of distinguished incumbents. It seems appropriate, therefore, to speak about what must be the major issue relevant to my discipline area: namely what do archaeologists think that they are trying to do, and what point is there in doing it. In choosing to talk about this, I shall of course be taking issue with such opinions as that of the American archaeologist, Albert Spaulding, who achieved fame some years ago by cynically remarking that ‘the only purpose of archaeology is to make archaeologists happy’ (Spaulding 1953:590).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Connah, G.E.
The purposes of archaeology
December 1997
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