The term ‘applied archaeology’ refers to archaeological work that is done, usually within the post-processual paradigm, to give a more complete view of the history by representing those who's presence and/or contributions may have previously been left out for political, social or personal reasons. Basically the archaeologist uses all of the methods and technologies in his possession, as well as the knowledge of community members and descendents of the studied groups, to give voice to the disenfranchised and help create a 'shared heritage'. Dr. Erve Chambers adds to this definition by saying that archaeology becomes ‘applied’ when those outside of archaeology are engaged. These ‘outsiders’ tend to consist of community members directly affected by or involved with the resource. Because applied archaeology depends upon the engagement of these community members there are two methods of involving them that are often put to use.

The first is the participatory method, which is pretty much what it sounds like. In this method the community members are invited to participate in the project. They can do so in numerous ways including acting as informants or volunteering during excavation as well as by simply supporting the project. This type of involvement became important during the Sudley Post Office project, conducted by Matthew Reeves, when material culture was encountered that fell outside of what was expected. By inquiring in the community and then discovering the omission by a large number of people – that of the residential existence of the black family at that location - they were able to give voice to a history within the town that had previously been ignored. The thing to remember about this method is that while the community members are invited to participate they have not been involved in the organization and development of the project in general.

In opposition to this is the second method, the collaborative method. In this method the project is collaboration from start to finish, with community members being involved in both the design of the project and the end product of it – the conclusions. One technique used to exemplify the collaborative project is the use of a web site in the Levi Jordan Plantation project, conducted by Carol McDavid, which allowed the community members to provide their own interpretations alongside that of the archaeologists. In doing this, the community is able to compare the ‘findings’ of some of its own to that of outsiders, the archaeologists. They are able to claim ownership for the history of the plantation, as well as their community, and deal with social ‘hurts’ that are created by it.


Shackel, Paul, and Erve Chambers, eds. 2004 Places in Mind: Public Archaeology As Applied Anthropology. Routledge: New Ed edition.

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