Toward a theory of municipal archaeology: Why local government should become public archaeology's new best friend

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Archaeology is nothing if not local. While an archaeological site may be understood by its connections to regional, national, or global events, the site itself is important because it represents a specific place on the map where someone did something (or where many people did many things, as the case may be). While archaeologists are accustomed to thinking of sites in terms of their informational potential, they may be less accustomed to thinking about the value of being a "place on the map." Being a "place on a map" means that any archaeological site is also real property, and real property in the USA is subject to the rules and regulations developed by the three levels of government: federal, state, and local. Each of these can play a role in archaeological protection. Archaeologists in the USA are well aware of how federal regulations, such as section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, shape archaeological practice. There has been remarkably little attention paid to the possibilities that exist at the local government level, however, and local government may be archaeology's best bet for harnessing the public's interest in the past and transforming that interest into a more robust ethic of archaeological stewardship. Local government also provides arguably the most effective option available for protecting archaeological resources on private property throughout a community. Relying on the experiences of cities and counties in Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, and other states, this chapter will explore several characteristics of successful municipal archaeology programs. It will also devote particular attention to the legal protection that can be afforded to archaeological sites through local land development regulations.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUrban Archaeology, Municipal Government and Local Planning
Subtitle of host publicationPreserving Heritage within the Commonwealth of Nations and the United States
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783319554907
StatePublished - Jul 28 2017


  • Archaeology ordinance
  • Heritage conservation
  • Historic district
  • Historic preservation
  • Public participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)
  • Arts and Humanities (all)
  • Engineering (all)


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