British Academy report calls for action to ensure support for new archaeological discoveries

29 Mar 2017

The British Academy has today published a report calling for action to safeguard the future of UK archaeology, so it can continue to lead the way in groundbreaking discoveries – such as the 2013 discovery of the remains of Richard III in Leicester.

Reflections on Archaeology addresses the biggest challenges facing archaeological research and study today. It recommends that the diverse academic and commercial sectors develop a single voice to lobby for action to meet current threats to the future health of archaeology and to the protection of archaeological heritage.

The report celebrates the role of archaeological research in transforming our understanding of the past, as well as contributing to our understanding of some of the greatest global challenges, such as clean energy, sustainable agriculture, health, conflict and humanitarian action.

However, at university level, archaeological departments face recruitment difficulties, and current funding models do not consider the significant science component of many courses.

The report follows a series of forums held by the British Academy in the last year, bringing together stakeholders to reflect on issues such as: what archaeology does in the UK; how it is taught at different educational levels; the health of the discipline; how it contributes to our understanding of world issues; and how research funding can be sourced.

Professor Graeme Barker, chair of the Reflections on Archaeology steering group said: “As we witnessed with the astonishing discovery of the remains of Richard III in Leicester, British archaeology has huge gravitas on the global stage.

According to the latest QS world university rankings, the four top-ranked archaeology departments in the world are in Britain, and there is enormous public interest in new discoveries.

“However, as this report makes clear, we face significant challenges to protect our fragile archaeological resource for future research, education and public enjoyment. In taking an honest approach to the current state of UK archaeology, we hope that the British Academy’s report will go some way to addressing these challenges and highlighting how crucial it is that we do not see archaeology become a thing of the past.”

Reflections on Archaeology is the second in a series of ‘Reflections on…’reports, examining the health of one of the British Academy’s subjects from the humanities and social sciences. The reports look at research, teaching, funding and how research is used by government, industry, charities, and wider society.

Reflections on Archaeology is available to download here.


Editor’s notes:

  1. Reflections on Archaeologywill be launched with a panel discussion at the British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH on Wednesday 29 March  from 12pm. 

  2. For further information, images or interviews, please contact the Press Office on [email protected] or 020 7969 5263.

  3. Reflections on Archaeology was compiled by a steering group: Professor Graeme Barker FBA, Senior Fellow of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge; Professor Charlotte Roberts FBA, Professor of Archaeology, Durham University; Professor Christopher Gosden FBA, Professor of European Archaeology, University of Oxford; Professor Audrey Horning, Professor of Archaeology, Queen’s University Belfast and Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, College of William and Mary; and Professor Kate Welham, Professor of Archaeological Sciences Bournemouth, University and Chair, University Archaeology UK.

  4. The British Academy for the humanities and social sciences. Established by Royal Charter in 1902. Its purpose is to inspire and support high achievement in the humanities and social sciences throughout the UK and internationally, and to promote their public value. For more information, please visit
    Follow the British Academy on Twitter @britac_news.

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