The United Kingdom (sometimes referred to as Britain) has a long and rich history of human settlement. Traces of buildings, tools, and art can be found from periods going back many thousands of years: from the Stone Age, through the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the time of the Roman colonization, the Middle Ages, up to the beginnings of the industrial age. Yet from most of the twentieth century, the science of archaeology – dedicated to uncovering and studying old cultural artifacts – was faced with serious problems and limitations in Britain.
First, many valuable artifacts were lost to construction projects. The growth of Britain’s population, especially from the 1950s on, spurred a lot of new construction in British cities, towns, and villages. While digging foundations for new buildings, the builders often uncovered archaeologically valuable sites. Usually, however, they proceeded with the construction and did not preserve the artifacts. Many archaeologically precious artifacts were therefore destroyed.
Second, many archaeologists felt that the financial support for archaeological research are inadequate. For most of the twentieth century, archaeology was funded mostly through government funds and grants, which allowed archaeologists to investigate a handful of the most important sites but which left hundreds of other interesting projects without support. Furthermore, changing government priorities brought about periodic reductions in funding.
Third, it was difficult to have a career in archaeology. Archaeology jobs were to be found at universities or with a few government agencies, but there were never many positions available. Many people who wanted to become archaeologists ended up pursuing other careers and contributing to archaeological research only as unpaid amateurs.
In 1990, new rules and guidelines were adopted in the United Kingdom that has changed the whole field of Archaeology in that country. The new guidelines improved the situation in all there areas discussed in the passage.
First, the new guidelines state that before any construction project can start, the construction site has to be examined by archaeologists to see whether the site is of archaeological interest or value. If the site is of archaeological interest, the next step is for the builders, archaeologists and local government officials to get together and make a plan for preserving the archaeological artifacts, either by building around them or by excavating and documenting them properly before the construction is allowed.
Second, an important part of the new guidelines is a rule that any archaeological work done on the construction site will be paid for by the construction company not by the government. The construction company has to pay for the initial examination of the site, and then for all the work carried out under the preservation plan. This is a whole new source of financial support. The funding from construction companies has allowed researchers to study a far greater range of archaeological sites than they could in the past.
Last, the new guidelines provide a lot of paid work for archaeologists, work that didn’t exist before. Expert archaeologists are now hired at all stages of the process to examine the site for archaeological value, then to help draw up the preservation plan to do the research in a professional scientific manner and finally to process the date and write reports and articles. The increased job and career opportunities in Archaeology have increased the number of professional archaeologists in Britain, which is now the highest it’s ever been.
The professor explained three aspects of the new guidelines adopted in the United Kingdom, each of which has successfully addressed the problems mentioned in the reading passage concerning the preservation of artifacts, the funding of archaeological research, and career opportunities in archaeology.
First, the professor pointed out that according to the new guidelines, any construction project must undergo an evaluation process in order for the archaeological value of the site to be ascertained. If a site is determined to contain precious objects, a panel of experts is convened to draw up a preservation plan. This measure has proven very effective in addressing the first problem mentioned in the reading and irresponsible construction projects being pursued without any regard for archaeological preservation.
Second, the lecturer explained that the new guidelines shifted the responsibility for funding archaeological work, from initial examination to future preservation, from the government to construction companies. As a result of this shift, the second problem highlighted in the reading concerning insufficient government funds for archaeological research has been significantly addressed.
The professor,s last point concerned the final problem raised in the reading material –a decline in archaeology-related job opportunities. She argued that thanks to the new guidelines, many skillful, full-time archaeological experts and professionals are now needed to handle work at various stages of archaeological investigation, research, and preservation.