Archaeological Heritage as State Nuisance: Object Lessons From Accidental Burial Discoveries

Author(s): Neal Ferris

Year: 2015


State control of archaeology has tended to originate from the agendas of archaeologists - altruistic, capitalistic, and entirely self-serving. This has framed practice as aiding and abetting State processes and societal differentials that play out over land and resource consumption. Despite this, a chronic phenomenon of this process is the need to resolve unmarked burial discoveries. These occurrences are typically achieved within vague regulatory frameworks, and often lack direct State intervention, reflecting their desire to actively avoid "owning" the issue or outcome. Indeed, from the State’s perspective, burials are idiosyncratic, chronic nuisances. More by consequence than by design, then, commercial archaeologists finding themselves in the middle of such occurrences are expected to be less experts managing "their" data, and more service providers mediating outcomes between the primary stakeholders: landowners and representatives for the deceased. This in turn enables resolutions to be negotiated below and beyond State expectations, and as such become object lessons at redefining archaeological identities and archaeology’s relationship with the State. The past and present application of the Ontario Cemeteries Act to unmarked Indigenous and Euro-Canadian burial localities illustrates this critical dimension of chronic nuisance heritage management leading to reimagined role and relevances for archaeology in society.

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Cite this Record

Archaeological Heritage as State Nuisance: Object Lessons From Accidental Burial Discoveries. Neal Ferris. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396054)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.815; min lat: 39.3 ; max long: -66.753; max lat: 47.398 ;