Putting the Past to Work: Archaeology, Community and Economic Development

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"The boundaries of 'community archaeology' are being stretched around the world, even to include projects intended to enhance the economic well-being of those who live in the communities in which archaeologists work. While economic development projects are far from the archaeologist’s conventional remit, theoretical, practical and ethical factors are driving this diversification of community archaeology. However, there is no theoretical or practical foundation within archaeology to govern the design of archaeologists’ development projects. This research addresses that gap by exploring whether theoretical, experimental and case-study evidence developed by economists interested in community governance of Common Pool Resources (CPRs) contains lessons of value for the archaeological community. The research involved case studies of long-surviving, community-based economic development projects located in communities that sought to benefit from archaeological or heritage sites at their doorsteps. The communities are similarly small, but are located in very different economic, political and cultural contexts in Peru, Belize and Ireland. Using qualitative and quantitative data developed in interviews conducted in each village, each project’s institutional structure—the formal and informal rules that govern members’ activities in each project—is compared to a set of design principles for CPRs based on studies by Elinor Ostrom. As the thesis explains, Ostrom’s principles are the most evidence-based and theoretically supported set of design principles to be articulated for CPRs. The conclusion reached is that Ostrom’s principles clearly apply to the two projects that manage a 'true' CPR, which in these cases were organisations that controlled community members who sell crafts to visitors to the heritage site. In one case, where there was no 'true' CPR to manage, certain of Ostrom’s governance principles are clearly applicable and important, but those that most distinguish CPR governance are not. One implication of this study for archaeology is that it is important to understand deeply the nature of a community and a project before applying an external model to its design."



archaeology, community, common pool resources