6. The Dichotomies of British and Danish Archaeology

Regarding the dichotomies of archaeology in Denmark and the UK, this article has presented some of the key differences between the two geographic areas, in part attributed to the historical legacy, political agenda and heritage management, and method development over the course of a century of field archaeology. To this day, many Danish archaeologists would characterise British field methodology and adherence to single context planning as dogmatic rather than by design, and hardly seen as versatile tool. As Carver (2011, 22) states regarding single context planning: 'How strange, then, that for all this evangelical reverence, the package still remains confined to a rather narrow base, both ethnically (British), economically (well-funded), and typologically (urban excavations)'. There is no doubt that the character of the sites being investigated – shallow, extensive settlements vs deeply stratified ones – are defining for the excavation approach – as it should be. The right tool for the right job. This is, however, not what single context planners advocate in their yearning for an integrated, unified discipline with common goals, ideals and methods worldwide. In Denmark, for example, most urban excavations are recorded as stratigraphic excavations rather than by strict single context planning, which as a recording method is arguably much more versatile (Carver 2011).

Apart from the dogmatic and typologically determined methodology, there is a valid point in seeing the convergence of CAD and single context planning as mutually influential on how single context planning developed, and how technology to some extent became defining for a recording ideal based in part on technological preconditions. Excavation plans become split into individual two-dimensional horizontal objects, stacked with only a context number as reference. On the other hand, GIS with its lack of native 3D support yet superior handling of attributed classification data, affected how settlement archaeology developed, but also delivers a digital documentation legacy of detached vertical and horizontal plans.


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