Environmental Archaeology, Progress and Challenges

Andy J. Howard

Landscape Research and Management, 24 Russell Close, Stanmore, Bridgnorth, UK. Email:

Cite this as: Howard, A.J. 2019 Environmental Archaeology, Progress and Challenges, Internet Archaeology 53.


Graph showing publications cited in the Scopus database between 2001 and 2015 using the key phrases Holocene Palaeoecology, Geoarchaeology and Environmental Archaeology within the title, abstract or key words

This article explores how the discipline of environmental archaeology has fared over the past 15 years, reflecting on several themes considered by authors in Environmental Archaeology: Meaning and Purpose (Albarella 2001). Within this timeframe, two significant factors shaping the health of the discipline, namely government research audits and the commercialisation of environmental archaeology, have remained as constant drivers; therefore it might be perceived that little will have changed. However, alongside these two factors, the major issue of global climate change has come to the fore, resulting in debates that environmental archaeologists have the potential to contribute to significantly, in turn promoting the discipline. This article attempts to reflect on the health of the discipline, aided by a basic consideration of metrics data collected via Elsevier's Scopus platform. The empirical data pertaining to publication suggests that while the discipline has blossomed during the last 15 years, it has been influenced by external factors such as research audits. However, data from journal outputs provide only a partial story since a significant corpus of environmental archaeology literature is restricted to 'grey literature' or, if published, buried within larger site reports and monographs that are less easily captured by metrics. A search of the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) website suggests that stand-alone environmental archaeological literature is infrequently archived and this has the effect of lowering the profile of the discipline, which invariably means that environmental archaeological data does not get the centre-stage attention or is promoted in a way that it deserves. Furthermore, this lack of systematic archiving has the potential to hide issues associated with data quality. This article argues that the volume of publication outputs is not the real issue that is likely to impact on environmental archaeology in coming years, but rather it is one of data accessibility and quality. The article concludes by considering how these challenges might be addressed.

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