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Archaeology in Law.

Henry Cleere (1989: 10) asserted that 'the archaeological heritage is governed by legislation' some 17 years after Charles McGimsey first published a guide on how to enact such a law suitable for American states (McGimsey 1972). The recent rise of journals dedicated to the study of the relationship between law and archaeology (e.g. The International Journal of Cultural Property and Art, Antiquity and Law) together with other publications (e.g. Carman 1996) attests to the continuing importance of this field and thus to the need for a comprehensive guide to British law in this area. This book - the first of its kind - sets out to fill this need.

The content of the book is wide-ranging and incorporates much that archaeologists and others might seek to know. After brief introductory chapters providing a historical overview of heritage law and the organization of British archaeology, the first substantive chapter covers the content of the main Act covering Ancient Monuments (Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979) A further chapter considers the law and guidance relating to such widely differing categories of material as human remains, Treasure Trove, shipwrecks and military remains (treated together), imports and exports, World Heritage sites, battlefields, historic parks and gardens, historic buildings, historic landscapes and ecclesiastical buildings. The third chapter covers the complexities of archaeology as part of the development control process, whilst a further chapter considers relevant taxation. After a brief summary Epilogue, the 16 Appendices which comprise more than half the book contain the relevant texts of statutory instruments, planning policy guidelines, guidance documents and codes of professional practice covering archaeology in Britain. The usefulness of having all these texts between a single set of covers cannot be gainsaid.

This book is aimed at undefined 'practitioners', who presumably include field units, archaeological consultants, local authority officers, commercial developers, and their legal advisers. The text is ordered and arranged in terms of legal rather than archaeological categories and requires a knowledge of legal referencing conventions: this may affect its usefulness to those not trained in law. For example, I sought to find the details of the Rose Theatre case which was significant for its decisions relating to scheduling ancient monuments of national importance. It is nowhere cited in the Index, nor does it appear in the Table of Cases Cited as 'The Rose Theatre Case' or similar. Instead one must look under its official designation as R. v. Secretary of State for the Environment, ex parte The Rose Theatre Trust Co. Once found, the book does not go into the details of the case. Arguably this is of little concern since anyone with a genuine need can find it covered in some detail in the pages of ANTIQUITY or look up the published legal references which are cited in full. However, archaeologists with an interest in this issue are not likely to be familiar with the system of legal referencing (how easily could you find: [1990] 2 WLR 1867); accordingly, the detailed facts of such an important case could have been usefully set out for the book's readers and its archaeological significance thus highlighted.

The problem of the likely unfamiliarity of users with the conventions of legal texts may be compounded by the variation in the treatment of the content from chapter to chapter. Chapter 4 covers in great and useful detail the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 in accordance with the Act's own structure. Chapter 5 on various categories of material and Chapter 7 on taxes are both more eclectic, treating each category as a separate item. Chapter 6 on Development Control is highly discursive and accordingly much more difficult to use quickly to find advice on specific issues (as may be needed in answering a telephone query, for example).

The publisher's blurb argues that this is 'an essential work', and in many ways it is. But this is not the same as the only essential. The chief problem with such a work is that it is a published book: it is already and unavoidably out-of-date in respect, for instance, of the Treasure Act 1996 and the new National Heritage Act which makes lottery money available for heritage projects. So, however, are most legal books, and, importantly, any rival publication. To make the most of it, the book's authority will constantly need to be checked against the current ruling statutes. Moreover, not all the areas of concern to practising archaeologists are given the coverage such users may need. As a tool for archaeological practitioners, then, it is only one, and its price makes it an expensive one if others also need to be consulted.

The provision of up-to-date and comprehensive information on the law relating to archaeology in Britain remains a necessity. This book is a useful (and so far the only) contribution to this aim. A second edition could be produced in loose-leaf format, which would allow for regular updating without the need to produce a completely new edition each time: over the course of years, the text would completely renew itself and always be up-to-date. Another alternative would be to exploit the benefits of new technologies, to produce a hypertext and complete digest of laws which would also be capable of updating on a regular basis. But none of these - book, statutes, loose-leaf guide, hypertext digest - can be expected to stand alone as a definitive tool. Instead, they would be complementary to one another, providing an arsenal of weapons for the archaeologist who needs to engage with the unfamiliarity of laws to achieve archaeological purposes.

JOHN CARMAN Clare Hall, University of Cambridge


CARMAN, J. 1996. Valuing Ancient Things: archaeology and law. London, Leicester University Press.

CLEERE, H.F. (ed.) 1989. Archaeological heritage management in the modern world. London: Routledge.

MCGIMSEY, C.R. 1972. Public archaeology. New York (NY): Seminar Books.

Weekly Law Review [1990] 2: 186.
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Author:Carman, John
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1997
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