Single Context Archaeology as Anarchist Praxis


  • Colleen Morgan University of York
  • Daniel Eddisford Durham University



archaeology, fieldwork, archaeological methodology, single context


The organization of archaeological fieldwork often resembles a military-style campaign structured around rigid, top-down hierarchies. This is reflected in many aspects of current practice, including the ultimate authority of the site director, the use of excavation methodologies that remove the act of interpretation from field archaeologists, and the general deskilling and reification of archaeological labor in fieldwork. Though there have been several examples of resistance to this hierarchical model we maintain that a sustained critique could stem from an unexpected source: the creation of communities that model anarchist principles through the implementation of the single context methodology in archaeology. In this article we explore the potential for anarchist praxis in archaeological fieldwork and the implications of anarchist thought on the issues of authority and non-alienation of labor in a neoliberal landscape.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Colleen Morgan, University of York

Colleen Morgan is Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. Address for correspondence: University of York, King's Manor, York, YO1 7EP, UK.

Daniel Eddisford, Durham University

David Eddisford is a PhD student at the University of Durham studying Bronze Age exchange networks and political economies in southeast Arabia. He has worked as a professional field archaeologist for over 15 years, excavating a wide range of sites both in the UK and the Middle East. Address for correspondence: Department of Archaeology, Durham University, South Rd, Durham DH1 3LE, UK.


Angelbeck, B. and C. Grier. 2012. “Anarchism and the Archaeology of Anarchic Societies: Resistance to Centralization in the Coast Salish Region of the Pacific Northwest Coast.” Current Anthropology 53 (5): 547–587.

Bakunin, M. 1970 [1882]. God and the State. Translated by B. Tucker, revised. New York: Dover [facsimile of the 1916 edition of New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association].

Berggren, A. and I. Hodder. 2003. “Social Practice, Method, and Some Problems of Field Archaeology.” American Antiquity 68 (3): 421–434.

Edgeworth, M. 2003. Acts of Discovery: An Ethnography of Archaeological Practice. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Everill, P. 2007. “British Commercial Archaeology: Antiquarians and Labourers; Developers and Diggers.” In Archaeology and Capitalism: From Ethics to Politics, edited by Y. Hamilakis and P. G. Duke, 119–136. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Faulkner, N. 2000. “Archaeology from Below.” Public Archaeology 1 (1): 21–33.

____. 2009. “The Sedgeford Crisis.” Public
Archaeology 8 (1): 51–61.

Flannery, K. V. 1982. “The Golden Marshalltown: A Parable for the Archeology of the 1980s.” American Anthropologist 84 (2): 265–278.

Hamilton, C. 2000. “Faultlines: The Construction of Archaeological Knowledge at Çatalhöyük.” In Towards Reflexive Methods in Archaeology: The Example at Çatalhöyük, edited by I. Hodder, 119–128. Cambridge: McDonald Institute of Archaeological Research / Ankara: British Institute at Ankara.

Hodder, I. 1997. “‘Always Momentary, Fluid and Flexible’: Towards a Reflexive Excavation Methodology.” Antiquity 71 (273): 691–700.

Leighton, M. 2015. “Excavation Methodologies and Labour as Epistemic Concerns in the Practice of Archaeology: Comparing Examples from British and Andean Archaeology.” Archaeological Dialogues 22 (1): 65–88.

Ludlow Collective. 2001. “Archaeology of the Colorado Coal Field War, 1913–1914.” In Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past, ed. V. Buchli and G. Lucas, 94–107. London and New York: Routledge.

McGuire, R. H. 2008. Archaeology as Political Action. Berkeley: University of California Press.

____. 2012. “Raise the Red Flag and the Black.” Reply comment, 575–576 in B. Angelbeck and C. Grier, “Anarchism and the Archaeology of Anarchic Societies: Resistance to Centralization in the Coast Salish Region of the Pacific Northwest Coast.” Current Anthropology 53 (5): 547–587.

____. and P. Reckner. 2003. “Building a Working-Class Archaeology: The Colorado Coal Field War Project.” Industrial Archaeology Review 25 (2): 83–95.

KPF [Flude, K.]. 1980. “Cover Story.” Radio Carbon March 1980: 2. Available online:

Regan, R. 2007. “Excavation Diary Entry 19/07/2007.” Çatalhöyük Research Project. Available online:

Roberts, J. 2012. “Excavating an Identity: British Fieldwork in the First Half of the 20th Century.” In Histories of Archaeological Practices: Reflections on Methods, Strategies, and Social Organisation in Past Fieldwork, edited by O. Wolfhechel Jensen, 211–240. Stockholm: National Historical Museum.

Shanks, M. and R. H. McGuire. 1996. “The Craft of Archaeology.” American Antiquity 61 (1): 75–88.

Spence, C. 1993. “Recording the Archaeology of London: The Development and Implementation of the DUA Recording System.” In Practices of Archaeological Stratigraphy, edited by E. C. Harris, M. R. Brown III and G. J. Brown, 23–46. London: Academic Press.

Taylor, J. S. 2007. “Excavation Diary Entry 19/07/2007.” Çatalhöyük Research Project.

____. 2008. “Excavation Diary Entry 26/07/2008.” Çatalhöyük Research Project. Available online:

Walker, M. and D. J. Saitta. 2002. “Teaching the Craft of Archaeology: Theory, Practice, and the Field School.” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 6 (3): 199–207.

Zorzin, N. 2017. “New Managerial Strategies in British Commercial Archaeology.” In Archaeology and Neoliberalism, edited by P. A. Resco, 297–325. Madrid: JAS Arqueologia.



How to Cite

Morgan, C., & Eddisford, D. (2019). Single Context Archaeology as Anarchist Praxis. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 5(2), 245–254.



Anarchy and Archaeology Forum - OPEN ACCESS