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In this case the tug of war is over the future of our archaeological imagination. Culture history Culture history is the default setting for most archaeological inquiry. It has received a rough ride over the past 30 years, but even so Thomas (1995) estimates that in Britain over half of university archaeologists still come under this approach, though they might not realise it. On a world scale culture history also accounts for what the majority of archaeologists think they are doing. For example, Paddayya (1995: 138), writing of Indian archaeologists, concludes that most of them are at best disinterested in theory and regard the discipline primarily as a fact-gathering enterprise.

Was it Lara Croft, or Gladiator? Dusk in the Valley of the Kings, in Egypt, or dawn at Petra, in Jordan? A beep from your metal detector? The stones of Stonehenge, the mounds of Moundville or the Roman baths at Bath? Will you own up to an autographed poster of the Time Team on your bedroom wall? Was it a museum display or, what did it for me, an artists reconstruction in a book of life as it once was. Remembering the spark that kindled your archaeological imagination now seems the easy bit, where next?

The issues archaeologists raise about investigative procedures, identity and ownership can be bitterly contested. This can be both among fellow professionals and with the varied constituencies that may either be friendly or hostile to the systematic, often legislated investigation of the past. But how do I give you an initial taste of the types and varieties of archaeology that are on the menu? The Internet is one obvious way. Pick a search engine, type in ‘archaeology’ (and don’t forget to try the alternative spelling ‘archeology’) and just see how many sites come up.

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