Looking to the future of medieval archaeology

Anglo-Saxon archaeology

Anglo-Saxon archaeologyLooking to the future of medieval archaeology

Mark Gardiner and Stephen Rippon

Reflections: 50 years of medieval archaeology, 1957–2007, Maney Publishing December 25, (2009)


A symposium entitled ‘Looking to the Future’ was held as part of the Society for Medieval Archaeology’s 50th anniversary to reflect upon current and forthcoming issues facing the discipline. The discussion was wide-ranging, and is summarized here under the topics of the research potential of development-led fieldwork, the accessibility of grey literature, research frameworks for medieval archaeology, the intellectual health of the discipline, and relevance and outreach.

Many of the events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Society for Medieval Archaeology, and the resulting papers in this volume, look back over progress and past achievements. In contrast, the final workshop, ‘Looking to the Future’, held at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, on 3 May 2008, reflected upon the current problems and the way in which the subject might develop in the future. The event was not intended to agree a definite road-map for the future, even if such a thing were possible, a subject which was itself debated. Instead, it was designed to stimulate discussion on current questions and it succeeded in that respect. Contributions were made not only by the speakers who provided short introductions to the topics, but also by many of the people who attended and offered comments. There was much vigorous discussion also amongst the break-out groups which met to discuss the formal papers, and by individuals over lunch, during the coffee-breaks and in the reception afterwards. The participants came from across the archaeological profession and included those working in the contract sector, in museums, universities and the state bodies.


It is hardly possible in the present paper to reflect the range of views expressed at that meeting, although a number of themes did emerge very strongly and some degree of consensus was achieved on certain subjects during the course of discussion. It is these which are examined below. It is more than a convention to issue the usual warning that the comments reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily the views of the Society as a whole.

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