In a characteristically stimulating recent article in ANTIQUITY, Barry Cunliffe has touched on many of the most important issues concerning the publication of ‘rescue’ excavations in Britain in the 1990s (Cunliffe 1990). The purpose of the present article is to follow up some the points which Cunliffe has raised.
Publication, and the dissemination of information, is the lifeblood of any academic discipline, and questions of what is published (and of what is read!), where, how and by whom are of central importance for archaeology. Over the past two decades in Britain, and particularly in England where the volume of work has been greatest, there has been a recurrent concern with the problem of how to publish the results of ‘rescue’ archaeology. Rescue excavations can generate very large quantities of data, collected for reasons which are often largely beyond archaeological control, and the problems (both intellectual and practical) of publishing this material are considerable. In Britain the issues have been the subject of expert examination on two occasions since 1970 -the Frere (1975) and Cunliffe (1983) reports - and now in the 1990s the topic is firmly on the archaeological agenda again. This paper is intended as a contribution to the continuing debate.