This discussion article responds to a forum question posed by the editors of Archaeological dialogues: ‘is archaeology useful?’ My response initially moves backward from the question, considering whether archaeology ought to be useful, how it has been useful in the past, and the millennial overtones of the question in our present climate of crisis. I critique the primary way in which archaeology attempts to be useful, as a dowsing rod for heritage through ‘public archaeology’. While European archaeology has long been aware of the dangers of nationalism, in the Americas this danger is cloaked by a focus on indigenous and minority histories. I then move forward through the question and urge colleagues to embrace an archaeological agenda geared towards the future rather than the past. My hope is that transatlantic dialogue will be politically useful in reorienting archaeological research towards supranational problems such as climate change, hunger and population stress.
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