Archaeological Dialogues

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Archaeological Dialogues (2009), 16:152-157 Cambridge University Press
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‘Fortuitous and wasteful mitigations . . .’

Mark Pluciennik

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In this fin de siècle moment – or is it closer to a mood of Depression? – the Keynesian idea of expanded government spending is much in vogue. We have been here before. As Shannon Lee Dawdy notes, part of Roosevelt's New Deal in the USA was the famous Civilian Conservation Corps, who performed much archaeology and related work (Maher 2008; Paige 1985). It seems particularly appropriate, then, to repeat a famous quote of Keynes: after all, archaeology comes surprisingly close to that much-derided Keynesian remedy. It was in his General theory of employment, interest and money that he wrote, ‘“To dig holes in the ground,” paid for out of savings, will increase, not only employment, but the real national dividend of useful goods and services’ (Keynes 1936, 220). What is less often quoted, though, is the subsequent comment: ‘It is not reasonable, however, that a sensible community should be content to remain dependent on such fortuitous and often wasteful mitigations’.

Mark Pluciennik ( is Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Leicester, UK. He was educated at the University of Sheffield. His major fieldwork focus has been in the central Mediterranean and especially Sicily, where he currently codirects a multiperiod project. Although his major period focus has been the Mesolithic and Neolithic and particularly the transition to farming in Europe, he has also published on archaeological theory and philosophy, the historiography of archaeology and hunter-gatherer studies, the European dimension in contemporary archaeology, and archaeological ethics. Publications include the edited volumes The responsibilities of archaeologists. Archaeology and ethics (2001) and Thinking through the body. Archaeologies of corporeality (2002) (with Yannis Hamilakis and Sarah Tarlow); papers on ‘The invention of hunter-gatherers in seventeenth-century Europe’ (Archaeological dialogues 9(2), 98–151, 2002) and ‘A regional biological approach to the spread of agriculture to Europe’ (Current anthropology 45, S4, 2004, 59–82); and the book Social evolution (2005).