International Journal of Historical Archaeology

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 721–735 | Cite as

Archaeology and the Logic of Capital: Pulling the Emergency Break

  • Yannis Hamilakis


The recent (2008- present) crisis of financial capitalism is having an enormous impact on the lives of working people all over the world, but it has also hit the largest sector of archaeological activity which has been called commercial archaeology, or contract or developer-funded archaeology. Despite its detrimental effects, the situation has provided an opening for a radical rethinking and reflection on the underlying assumptions of this sector, its ethical and political premises, its long-term viability, and more importantly, the need for alternatives. Within this context, this paper aims to show that the logic of capital was embedded in the process of the constitution of modernist archaeology, right from the start. It also demonstrates the highly problematic operation of commercial archaeology for archaeologists, material culture, and the vast majority of the public. It proposes that what it needs to change radically is the foundational logic of modernist archaeology which makes it part of the framework of capital: its fetishization of things, and their treatment as autonomous objects, divorced from the relationships, flows and connections that have led to their constitution. The paper concludes by outlining briefly an alter-modern archaeology that resides in the in-between spaces, rather than on objectified, reified, and thus easily commodified entities.


Modernity Capitalism Commercial archaeology Sensorial archaeology 



I am grateful to Cristóbal Gnecco and Adriana Schmitd Dias for the kind invitation to participate in the very inspiring Porto Alegre meeting, and to my fellow participants for their interventions and discussions which helped shape this paper. I have learnt a lot about these issues from Nicolas Zorzin and Vasilis Tsamis, former doctoral students of mine and now valuable colleagues and collaborators. Christina Vona also made useful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Archaeology DepartmentUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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