Friday, December 05, 2014

Space Archaeology: The Next Decade.

This is the abstract for the paper I gave at the annual Australian Archaeological Association conference last week in Cairns.

Space archaeology: the next decade.

When space archaeology emerged in 2003, it divided opinions. Ten years on, space archaeology is now represented in encyclopaedias and handbooks, and an impressive body of work has accumulated. NASA has produced guidelines for managing lunar heritage and there are plans to register the Apollo 11 Tranquility Base site as a national or world heritage site. Some, such as Michael Schiffer, have contextualised space archaeology within an ‘archaeology of science’, while others situate it within ‘the archaeology of the contemporary past’. In this paper I review how the directions and ideas that emerged from the first conference session at the World Archaeological Congress have developed. Despite critiques of these approaches, nationalist agendas and ‘Space Race’ narratives are still a large part of how space archaeology is framed. There is a dearth of fieldwork and analysis of material remains from terrestrial space sites, which is partially a result of few active practitioners, and security issues around military sites. Moreover, the technical knowledge needed to understand and investigate the machinery of space exploration is not a standard part of an archaeological education. Given the constraints, what are the most realistic directions for future research in this subfield? I sketch a decadal plan for space archaeology and heritage management.

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