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Archaeological Horizons:

Assessing Affinities with Archaeology Across Social Groups

Project contact: Dr Catherine Draycott

Graph of UK demographics of students and staff in archaeology as of 2008


Archaeological Horizons is a seed corn project that aims to test methods and questions for researching public attitudes to and affinities with archaeology, toward assessing underlying causes for the disparity in social groups, especially racial groups, represented among commercial and academic archaeologists. 

Although they require updating, surveys have shown that archaeology in the UK and US, as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is a field which is overwhelmingly made up of people who identify as being white European-descent, both in the field and in higher education. The problem with this, is that it limits the critical perspectives contributing to reconstructions of the past, meaning aspects can be overlooked, neglected, or even wrongly cast. It may be assumed that on top of the more overt colonialist origins of archaeology as a discipline, this continuing lack of representation and limited visions of the past associated with archaeology (at least in popular thought) contribute to a loop: non-white people tend to feel less of an affinity with and interest in archaeology as a discipline, and are therefore less likely to join its ranks.  

The ultimate aim is to test this assumption/hypothesis and investigate causes for racial and ethnic disparity in professional archaeology by asking members of the broader public not primarily engaged in archaeology how they feel about it—whether it is on their horizons as an area in which they would like to participate, in a voluntary or professional capacity. In order to achieve this, a starting point survey was devised to try to tease out unexamined suppositions people hold about archaeology, and to assess whether there are cultural differences among different social groups, to what extent these may explain differences in proportions of social groups in archaeology, and whether there are specific issues can be addressed by the archaeological community.  

Archaeology Horizons: A Survey of Affinities with Archaeology was a pilot online public survey pitched at people living in Bermuda, an island with a majority Black population, run from September-November 2019. The purpose was to test an online-only survey as a sampling strategy, but especially the efficacy of a set of peer-reviewed questions drawn up for the survey. An analysis of the results will inform the methodology for further collaborative work on a larger scale. 

Image of online Archaeological Horizons Survey

Research and Impact Groups

Heritage and Partnerships



  • 2019: “Investigating Intersections of Race and Public Perceptions of Archaeology: a pilot survey run in Bermuda, 2019”. TAG 2019, session 45: The Decolonisation of Archaeology and Archaeological Collections in MuseumsUCL, London 
  • 2019: “Why is Archaeology so White? A proposal for research and action”public lecture, Thinkfest Bermuda, Bermuda College, Sept. 11 2019