Dear ASAPA members
Members of the ASAPA council met with representatives of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) earlier in the year and SAHRA raised serious concerns regarding the practice of some CRM professionals in South Africa. If applicable, please take careful note of these set out in the following paragraphs and make the appropriate changes to your practice. In addition, SAHRA has indicated that they would like to move, over the next two years, toward insisting on multi-skilled teams ‚?? all members of which would have appropriate credentials. We invite you to comment on this (see below). Finally, the ASAPA Council once again requests that all members please apply for and update their accreditation as appropriate.
Heritage Impact Assessments
First, and most seriously, SAHRA brought to our attention that there are several archaeologists, including members of ASAPA, who have chosen to submit Archaeological Impact Assessments (AIAs) under the title of Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs). Heritage Impact Assessments do not include only the archaeological and historical remains. An important aspect is also the intangible heritage that may be present on the landscape. These may include features on the landscape that are related to the ritual or spiritual aspects of the landscape; indigenous knowledge systems; living heritage; and other important oral historical data that might be obtained from local communities. Such information may only become available after consultations with local communities. Archaeologists may not be the most appropriate practitioners to solicit this information from local communities and should thus work with anthropologists and historians when appropriate.
Please note that in our Code of Conduct (consult the constitution on our website at http://www.asapa.org.za/index.php/constitution), it states that members undertake to:
3.18 Refrain from undertaking assessments for which they are not accredited, or do not have, or cannot provide, the relevant experience and/or expertise.
3.19 Not mislead the public or clients in any way (ASAPA constitution, Appendix B, p. 18).
Further, in our minimum standards of practice, ASAPA members undertake to:
1.1 Assess the adequacy of their qualifications for the demands of the project, and minimise inadequacies by acquiring additional expertise and/or bringing in associates with the requisite qualifications, or by modifying the scope of the project (ASAPA constitution, Appendix C, p. 20)
Note that ‚??Heritage Impact Assessment‚?? is a legally defined term and misrepresenting an AIA as an HIA is a serious matter that may ultimately have very negative effects on the heritage in the area concerned, as well as on your relationship with your clients. Please note that ASAPA cannot offer any support to members who may be threatened with legal action by their clients in instances such as these.
SAHRA noted, as in the past, that many CRM archaeologists continue to not supply adequate maps and/or GPS coordinates of sites with their reports. The inclusion of maps is essential as they indicate the location of sites at various scales, these locations are important for clients as well as the heritage agencies and environmental departments who assess the reports. SAHRA indicated that they cannot accept reports without the relevant maps.
SAHRA also indicated that a number of practitioners repeatedly use the same template and simply change site names and contractor details. The data is then hidden in a mass of unnecessary padding. This practice makes it difficult for heritage agency and environmental department officials to assess reports, and calls into question the quality of the work reported.
The future of CRM archaeology
SAHRA and the ASAPA Council are concerned about the standards of both phase 1 and phase 2 impact assessments. Often archaeologists use unqualified or unaccredited persons to conduct phase 1 assessments, and these frequently are conducted without Principal Investigators. Consequently, important sites are not identified or their significance is misidentified. Similar practices appear to characterise some phase 2 excavations.
The ASAPA Council has previously written to members requesting that you apply for the relevant accreditation linked to your expertise and experience. This request was based on clause 3.18 of the ASAPA Code of Conduct. Conducting CRM work without accreditation thus constitutes a breach of the ASAPA code of conduct and can lead to the institution of grievance procedures.
The accreditation system acts as an independent, peer-review verification of a member‚??s expertise in particular fields, which can be drawn on by SAHRA, other heritage bodies and potential employers in assessing the member‚??s qualifications. The extent to which the accreditation system works, largely depends on the willingness of ASAPA members to recognize and adhere to it. By ignoring it and acting outside of its bounds, practitioners essentially devalue the system for all those involved. We recognize that members may outgrow their current accreditation. We therefore urge you to update your CRM accreditation status as appropriate and as often as necessary.