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The Institute of Field Archaeologists


The Institute of Field Archaeologists was set up to become the Professional Organisation for Archaeologists in the UK, in the same way that the Law Society acts for Solicitors, the Royal College of Veterinnary Surgeons does for vets and the British Medical Association does for doctors. In other words it foghts for the interests of archaeolgoy and archaeologists nationally and sets standards for archaeological work and the behaviour of archaeologists. It is still a very young organisation, founded in 1982, and as yet does not have the same power or finances of these other organisations.

The Formation of the Institute of Field Archaeologists

In 1973-5 the Council for British Archaeology set up a steering committee to look into the possibility of forming a professional body for archaeologists. By 1979 the Association for the Promotion of the Institute of Field Archaeologists (with 500 members) was formed. In 1982 the Institute of Field Archaeologists formed with Memorandum and Articles of Association and a Code of Conduct. The IFA is currently based at the University of Reading, having been at Birmingham and Manchester previously.

Aims of the Institute of Field Archaeologists

The mission of the IFA is to advance the practice of archaeology and allied disciplines by promoting professional standards and ethics for the conservation, management and the study of the archaeological resource

The prime objectives of the IFA are:

  1. to influence and inform actively, through consultation with the legislature, public bodies and others, on matters relating to archaeology;
  2. to promote an active professional organisation, involving and offering appropriate services to its membership;
  3. to develop professional guidelines and standards for the execution of archaeological work and to establish these guidelines and standards by promoting membership of the Institute to all those practising field archaeology;
  4. to promote the training of archaeologists in co-operation with other bodies and to encourage and monitor the provision of archaeological courses in education;
  5. to facilitate the exchange of information / ideas about archaeological practice and to communicate those to the profession and more widely.

Organisational Structure of the IFA

The Institute of Field Archaeologists contains a number of committees. These include Executive, Validation, Disciplinary, Membership Appeals, Equal Opportunities, Training and Regional Committees, etc. There are also a series of special interest groups (maritime affairs, finds, archaeological resource management & buildings).

Membership of the Institute of Field Archaeologists

advantages of membership

The key advantage of membership is that it is easier to get archaeological work if one is a member of the I.F.A. Your name will be in the Directory handbook that is used by contractors when they wish to recommend archaeologists to developers. Your name is also accessible through the IFA website on their page entitled 'Finding an Archaeologist'. Moreover, employers also know that if they employ a member of the MIFA it is more than likely that the work they do will be considered adequate / appropriate.

Membership Application Procedures

Applicants for membership must provide:

Applications for membership will be vetted by the Validation Committee, made up of members of the I.F.A. Council. Individuals attain membership according to spheres of competence. Individuals must sign a Code of Conduct and can have their membership suspended or terminated by the Disciplinary Committee of the I.F.A. 4 levels of individual membership: Member (MIFA), Associate (AIFA), Practitioner (PIFA), Affiliate. The top level of membership is M.I.F.A. followed by the rest. There is also now a level of corporate membership - the Register of Professional Organisations (ROPO).

Areas of Competence

Individual members (applicants for MIFA grade) must apply for competence in particular areas. These Areas of Competence (AoC) are:

Members cannot claim competence in any area for which they have not been validated by Committee.

Membership Costs

Application for and transfer of membership incurs fees vary according to the grade being applied for. Membership costs (subscription rates) are based on wage levels (the higher the wage - the higher the cost of membership) in a series of levels. Current fees (2002) are as follows.

Application Fees Affiliate £ 5
Practitioner £ 10
Associate £ 10
Member (for one Area of Competence) £ 25
Member (for 2 or more Areas of Competence)£ 50

Subscription Rates (for members)
Salary Level
(per annum)
Less than £ 5,000 £ 5,000 - £10,000 £ 10,000 - £13,000 £ 13,000 - £16,000 £ 16,000 - £20,000 £ 20,000 - £ 28,000 More than £ 28,000
Subscription Rate £ 12.30 £ 31.80 £ 51 £ 78.90 £116.90 £ 148.60 £ 180.40

Membership Numbers
(Source - 2001 IFA Yearbook and Directory of Members )

There are approximately 4,500 people employed in archaeology (2000 on a casual basis). Approximately 1450 of these are members of the IFA at some level. This represents approximately 33% of the total number of people employed in archaeology, and approximately 57 % of full time archaeologists.

IFA Membership Numbers by Grade
Membership Grade Honourary Member (Hon. MIFA) Member (MIFA) Associate (AIFA) Practitioner (PIFA) Affiliate - Non-corporate Total Membership
No. in Grade 10 659 362 222 180 1433

The membership of the IFA has grown markedly since it started in 1984.

Numbers of members of the IFA through the Years
Year 1984 1986 1988 1990 1996 1999
No. of Members 240 570 660 900 1214 1433

IFA Code of Conduct

The IFA has a strict Code of Conduct. All individual members (of any grade of membership) must sign a declaration stating that they will abide by the Code of Conduct when they make their application to join the IFA.

The basic principles of the Code of Conduct are:

  1. The archaeologist shall adhere to the highest standards of ethical and responsible behaviour in the conduct of archaeological affairs.
  2. The archaeologist has a responsibility for the conservation of the archaeological heritage.
  3. The archaeologist shall conduct his/her work in such a way that reliable information about the past may be acquired, and shall ensure that the results be properly recorded.
  4. The archaeologist has the responsibility for making available the results of archaeological work with reasonable dispatch.
  5. The archaeologist shall recognise the aspirations of employees, colleagues and helpers with regard to matters relating to employment, including career development, health and safety, terms and conditions of employment and equality of opportunity.
Full details of the IFA Code of Conduct are available from the IFA website.

What does the IFA do for its Members?

Directory of Individual Members and Archaeological Organisations - indicates which people are members of the I.F.A., their areas of competence, whether they are validated or self-validated and archaeological contractors.
Technical Reports - on archaeologically relevant topics, human remains, contracts, (such as the use of geophysics or aerial photography in archaeological evaluations)
Standards - the IFA also has published a series of standards for desk-based assessments, field evaluations, excavations, watching briefs and the recording of standing buildings. These are downloadable from their website.
The Field Archaeologist - a quarterly publication with general archaeological news oriented to matters of professional interest.
Archaeological Resource Management in the U.K.: an introduction - produced by the then president and secretary of the I.F.A. to provide a basic text on aspects of archaeological management in the U.K.
Training Courses looking at the effects of PPG15, PPG16, forensic archaeology, archaeology and the law and other such topics. The purpose of these courses is to aid career development of archaeologists.
Jobs Information Service acts like a bulletin board where archaeological work will be advertised. It assumes that to be able to use this board - you must be in the I.F.A.
Annual Conference The IFA's annual conference ('Archaeology In Britain' conference) gives a chance for professional archaeologists to get together and discuss matters of common importance. Also provides an opportunity for professional archaeologists to learn about latest developments / interpretations in their field of interest

Recent and Future Developments within the IFA

Registration of Archaeological Organisations

The IFA has recently made it possible for archaeological contractors to be registered within the I.F.A. First registrations from 1997. Organisations must be led by a full IFA member, who has a track record of responsibility for substantial archaeological projects. Personally agreed to the Code of Conduct and will ensure that all work undertaken under their supervision will abide by the Code. Registered Archaeological Organisations must 'prove' each year that they abide by the Code of Conduct of the IFA. This is achieved by inspection by a group of peers.

In 1998, 334 organisations employed IFA members - 22 were registered - IFA 1998 Members handbook

In 2000, 420 organisations employed IFA members - 36 were registered &emdash; IFA 2000 members handbook

Continual Professional Development and Accreditation of Teaching

Continual Professional Development

The IFA has been advocating a system of Continual Professional Development (CPD) - the regular updating of skills through participation in approved training courses- for archaeologists. They now believe that it will become a mandatory requirement of Membership (MIFA status) for a member to be committed to a process of CPD, which will be validated annually - possibly as a mechanism for validating the continued currency of a member's area of competence. They note that verification would be achieved by calling in a 'substantial' number each year to assess compliance with the requirement.

Most professions have schemes for Continual Professional Development, and it is becoming increasingly common for professions to expect their members to attend approved training courses.

The Provision and Accreditation of Teaching

The IFA hopes to encourage the provision of 'appropriate learning opportunities' to enable members to receive their CPD, and also to stimulate the provision of appropriate courses through their statement on skills and experience required for different roles in archaeology. They see a role for Higher Education and Continued Education here n the provision of modular courses for CPD. The IFA would then seek to ratify appropriate courses.

According to the Director of the IFA - Peter Hinton, The IFA intends to accredit such courses, but is still

The Professionalisation of Archaeology outside the UK

In the U.S.A. there is also a similar system of archaeological evaluation in advance of development work. Contract briefs are tendered to by commercial archaeological organisations. There is also the need to regulate the quality of work undertaken. Regulation also exists in relation to the archaeology of indigenous Native Americans.

Library Resources

J. Hunter and I. Ralston 1993. Archaeological Resource Management in the U.K.: an introduction. Alan Sutton/IFA

Link to the ALGY 399 Sydney Jones Library Reading List.

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