Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Robert A Gross


Roland W. Robbins helped to pioneer the profession of historical archaeology. as the discipline professionalized, he found himself increasingly excluded. This study analyzes Robbins's career within the context of the disciplines of archaeology and historic preservation and considers the professionalization process, current cultural resource management practice, the value of early data, and the importance of public archaeology.;The study also explores archaeology as Robbins's solution to his long personal crisis of vocation. He reacted to his coming of age during the Depression by searching for personal foundations and also responded to larger cultural needs, including a quest for the roots of the past. The dissertation focuses on Robbins's field and research approaches at several important sites. Although Robbins's techniques initially were little different from the developing practice, he did not embrace changing professional standards, choosing to maintain his own approaches to archaeology in the face of rejection by the new professionals.;Robbins also lacked credentials; he had no college education or permanent, stable position and he came from a labor background that did not mix well with the aspiring middle class academics. Robbins was an enthusiastic populist and developed a successful business approach to archaeological consulting.;Beginning in the 1960s, an anthropological versus restoration approach was introduced into historical archaeology. While Robbins continued to seek ruins as a means of rekindling the past, academic archaeologists dug to expose and dissect the past, looking at cultural and social processes. as the methodological and ideological gulf widened, Robbins became bitter and resentful of what he perceived to be academy control of the past.;In Robbins's approach, business success, historical knowledge, and popular appreciation of the past went hand in hand. His rivals eschewed both business and popularity in pursuit of professionalism. The study finds that the contest over professionalism concealed many similarities of practice between Robbins and his critics. Ironically, the professionals in the field have ultimately embraced many of Robbins's positions and practices in terms of consulting, the meaning and use of ruins, and the importance of public participation and support.



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