Indiana Jones made it look cool to be an archaeologist. What’s not cool, however, is for the State of North Carolina to force taxpayers to subsidize an office that attempts to centrally oversee the archaeological projects across the state.
The North Carolina state government’s Office of State Archaeology (OSA) describes itself as the office that “coordinates and implements a statewide program of prehistoric, historic, and underwater archaeology. The OSA serves as the professional archaeology staff for the State Historic Preservation Office and the North Carolina Historical Commission.” The OSA has five offices across the state, with more than 16 full-time equivalent staff positions, and is housed in the state government’s Department of Cultural Resources.
Taxpayers subsidize the OSA’s efforts to the tune of $1 million annually.
There already exist several organizations dedicated to archaeology, so the OSA seems a bit redundant – perhaps a classic example of a bureaucratic agency being established just for its own sake. Moreover, the “coordination” supposedly provided by the OSA could likely be adequately handled by a member-driven group like the North Carolina Archaeological Council.
Archaeologists can uncover some artifacts of great historic wonder, but coordinating their efforts falls well outside any reasonable definition of core government services. There’s no justification for using taxpayer dollars that are collected under the threat of force to pay for bureaucratic and administrative meddling in archaeological discoveries. For these reasons, the Office of State Archaeology is this week’s Waste of the Week.