Inrap has formulated its third research program to structure its scientific activities in a framework of research axes that are both innovative and inclusive, integrating recent discoveries and advances in archaeological research.

Updated on
18 February 2019

Though Inrap does not choose the interventions that it realizes, the large quantity of data resulting from its operations require the institute to hierarchize its priorities for their exploitation in the form of an internal program. Validated by the authorities of Inrap, this program is also presented for evaluation to the National Council on Archaeological Research (CNRA). It is first an opportunity to reaffirm that there is no reason other than operational to distinguish preventive archaeology from research archaeology. The corollary of the singularity of the discipline is the complementarity of the two modes of intervention in the pursuit to increase knowledge and diffuse research results. Because it is not constrained by regional development, the purpose of research archaeology is to invest in regions or themes that are seldom or never addressed in the preventive archaeology context, while the data produced by preventive archaeology can be integrated into the programs conducted by research organisms. The questions and themes of the Inrap research program respond to the expectations of the national program developed by the CNRA, presented in 2016.

General context and objectives

For the 2015-2018 quadrennial, Inrap has opted for a clear, dynamic and inceptive research policy with a precise selection of research axes. These priority axes constitute a framework that will structure research activities and integrate the “scientific activity projects”. The program consists of two main orientations. The first follows a classic chrono-cultural division, while the second emphasizes transversal themes allowing a broader perspective on the evolution of societies in their environment. It also provides an opportunity to present the strategy of Inrap to the international community, and to valorize the investments necessary for archaeology to benefit from the use of the latest technologies.

The aim is to provide an opportunity for Inrap agents to devote their energies to global research topics, drawing on traditional the traditional topics (dwelling, funerary, material culture) addressed for each broad period. The goal is also to incite exchanges and the development working teams and transversal research coordinated by designated individuals. We should note one new aspect of this quadrennial: new research activities in the public maritime and inland waters domain. More specific projects, such as the “national investigations”, could become involved as new research develops.

Emphasis will be placed on the organization of national and international colloquia presenting the results of the research themes developed.

Axis 1: Chrono-cultural approaches (dwelling, funerary, material culture)

This research axis, mainly supported by the results of archeological operations, is divided into broad chronological phases:

The main objective of this axis is to identify and characterize material cultures and occupation modalities during the defined periods. Beyond the major sites, which are studied in depth, this axis will permit the identification and study of minor or isolated sites, and to reveal the evidence yielded by sites that can contribute essential information (e.g. on a cultural group or a limited chronological phase). It will lead to the publication of references, whether in book form, or the data presentation.

Axis 2: Thematic approaches

This research axis, concerning collections and assemblages, incites Inrap researchers to investigate beyond a given operation or a site. The topics proposed emphasize the relationships between sites in space and time:

  • Settlement patterns and the evolution of occupations;
  • Environmental impacts: resource management and ancient technical productions;
  • Exchange and diffusion networks;
  • The archaeology of cities;
  • The archaeology of conflicts.

Inrap wishes to valorize the large body of data accumulated across France in the context of preventive archaeology. The goal is to provide a framework for research programs aiming to contribute information on the limits of regions and their components, their beneficial elements and their subsistence capacity, as well as to greater insight based on the principles of evolution, breaks and continuities, adaptations and modifications, etc. This will consist of formulating research questions and inviting the archaeological community to work together on them, while sharing their data and results.

These results of these projects will be diffused in the form of colloquia, round tables and seminars.

Axis 3: International scientific activities

Inrap, a recognized participant in archaeological research outside of France, has become an international reference in the field of preventive archaeology. Working closely with the Ministry of Culture and Communication, it is thus often solicited to participate in scientific projects in collaboration with French research organisms operating abroad, or in a bilateral manner with foreign institutions.

The purpose of integrating international projects into the scientific program of Inrap is to offer structured and innovative solutions to the challenge of archaeological research, which reaches naturally (and increasingly) beyond national borders.

In the framework of this Axis 3, there are 3 priorities: 

  • The integration of Inrap within the broader context of European research;
  • The participation of French archaeological missions abroad;
  • International collaboration on the archaeology of the Americas.

Axis 4: Projects in research and development

These projects consist of three parts: fundamental research, applied research and experimental development. The goal is to develop techniques and to propose innovative methods that can be applied from the field to the exploitation of the results. The domains concerned are sedimentology, micromorphology, geoarchaeology, and field techniques in the broad sense (recording, excavation, detection, etc.). Evaluations of these experiences will contribute to discussions and enable the processing of archaeological data.

The questions could address remote sensing (LIDAR), photogrammetry, 3D recording and scanning, drones, tablets, GIS, geophysics, the techniques specific to underwater contexts, the characterization of materials, tomography, the collection and exploitation of data, geochemical analyses (strontium isotopes), etc.

This research axis is above all devoted to the exploration of new technologies for use in archaeology. These projects will often be realized in the framework of partnerships to ensure their development and to guarantee intellectual, or industrial property rights.