Development of the archaeology of the contemporary past Archaeology developed as a discipline concerned with the distant past, not only helping to establish the antiquity of humankind but unravelling ancient histories long buried and previously undreamt of. Throughout most of the history of archaeology, these early times remained the prime foci of the discipline, the more recent past receiving much less attention and something presumed best left to historians. Even when archaeologists did work in historic periods such as Medieval and early Modern Europe or Colonial America, these were, until recently, marginal fields in the discipline and frequently seen as ancillary to History. Since the 1960s, this attitude has been slowly changing and as we enter the new millennium, we no longer regard archaeology as a discipline defined by a particular time period – indeed the theoretical upheavals initiated during the 1960s can be seen as largely responsible for this. By focusing attention on the nature of archaeological methods and data, in particular on the fact that, as archaeologists, we deal primarily with material culture, the whole issue of how recent the subject matter of archaeology should be, becomes irrelevant.