The South African Archaeological Society was founded in Cape Town as the Cape Archaeological Society in August 1944 by Head of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cape Town, Professor Astley John Hilary Goodwin (1900-1959).
On 5 June 1945, it was agreed to establish the South African Archaeological Society (ArchSoc) and to welcome members from other provinces and surrounding countries in Southern Africa. Today there are more than 800 individual and institutional members of ArchSoc in more than 20 countries.
The aim of ArchSoc, as set out in its constitution, is to bridge the gap between professional archaeologists and people from all walks of life who enjoy the subject.
Archaeology includes many sub-disciplines, such as human evolution, Stone Age archaeology, the histories of Bushman/San hunter-gatherers, Khoe herders, Iron Age agriculturists and early European colonists, rock paintings and engravings, climate change, the analysis of faunal and floral remains, and historical shipwrecks. All contribute to a better understanding of the ways in which people lived and survived in southern Africa over the past 3-million years.
Branches in Gauteng, Cape Town, Durban/Pietermaritzburg and Kimberley/ Bloemfontein are organised by volunteers and offer a wide range of activities to members. These include monthly lectures, excursions and tours to archaeological sites in South Africa and abroad, and participation in field projects where possible.
Publications on archaeological research are an important objective of ArchSoc. They raise awareness of the rich archaeological heritage in Southern Africa and further afield.
In December 1945, the first issue of the South African Archaeological Bulletin (SAAB) was published. In 1972, the first volume of an occasional publication, The Goodwin Series, named after the founder of the Society, was produced. A newsletter was started in 1978, and in 1984 it became The Digging Stick. Several monographs have also been published.
All the serial publications are distributed free to members as part of their annual subscription. Members can access back issues of four years or older of The Bulletin and Goodwin Series online through JSTOR. Back issues of The Digging Stick are available on this website.
ArchSoc works closely with the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA), which was founded as the Southern African Association of Archaeologists (SA3) by the late Professor Ray Inskeep in 1971 to provide a platform for archaeologists to establish their professional identity. Since 2005, ASAPA has taken responsibility for editing the South African Archaeological Bulletin.
Donations by members have helped to fund research projects and ArchSoc actively supports the conservation of our national heritage by promoting the National Heritage Resources Act (No 25 of 1999). ArchSoc also lobbies government to heed national heritage concerns, such as the potential damage to archaeological sites through mining and construction activities.