Is there anything coherently ‘European’ about a European archaeology – or rather, about the ‘archaeology of Europe’ – or is it simply a modern political construct with no meaning in the ancient past? This paper analyses European archaeology through a historical perspective, tracing developments in the areas of archaeological conservation (heritage), thinking (theory/interpretations) and publication and teaching. It critically examines a perceived trend in archaeology from a national towards a European framework, and concludes instead that local and regional frameworks have become stronger in all three areas. To move forward, we should use our understanding of the relationship between ideology, politics and archaeology to promote a research agenda that actively contributes to the formation of critical knowledge about the conditions for heritage and research in contemporary society. There is scope for an archaeology that addresses fundamental historical problems and long-term histories of the various geographically and culturally interlinked regions of Europe.