I thank the commentators for their thoughtful and articulate responses, in which they have quite rightly exposed several inconsistencies and queried or expanded on a number of points that I did not have the time or space to develop in the original piece. In doing so, they raise the important issue of regional variations in the ways in which archaeology is conceived, practised and perceived by its practitioners and publics, which also significantly extends and complicates the original discussion. Rather than comment on specific points, almost all of which are relevant and well made, I want to focus on four linked themes which I think are reflected in different ways across all five comments. These are the relationship of archaeology to modernism and modernity, the value of the archaeological production of a sense of the ‘uncanny’ as an active intervention in the quotidian present, the surface/depth dichotomy, and the question of archaeological methodology in relation to an archaeology in and of the present. In doing so, I hope to provide some important clarification regarding what I mean when I use the terms ‘archaeology in and of the present’, ‘surfaces’ and ‘assemblages’, as well as to take up Ian Russell's challenge to approach more critically the use of artistic metaphors to emphasize the affective qualities and creative possibilities of archaeological practice. Before I move on to do this, I think it is helpful to discuss briefly the circumstances under which this paper was written and its place within a broader emergent programme of research and writing to give some context to what follows.