Although much has been written about the use of information technologies for the management of archaeological resources at a national level, there has been little published discussion of the problems and opportunities that are apparent at the supra-national scale. In this paper, we consider the historical development and current state of database management systems and, more recently, geographic information systems in the management of archaeological information at a European scale. We review the development of archaeological inventories, from paper-based records to complex computer-based systems, and then consider the situation throughout Europe, taking account of archaeological needs as well as the administrative, social and political context. Our study reveals that, despite widespread acknowledgement of the advantages of such technologies, GIS has not been rapidly or consistently deployed. A very wide variety of systems and standards currently exists throughout the community, a situation which is explained through reference to the separate historical development of archaeological management structures in the different countries. We identify a number of common issues that recur wherever GIS has been applied to the management of archaeological inventories. Particular attention is drawn to historical and logistical issues, the availability of technological skills, geo-referencing, the spatial definition of the archaeological evidence and the definition of analytical concepts within archaeological management.