As in most European countries and elsewhere, Spanish commercial archaeology is a business model based on the theoretical and technical principles of safeguarding heritage that thrived during the 1990s and 2000s. However, nearly half of the Spanish archaeological companies closed by 2014, stressing the drama associated with the redundancy of its workforce in a mere five-year period and the threat to heritage protection and management. The current context of global crisis has impacted this sector, which is on the brink of extinction. This emphasizes the need for a new paradigm of archaeological heritage management in the 21st century. This breakdown calls into question the extent to which archaeology can generate initiatives of sustainable heritage management. By analysing data derived from an empirical study of Spanish archaeological companies between 2009 and 2017, this paper explores the underlying factors behind the collapse of commercial archaeology. In doing so, it contributes to the current global debate about the future possibilities of heritage management in a post-industrial context.