If you think of the industries that represent York, the ones that come to mind are chocolate and confectionery, the railways and Tourism. The National Railway Museum, York’s Chocolate Story, the York Cocoa Works, the Castle Museum and the Minster demonstrate the economic and cultural development of these three industries.

They are heralded by the numbers of people employed, their business leaders - George Leeman, George Hudson, Noel Terry, Margaret Craven and generations of the Rowntree family - and their impact on the character and economic development of the city.

But there is an industry that is missing from this list. In the last 50 years it is the products of the archaeology industry that have defined the city and played a key role in the economic success that York enjoys today. Yet often archaeology is not regarded as a key economic driver for York.

Bursts of urban development since the 1700s have been matched by surges in archaeology as the embryonic industry gathered pace.

Eighteenth and nineteenth century labourers and their foremen discovered archaeological ‘treasures’ during their clearing of sites and the digging out of foundations for the creation of the city’s grand Georgian buildings, its Victorian railways and early 1900s civic works. In this way, these building sites doubled up as the buyers’ markets for collectors, the research and development laboratories of early scientists and the subjects of analysts and academics.

Gradually the market for their products grew with museums, lectures, publications and exhibitions all supplying local and national demand.

The boom came in the 1970s when Craven’s Confectionery moved their manufacturing operations out of town. The Coppergate factory and the surrounding buildings including St George’s Hall - a 1,000 seat cinema - were in a poor state and were demolished. The Coppergate dig happened, York went Viking-mad and became Jorvik, and the 'Archaeological Industrial Revolution' began.

For the next 50 years the archaeology industry has redefined York’s identity. It has created thousands of jobs and added millions of pounds to the city’s economy. The University of York, York Archaeological Trust and the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments (now Historic England) have pioneered advances in our understanding of the processes, research and product development, gaining a global reputation for the city. The Council for British Archaeology - the world leader in community-based archaeology - has its national headquarters in York.

When we think of archaeology, we might think of ‘Time Team’ and a ramble of paid professionals and volunteers digging in the ground. But the archaeology industry is a complex network of diverse businesses and sectors that supplies knowledge and products consumed by millions of customers each year.

Archaeological industrial activities are directed at the understanding, survey, excavation, conservation, processing, distribution, packaging, reconstruction, production, marketing and consumption of the ways we once lived. The archaeology industry is now highly diversified with activity ranging from the innovative cutting-edge digital to small-scale, local community-based activities.

As an industry, archaeology generates large quantities of by-products which require long-term storage and treatment in museums and archives. The potential for public and specialist research and development within these storage facilities is often under-exploited as investment is often not a long-term commitment.

Oddly though, archaeology is sometimes still seen as limiting development rather than offering constructive and positive possibilities. ‘Conservation gets in the way’, ‘Death by Heritage’ and ‘York risks becoming a museum’ are phrases that are not uncommonly heard.

Is it time to reflect on the economic importance and value to the City of York of this often-overlooked industry. Archaeology is more than about providing enrichening and valuable visitor experiences in museums and reconstructions and re-enactments for schools and festivals - it is a fundamental economic driver for shaping the future city.

More investment is needed to reflect the economic importance of the industry to the city. In November York was awarded £591,568 in central government funding to find inspiration in the archaeology and heritage of the city to help to rebuild confidence and wellbeing amongst our communities and renew an economic mainstay of city centres – the hight street. Could this be the start of some real ‘levelling up’ inward investment for the archaeology industry.

Archaeology, the backbone of York’s identity, is a high-quality industry with a highly skilled workforce that is under-valued and under-invested. If York is to thrive economically it must innovate its relationship with this key industry of its success.

Andrew Morrison is chief executive of York Civic Trust