Freelance consultant in archaeology and heritage education and public engagement. Began life a lithics specialist, then museum education officer, then at the CBA for 17 years ending up as Head of Education. Passionate about archaeology, real ale, food and chocolate.

indoor research

So here I am spending another day indoors in front of my laptop. Not all archaeology is having fun in the field! Instead, I have fun doing PhD research. My research topic is how to improve public perception of the Mesolithic in Britain. I’ve been undertaking an analysis of the narratives used to portray the period by academics in learned publications and in more public-facing media. I’ve also been developing resources for teachers to use in the classroom based on using compelling narratives that will help children understand this strange and far-off period of prehistory.

Today’s work.

Item 1 – continue compiling a list of wild foods that have been eaten in Britain, and identifying which of these would have been available in the Mesolithic, and which have been found on Mesolithic sites. Why? I want to get children to see the differences between their modern foods and what their forebears had to eat, and I want them to understand what kind of diet may or may not be healthy. It’s also good for me to see how many wild plants I could now use for food myself!

Item 2 – continue my analysis of the content of 178 items covering the Mesolithic that have been published in three popular archaeology magazines since the early 1970s. Not only is this essential to see how the subject is presented to an interested public, but it also helps me learn more about the period. I’ve already come across sites I had not heard about. How about Langley’s Lane? Possible Mesolithic votive deposits on the edge of a patch of tufa.

Item 3 – read an article on ‘perspicuous meta-narratives’! In other words how archaeology should use clear  language to communicate instead of jargon. Another reference I can add to my thesis, and more words that I shall have edit down later on (already over 84,000 of the damned things!).

Item 4 – make sure I have a piece of cake. I did some baking last night and brought in cake for the postgraduate room here in York – a squidgy oatmeal cake and a chocolate buckwheat cake with blackcurrant jam in the middle.

Item 5 – if I get time, investigate flights to Göteborg in Sweden in October, and trains to København in Denmark, and then to Schleswig and The Hague as part of round trip to look at museum displays and school visits on the Mesolithic later in the year.

Item 6 – pour myself a bottle of beer at home this evening and hope I have achieved half of the above.

 

Evening and More Creative Thoughts

You can’t put down a good read. Still going through my pile of references and finding more on the Internet.  There is a fascinating policy context for engaging young people in archaeology. It’s frustrating that archaeology hasn’t really engaged with the wider debate about young people. I can hold myself partly responsible for this as I was the Head of Education at the CBA, and was with the CBA for 17 years. I now think I spent far too much time sitting on committees and being concerned about the school curriculum. Ah well. There are plenty of good people in archaeology working with young people and I’m sure that greater political awareness will come about without me worrying about it.

I do think we’re far to insular in the UK and don’t look internationally enough at the good work going on elsewhere. How many here know of the World Heritage Education Programme?

One depressing statistic I’ve picked up today. 77% of media reports about young people are negative or unfavourable and that becomes 83% in broadcast media. I wish the media could see some of the work of the Young Archaeologists’ Club. It might open their eyes – but then they won’t want to see it as bad news is always more newsworthy it seems.

Right – time for chocolate.

Burst of Creativity

Did some good reading on young people’s engagement with heritage this afternoon and was inspired to write a few paragraphs for the report I’m working on. I can see more clearly now where archaeology needs to be more aware of its wider context in working with young people. That was quite fun.

Now it’s tea time. Time to make my pigeon breast omelette!

More reading this evening I think.

More Papers

Gone through the pile of papers and made a list of what is there. Glancing at my diary,  I realise I also have to read papers for a meeting in London next Tuesday – one 30-page paper to read carefully and inwardly digest.

There are some interesting papers in the pile. A lot of work outside the heritage sector in engaging young people in volunteering, in nature and in cultural activities. I’ve long suspected that archaeology is very insular in its approaches and needs to plug itself into the wider world. Looking forward to reading these.

Of course, it’s begun raining again so no hope of sitting out in the yard in the sunshine and reading through the pile in a pleasant environment. Ah well, I shall console myself with nipping into the farmers’ market in town to buy lots of lovely food!

A New Day

Morning in York. A new day. A day doing archaeology. Not that many would recognise it as archaeology. I’ll be going through a pile of references on engaging young people in archaeology to help complete a report for the CBA. Do most archaeologists spend most of their time digging? No! We spend most of our time reading.

Just read on the BBC News website that some pot sherds from Xianrendong in China have been dated to 20,000 BP. The oldest pottery yet discovered. That puts British Neolithic pots into perspective.

Also just received a nice photo of an Acheulian hand-axe from Prof. Bae in Korea to help illustrate an article I’ve written for the Young Archaeologist magazine. The hand-axes at the Jeongok-ri site are made of quartzite. It’s very hard and tough to knap – I tried when I was out there last month. I have my poor attempt at a my very own hand-axe on my desk as a paperweight.

Japanese archaeology

Had a good meeting this morning to thrash out an outline for an online education project based on Japanese archaeology and art. It promises to be very exciting. Lets hope we get the funding. Japanese archaeology is amazing and largely unknown in the west. You want Palaeolithic pottery? Come to Japan!