Hello, My name is Nick and I work full time as an Archaeologist in commercial archaeology, but I also am doing a PhD in my part time. My day inevitably has to be a mixture of the two, otherwise I would’nt get anything done!
There are all kinds of contributors to the day of arch and I feel extremely proud to be one of them. This is just an introduction to me and setting the scene for what I will actually be doing tomorrow. My name is Rachael Reader and I am currently writing up my PhD thesis, hopefully handing in within the next three months. My interest in archaeology began when I was eight (no, really!) when I was introduced to Time Team. It seems a little cliched, but it is the God honest truth! My parents were more than happy to fuel my interest and let me dig up the back garden of my house in a little town, just outside of Barnsley (my best find to date is a 1980s ten pence piece…). My parents found out where digs were happening and took me along to them, including one in York where I learnt the real truth about archaeology. I had an illuminating conversation with someone working in the museum gardens who told me that archaeology was poorly paid, nothing like Time Team and definitely nothing like Indiana Jones (which meant little to me as even to this day, as I have still not seen the films!). I asked the archaeologist why they still did it and they replied simply “because I love it”. The enthusiasm he had, even when describing the negatives, sealed it for me and off I went to university to pursue my career. I studied Ancient History and Archaeology at Birmingham University before doing my Masters at Cardiff, where I developed my current research interests in the later prehistoric period and particularly, the landscape approach to archaeology.
Whilst writing my Masters thesis I was pondering over what to do next. I had spent several weeks here and there, excavating with the University but also community digs, including SHARP at Sedgeford in Norfolk. I loved digging but had yet to know how commercial archaeology worked, so I began putting my CV together and waiting for jobs to come up at units. However my supervisor directed me to an advert for a PhD position, at Bradford University and it involved two of my favourite things: Iron Age stuff and landscape! I could not resist and I eagerly put together my application, was offered an interview and ultimately the position, which I was thrilled to accept. I began my current position in October 2008 and I feel a little sad that I am beginning to wind down and *gulp* hand in.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve wanted to dig up the bones of dead Romans for as long as you can remember. (Well, except for that brief period where I wanted to dig up dinosaurs and the even briefer one where I thought I might become a mathematician.) But if you live in the southern U.S. like I do, you’re certainly not discovering Roman skeletons in your garden all the time. What does a Roman bioarchaeologist do every day? Generally, teach, research, and talk to colleagues and the public about teaching and research.
Teaching. The great thing about the American incarnation of the discipline of anthropology – something I didn’t honestly learn until graduate school – is that it’s what we call four-field: it combines archaeological, biological, cultural, and linguistic approaches to understanding humankind, past and present. As a university professor, it means that, in a given semester, I teach undergraduates about genetics, monkeys, and cultural relativism more often than I talk about my own research projects on the ancient Romans. But the amazingly diverse subject matter of my typical Introduction to Anthropology course also means that I can draw from almost any topic in the week’s news to illustrate my lectures and to foster discussion: How does the hubbub over the “gay caveman” from the Czech Republic reflect our preconceived notions about sexuality? Why does anyone care if Shakespeare – or any Elizabethan Brit – smoked pot? Who polices American gender norms, telling us that little boys can’t paint their toenails pink and little girls shouldn’t pretend to nurse their dolls? In teaching students about anthropology, I try to teach them to question the ideas we take for granted and to critique the categories that we often think of as inherent and immutable, to let them see that every culture has its own rules and is a product of its own time.
Research. I’m not going to lie – fieldwork is the best part of my job. Who wouldn’t like digging up dead Romans by day and eating pizza in the shadow of the Colosseum by night? While teaching gives me the thrill of watching students who have never been exposed to anthropology realize they love it, holding the bones of someone long-dead and reading their biography from their bodies still gives me chills. After two millennia, the Romans introduce themselves to me, telling me where they were born, showing me their scars, and complaining about their arthritic knees. It can be hard to listen to the woman with a fractured nose (a victim of domestic violence?) and especially to the babies who didn’t have a chance to grow up because of a simple lack of antibiotics and multivitamins. And yet, as the field of bioarchaeology has advanced and incorporated the techniques of chemical analysis, my research on the ancient Romans has gone beyond the wildest dreams of my 12-year-old self. I’ve gotten to identify immigrants to Rome and to investigate their lives in the largest urban center of its time, a topic the historical sources rarely discuss. I’ve gotten to find out what the average Roman ate, and to see that their childhood diet was actually quite different from what they ate as adults. And I’ve gotten to work with an array of amazing international archaeologists and anthropologists along the way.
Outreach. The final piece of my job is not mandatory but is becoming increasingly common. In his keynote address at the American Anthropological Association meeting last fall, the archaeologist Jeremy Sabloff pointed out that there are no academics representing the face of anthropology. We no longer have a Margaret Mead or a Franz Boas. Moving the discipline forward in the digital age, he said, means that it’s going to be “public or perish.” So why be content with the few dozen people who will read your dissertation? Being an academic today is about putting yourself out there as an expert, being the face of some topic, the person who can explain the importance of an anthropological concept to students and the public. I have tried to take up this challenge with my own blog, which I envision as a public form of the informal communication that I have all the time with my colleagues. Through blogging, I have started discussions with people in my field, in other academic disciplines, and outside of the academy completely. It’s also been useful as a way for me to work through my plot bunnies (or academic otters), those nagging ideas that may not be fully formed but need to get out so that I can focus on one thing at a time. Fortunately, other academics are also choosing this route to public engagement, and projects like Day of Archaeology allow us to contribute to a broader discussion of what the discipline means and how best to show others our enthusiasm for it.
It’s certainly not easy being a bioarchaeologist in academia, juggling several facets of our work on a daily basis and multitasking like mad. But the rewards are fantastic: not just flying around the world to excavate in exotic locales, but watching students have “a-ha” moments after a heated discussion about evolution, and explaining to the public why we anthropologists don’t single out the privileged few who “shaped” society while ignoring the millions of others who actually made that society function.
I may not be a dinosaur-mathematician, but I’ve discovered that my childhood dream of studying the dead could come true with a little hard work. I will continue to define myself broadly as an anthropologist and narrowly as a Roman bioarchaeologist for as long as I can.
I know it’s true, I’ve seen their eyes glaze over half way through my excited explanation of something I’m working on - but really, how could any journalist not want to write about archaeology? How could they not want to be the first to pass on some revelation into, literally, the ground beneath our feet?
I’ve come to accept the rule that any third rate political story knocks any second rate archaeology story out of consideration, but not without protest. I mourn the little spindle with runic inscriptions, the grots that gave us another trowel full of information about some obscure and short lived Roman emperor, the nuns’ bronze dress pins from a sewer at Lacock, all the stories that I never managed to get into print.
And it still puzzles me that so many don’t get it that damage to archaeology, from local museum cuts to night hawks, from a kamikaze attack by a Tory councillor with a name to make to all the finds still not being reported under Portable Antiquities, is stealing all our history.
I did a bit of excavating myself when I was eight, and discovered the books of Leonard Cottrell, and that the name of the Victorian Dublin suburb where I grew up meant The Not Very Impressive Ring Fort. We had no money, but we did have a big house – then despised as “second hand” and so costing my parents considerably less than a new semi-d – with such a big garden that I had my own walled corner of it. I set to with my little shovel. I didn’t find a ring fort, but I did find a large decorative cast iron knob which stood on my mantelpiece all the remaining years of my childhood: every time I looked at it I remembered that other worlds, sometimes almost visible, lie all around us.
I’m very interested in all the stories I do otherwise I wouldn’t write them. But nothing gives me the shiver of excitement of a good archaeology story. Archaeology is the true social network: you can like and befriend people who died thousands of years ago – but as with Facebook, having made that link, you may never hear another word from them again.
A colleague of ours spent years recording the archaeology of an island off the west coast of Ireland. In the last few weeks of the project the team commenced the survey of the islands’ historic graveyard.
‘Finally,’ his neighbours said jokingly ‘ you are doing something useful around here’.
We know, as archaeologists, the value of our surveys, excavations and publications (http://eachtra.ie/index.php/journal/) but that value is not always apparent to the general public. We have found that community-based historic graveyard surveys (http://www.historicgraves.ie/blog) are a great way to introduce members of the public to our methods and to our ways of thinking and looking at the world.
In the course of this Day of Archaeology we hope to touch on the application of archaeological methods to historic graveyard surveys and to also present the sights and sounds of the Irish landscape.
My name is Glenn Hustler. I am an illustrator based in Bradford, U.K. I’ve always had an interest in historical matter. A couple of my un-commisioned projects include an illustrated story of the First Crusade, in which I married a number of events during the Crusade to the reported words of the Pope who called for it to happen, and a fictional diary of a WWI soldier complete with illustrations.
After I graduated I met Patrick Hadley, an archaeologist interested in public understanding of the past. He introduced me to the idea that there is a need for a new approach in the visual depiction of human prehistory. The problem being that current illustration of this kind provides a deceptively complete picture of what is known, which means it’s audience generally doesn’t feel the need to question it.
Together, we have founded a non-profit company advocating this approach. Enkyad Heritage Media brings artists (visual, music, dance) and archaeologists together to help bring the past to life. We have written and storyboarded a short animation set in the Mesolithic, which contains many self-contradictions in it’s presentation. Once finished we plan to take the animation to art galleries and history museums. The hope is that by encouraging an open questioning of the material we present, we can build interest in the subject by allowing people to pursue their own lines of enquiry.
Other opportunities to produce work related to the subject of archaeology have come through Patrick. I provided work for the northern hunter gatherer forum, last year I met Dave Farnell, editor of the archaeological journal, The Post Hole, for which I have produced covers, and most recently I had my logo accepted for the day of archaeology!
The brief was very helpful. It was clear the logo had to be bold, bright and punchy but clearly be archaeological, so I layered some earthy colours in the text while trying to keep them bright and cheerful. While sketching out ideas I played around with the concept of using broken or partly hidden text, in order to create a puzzle to be solved and there is an element of that in the top line.
After much debate, lots of comments and tweets Day of Archaeology gets a logo!
View submissions to the logo competition on the Day of Archaeology Flickr account.
It should first be stated that we had many entries to the logo contest all of which are showcased on our Flickr photostream. We want to thank each and every one of the participants for their hard work and interest in the Day of Archaeology. They all generated lots of interest, tweets, and conversation over a variety of social media sites- all promoting the event and the community spirit with which we are attempting to promote. Your efforts are much appreciated!
That being said, we are happy to announce that Glenn Hustler’s logo has won! Glenn’s logo has a bright, bold, and punchy design, and we feel will best represent the Day of Archaeology event on our site as well as throughout our social media and print campaign.
Stay tuned for an extended post on the contest winner, including his connection to archaeology and inspiration for his design.
The Department of Information Studies at UCL, interviewed Lorna Richardson about the planned Day of Archaeology. This interview, conducted by Anne Welsh was originally published on their blog and is reproduced below. If you’re interested after listening to this, get in touch via our email address.
Listen to the DIS blog interview
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