United Kingdom

Excavating the Great Depression in England

Photo of the Jarrow unemployment march. Image from www.workerspower.co.uk

Photo of the Jarrow unemployment march. Image from www.workerspower.co.uk

Since 2013, Dr. David Petts (Department of Archaeology, Durham University) and I have been building a project to study the landscapes and material remains of the Great Depression in the Northeast of England. One of the defining historical events of the 20th century, the Great Depression is often associated in the US with the stock market crash of 1929, bread lines, shanty towns, and eventually, the New Deal and creation of the modern social welfare state. In the UK, the situation was slightly different. For one thing, parts of England had been in poor economic straits since a slump that followed World War I. Likewise, the Great Depression in the UK was highly regionalized in its effects, with areas like the Northeast seeing extremely high unemployment, while other areas saw only modest drops in unemployment. And responses to the depression were likewise regionalized–there were almost no national policy initiatives on the order of the New Deal in the US.

But there were responses at regional and local levels, and most importantly for our purposes, many of these responses involved changes to the landscape. They involved the construction of work camps, new settlements to house the unemployed, works projects that improved infrastructure, and much more. The Great Depression was a material event, and a record of it is recoverable archaeologically. This has certainly been the case in other parts of the wold, where a growing literature exists from archaeologists who have tackled the Great Depression through sites created in its wake. Much of this literature likewise shows that responses to the Great Depression were neither altruistic nor completely embraced by participants. For example, my colleagues LouAnn Wurst and Christine Ridarsky (2014) have evaluated attempts at farm resettlement in western New York state to improve the lives of “poor” farmers during the 1930s and found that the farmers were not actually that poor to begin with, and that the plan was largely about regional land grabbing. Barker and Lamb (2009) used data from an unemployment camp in Queensland, Australia to complicate the concept of the “undeserving” and “deserving” poor. And St. Denis (2002) showed how, despite the best efforts of the administrators of the Prince Albert logging camp in Saskatchewan, excavations show that workers drank and smoked when they could get away with it, perhaps offsetting anxieties about the larger economy with sociality and revelry.

In the U.K., there has been almost no archaeological study of sites related to the Great Depression, and no systematic accounting of such sites. David and I are hoping to change that with a project that will examine a few case studies where individuals and groups tried to ameliorate the awful conditions of the Depression through changes in the landscape. And when we started looking into the types of sites we could incorporate into our study, we were astounded at their variety and scale. There were proper work camps such as the one at Hamsterley forest, educational settlements and training schemes such as the Spennymoor settlement, resettlement and agricultural schemes such as the Moorhouse Farm settlement in Eaglescliffe (Perley 1985), and much more. Some of these schemes came from national programs and initiatives such as the Special Areas Act of 1934, which designated certain parts of the UK as regions in need of assistance. Others were local, set up by individuals and groups with an interest in curbing the worst excesses of the economic downturn.

We are working on funding a project to examine some of these places, but we have already had some success with an early case study: Heartbreak Hill, near Margrove Park village in the East Cleveland region of North Yorkshire (Chase and Whyman 1991, Chase 2000, Chase 2010). David has written about the history of this site, as have other bloggers. Suffice it to say, this was a combination work camp/allotment scheme for unemployed Ironstone miners, part of a larger scheme of three parcel areas called the Community Cultivation Association. Set up by a local wealthy landlord and his wife (James and Ruth Pennyman of Ormesby Hall), it was run and managed by British naturalist, folk scholar, and arch-conservative Rolf Gardiner. It included amongst its participants the composer Michael Tippett, and it ran for much of the 1930s, possibly longer. Today the land on which the site sits is unimproved hilly pasture, and it had not been significantly utilized prior to the 1930s, so David and I suspected that there might be some pieces of the depression-era landscape still present on the surface or underneath.

Map2Map showing the locations of the CCA parcels, from Petts and Lewis 2013.

We received a small grant from the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University to undertake geophysical survey and compile some background research. Earlier this year, a survey team from Durham’s Archaeological Services used magnetometry to survey part of the site. The results, visible in the map below, are suggestive of several subsurface human-deposited features. According to the geophysical analysis, the anomalies in the southwest corner of Area 1, all of Area 2, and the North-Central part of Area 4 represent likely areas of deposition of some kind of material with a magnetic signaturem, perhaps architectural refuse. Further testing in these areas may allow us to determine the exact nature of these anomalies.

Map3 GeophysMap showing geophysical results at Heartbreak Hill.

However, David and I were also intrigued by many of the standing or visible structures present in the field today. We found numerous brick huts scattered across the site, as well as other scatters of brick and stone that may represent ruined outbuildings from the allotment scheme. The brick structures below are similar in design, but are separated by nearly a half mile, on parcels of land used for completely different purposes today. What they have in common is that they are both in areas that were used during periods of CCA activity.

Brick comparisonPhotos showing similar brick structures on Heartbreak Hill and Dartmoor Parcels, respectively

We also noticed several portable items of material culture that one would not expect to be present on unimproved pasture-land. During a rudimentary surface survey, we noticed white-bodied 19th/early 20th century ceramics, a glass medicine bottle, and fragments of coal. One of the most striking finds was a linear scatter of bricks running over 10 meters in one of the current fields. This scatter, visible in the photo below, was later confirmed by Mark Whyman, one of the authors of a book on Heartbreak Hill (Chase and Whyman 1991), to be in the same location as a brick-lined garden plot setup by the CCA.

bricks

David and I are optimistic that there is more work to be done at Heartbreak Hill and perhaps at the other CCA parcels. One thing we would like to do is put together a community-led recording project to carefully document each of the standing structures and ruins at the site. This could be combined with further testing at the site to see if there are more subsurface remains to be found. Depending upon how extensive the archaeological record is, we are also interested in more social and political questions. We are particulary interested in how the miners who worked at the site made it their own–for example, were they able to bring items from home, or to otherwise mark off pieces of this “collective” allotment scheme as theirs? Such questions could also be asked at many of the other sites mentioned earlier, and we hope to have the opportunity to investigate them soon.

Aside from archaeology being a novel way to investigate the Great Depression, we find ourselves more broadly comparing the kinds of responses that were attempted in the 1930s to the current attempts to intervene in the most recent economic downturn, now in its sixth year. These have largely inhabited the arcane world of monetary policy, or have involved the dismantling of government programs, some of which were first initiated during the Great Depression, under the heading of “austerity”. We do not have any strong conclusions to draw in this comparison, but we are struck by the ways in which place-making seemed to be such a strong aspect of 1930s responses–for example, Heartbreak Hill was named for the difficult conditions of its production, while the other parcels were named for local flora. Conversely, many of the contemporary responses have been about de-territorializing–allowing, encouraging, or forcing the free flow of money across borders, out of public institutions, and out of the hands of individuals and communities in the name of laissez faire capitalism, regardless of historical or spatial circumstances. In any case, we believe that an archaeology of the Great Depression can locate the contingent, complex, and contradictory landscapes that emerged in its wake, and allow us to understand the Great Depression at a more human scale.

This article originally appeared on my blog on the Day of Archaeology 2014.

REFERENCES

Barker, Bryce, and Lara Lamb (2009) The Archaeology of Poverty and Human Dignity: Charity and the Work Ethic in a 1930s Depression Era Itinerant’s Camp on the Toowoomba Range Escarpment, Queensland. Archaeologies: The Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 5(2): 263–279.

Chase, Malcom (2000) Heartbreak Hill: Environment, Unemployment and “Back to the Land” in Inter-war Cleveland. Oral History 28(1): 33–42.

Chase, Malcom (2010) Unemployment without protest: the ironstone mining communities of East Cleveland in the inter-war period. In Unemployment and Protest: New Perspectives on Two Centuries of Contention, edited by M Reiss and M Perry, pp. 265–282. Oxford Univeristy Press, Oxford, U.K.

Chase, Malcom, and Mark Whyman (1991) Heartbreak Hill: A Response to Unemployment in East Cleveland in the 1930s. Cleveland County Council.

Perley, Doris (1985) The Moorhouse Farm Estate, Eaglescliffe. Unpublished Dissertation in Local History. Teesside Polytechnic.

Petts, David and Quentin Lewis (2013) “Heartbreak Hill: Towards an Archaeology of the Great Depression” Paper presented at the Contemporary and Historical Archaeological Theory Conference, University College London, London, UK.

St. Denis, Michael (2002) Camp #9: An Historical and Archaeological Investigation of a Depresion Era Relief Camp in Prince Albert National Park. Unpublished MA, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Wurst, LouAnn and Christine L. Ridarsky (2014) “The Second Time as Farce: Archaeological Reflections on the New New Deal.” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 18:3, pp. 224-241.
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Archaeology and Media

A day in the life of Current World Archaeology

Hi there! We are Current World Archaeology, the international sister magazine to Current Archaeology (See their Day of Archaeology post here).

This Day of Archaeology has been a very busy Friday for the CWA team. Yesterday we signed off issue 66 of the magazine, and so today we have been approving all the pages with our designers, before they are whisked away to the printers. After all that work, it was only fair we celebrated by eating rather a lot of cake.

The work doesn’t stop after signing-off the magazine though. We then have to film and edit videos for our YouTube channel, upload articles to our website, and plan what is coming up in our next issue!

Even in our spare time we are working hard – Emma, our Marketing Manager, is spending her lunch break revising for the Viva presentation of her Masters degree in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology, which she is giving early next week – good luck Emma! Our Editor-in-Chief, Andrew Selkirk, popped into the office today having just arrived back in the UK after some fantastic trips abroad to China and Greece – he is busy planning some fantastic new articles for future issues of CWA. Tiffany, from our Sales team, who studied Egyptology at University is busy eyeing up the new Egyptology books that have come into the office for review, and Polly, our Editorial Assistant, is busy creating a video for this Day of Archaeology post! Check out the video of Current Publishing’s Day of Archaeology below:

We have loved seeing all the Day of Archaeology posts coming in from all around the world! We hope you all had a great day – see you next year!

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Polly Heffer

Editorial Assistant, Current World Archaeology

Confessions of an Archaeologist

Hello!
My name is Laura Johansson and I am an archaeologist. I am originally from Pargas, Finland, but moved to the UK in 2010 to do my undergraduate in archaeology at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. My interest in archaeology stretch back to my early teenage years, and since my passion for archaeology has only grown. My real passion though is for maritime archaeology and I am currently studying for an MA in Maritime Archaeology in Southampton. University will start back up in September, but up until then I am employed as a full-time archaeologist for Southampton City Council Archaeology Unit and on annualised hours as a museum guide for The National Museum of the Royal Navy, which is based in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

I’ve chosen to write an account of one of my days at the Medieval Chantry Dig in Southampton, working for the SCC Archaeology Unit. We are currently clearing out any archaeology from an area where the Drew Smith Group is planning to build a new set of flats. As mentioned before, this site has previously been the location of a medieval chantry which was connected with St. Mary’s Church, located just across the road. In this case there is a substantial amount of documentation connected to our site, which has allowed us to understand what the different medieval features on the site may be. However, there are also several Saxon pits, containing a substantial amount of animal bones.

On this particular day I had just started digging a new feature. So far the theory is that the feature is a pit of unknown date which is being cut by a ditch which seems to be running across a large part of the site. This job is my first paid full-time position in commercial archaeology (yay me!) and it is refreshing to get to work in a different side of archaeology (previously I have mainly participated in digs organised by universities). Surprisingly (to me) it is quite different! I was told today that in contemporary British Commercial Archaeology we no longer use trowels for other things than cleaning the mud out of our boots. However, (if archaeology was a religion) I did feel like a sinner in church as I was shovelling out the layers of my pit!

Unfortunately I can’t really tell you anything interesting about my feature as I don’t know much myself. The dig started in the middle of April this year and we are now running on the last few weeks. Unfortunately time is against us and we are having speed up the process a bit (we are like digging machines!), but fortunately it looks like there is not too much left to do. Hopefully the weather will be with us these last few days as we otherwise will be sat in the office doing finds washing (which isn’t too bad either!).
It has always been my intention to pursue a degree in archaeology after university. My interests are quite wide, but my expertise lies mainly within British and Finnish archaeology. One of my greatest passions is to promote archaeology to the wider public, which is something I am hoping to continue to do in the future. Among other things I am planning to partly base my MA dissertation project on public outreach so we shall see how it goes! Wish me luck!
Laura
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Drew Smith Group, Dr Andy Russel and Emma for their kind contributions to this piece.
Disclaimer: All photos were taken by the author, except the Google map images.

Come Up to the Lab and See What’s on the Slab

I SEE YOU SHIVER WITH ANTICIPATION?

MicrotalkHello all, I’m Spence and I’m an archaeological lithics specialist. You might know me on the Twitter as @microburin and for my sometimes irreverent blog where stones tell stories about our Mesolithic forebears. And yes, I have a lithics lab located in north-west London which I’m leasing until I have finished the detailed analysis and cataloguing of several lithic assemblages – largely comprised of flint – from the North York Moors in north-east England. The beauty of having a dedicated space is that you can lay out all the lithics from each ‘site’ or assemblage. This helps not just with becoming intimate with each assemblage, raw materials, artefacts, and debitage (we NEVER say ‘waste’ in the the world of lithics!) but also with attempts to refit pieces, almost the reverse of the reduction process, so that we can understand the flint knapper’s strategy, perhaps even their competence.

Chain gangs

The other key aspect of lithic analysis is that the debitage can tell us even more than the artefacts – for this period that means items such as microliths, scrapers, piercing tools, burins, denticulates, blades and the like. Together, the patterns of presence and absence of debitage and utilised items in any given place, and the raw materials that were sourced in often distant locations, form what we call a chaîne opératoire – literally an operational sequence – that helps us begin to understand what our Mesolithic friends were up to. I’ll come back to this a little later.

The excavation of features in the Mesolithic, especially in my study area, is rare. Firstly, there simply haven’t been any large scale excavations conducted to modern standards. Secondly, feature survival itself is relatively rare – organic survival is seldom encountered (and so it’s largely lithics that survive) and the very nature of Mesolithic activities and mobility through the landscape over millennia leave little evidence most of the time. The Mesolithic, for me, is all more interesting for being distant, often ephemeral in terms of what survives, mysterious and hovering around being just within and yet just beyond reach. It’s frustrating and rewarding at the same time.

Image_MesokidImage credit: hans s | Foter | CC-BY-ND

The Captain has turned on the seat belt sign – a little turbulence ahead

Whether the Mesolithic really existed at all outside artefact typologies and our own convenient constructs, sandwiched as it is between the climatic warming of the last glaciation (Late Devensian) and the onset of the Neolithic ‘package’, it was far from a time of continuity or stability. From the time of the return of pioneer communities, climatic volatility like the so-called 8ka event which saw a period of cooling, rapid sea-level rise with positive and negative undulations, eventually saw the separation of Britain from the continent. Vast ancestral tracts that were rich in resources disappeared. We also have evidence for at least one major tsunami event – the Storegga slide – that certainly had a catastrophic  impact on coastal communities and completed the inundation of Doggerland. There’s an increasing body of evidence too for repeated fire-events in the Mesolithic forests and around lake edges that are posited as indications, at least in part, of human management of the landscape and its resources.

“Far from being an endless period of hazelnut crushing, berry picking, game stalking and salmon fishing, the Mesolithic was a time of turbulence – climatic, environmental, social and technological – where many of the themes surely resonate with our own challenging world experiences today.”

Lithic life

Image_AdderMost days, like The Day of Archaeology today, are spent in the lab surrounded by my babies. I’m focused primarily on the analysis of an assemblage I excavated some years ago on the North York Moors uplands – now largely humanly-transformed heather-clad grouse moors on acidic peat. After falling into a griff (water channel), being bitten by an adder (thick boots), I came across a small, sandy eroded area with – you guessed it – flints on the surface. The rescue excavation, with kind permissions from the landowners and National Park archaeologists, lasted about ten days (and it only rained once) in a remote area. Every flint was plotted over 20 sq metres to reveal discreet knapping events, firespots, a stone-lined hearth containing burnt microliths and indications of a possible structure. Flat-stone features seem to be associated with knapping, microlith manufacture and tool concentrations including scrapers.

Web_pic_off01

Terminal nail-biting

The results so far from the lithic analysis and processing of charcoal samples from the firespots and hearth are particularly exciting. Remember, there have been few excavations of any size in the last seventy or more years in this area, fewer still with results that allow spatial analysis. These are also the first feature-associated radiocarbon dates for the Late Mesolithic for north-east Yorkshire with a final suite in-process at SUERC right now. This is a nail-biting time! What we appear to be looking at is a multi-period site, a palimpsest, a persistent place that our Mesolithic friends returned to repeatedly over at least 2,000 years and where we might be looking at the very time of transition between the “terminal” Mesolithic and Neolithic. What this also proves is that knapping events within just a few metres of each other can span at least a couple of thousand years. This means that many of the large-area surface assemblages gathered by collectors over the past seventy years (but seldom if ever spatially recorded) probably represent many individual events over a considerable time period, each plausibly for different purposes or motives.

Esklets_pairing

Joined at the hips

Once complete, I’ll be moving onto several other surface assemblages from the vicinity – with the sense of caution given the findings at the excavated site, although spatial plotting has been undertaken where possible. Here is where laying out all the lithics from neighbouring assemblages has proved a boon and a surprise. A rejoining utilised (micro-wear) flint blade had each half in two different assemblages, recorded ten years apart, and almost 200m from each other. ‘Paired sites’ are rare but do occur, for example in the Central Pennines. Might one be looking at coeval activities in the vicinity of what was once a small lake (which has been pollen-cored), long-since dried up? Read more about the project and view the poster on the Lithoscapes website »

Tools of the trade

spencer_banner.inddIn the header image, perhaps a little contrived, I’ve tried to illustrate the lithicist’s toolkit. You’ll already have noticed that the lab is less bestrewn with slabs than belittered with handy polystyrene insulation blocks procured from my local DIY store. They’re great for flagging lithics with cocktail sticks. The camera desk clamp, or tripod collapse avoidance device, is a recent addition after months of searching. On a good day I can process perhaps 30 to 50 lithics at a detailed level of attribute and metrical recording. That leaves more detailed analysis of particular artefact groups for a further round, in addition to photography and, ultimately, selective drawing.

And yes, that is a Lotto ticket on the scales! You know how archaeology is these days.

Is that a rod microlith or are you just happy to see me?

One of the significant hurdles for lithicists is recording assemblages systematically according to a replicable set of standards – ones without ambiguity for future researchers and with absolute clarity in describing morphology, typology, right down to the raw material type. This subject could see me ramble on for far longer than your patience will endure, suffice to say here that I am using and testing a typological protocol developed by my friend and colleague at Lithoscapes, Paul Preston. His doctoral research, soon to be published, extensively reviewed our legacy of lithics classifications and taxonomies to form a new standard. I’m delighted – and undeniably relieved – that he’s shared this with me and allowed me to apply it to the assemblages presently in my guardianship. Learn more about Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation »

It’s knocking on a bit now on the Day of Archaeology, perhaps time for a cheeky chardonnay. Thanks so much for reading and taking an interest in the Mesolithic and stones with stories in resonating places. My thanks to the team of organisers, muddy or otherwise, behind this special international event. The many hundreds of posts each year provide the most fascinating insights into the inner workings of archaeologists and specialists – a through-the-keyhole peek at the world around us. May I also take this opportunity to congratulate Lorna Richardson, one of DoA’s lynchpins, on her recent rites-of-passage achievement. Well done Dr Richardson!

Best wishes,

Mesolithic Spence

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Microburin has left the building!


Conservation at the British Museum, Ceramics, Glass & Metals Section

Student shows visiting tutor her work on a coin hoard

Student shows visiting tutor her work on a coin hoard

Duygu Camurcuoglu working on ceramics for the Ur Digitisation project.

Duygu Camurcuoglu working on ceramics for the Ur Digitisation project.

Filling out Standard Operational procedure forms

Filling out Standard Operational procedure forms

First day of working on antiquities in our new workshop

First day of working on antiquities in our new workshop

Bee hives on the roof of the WCEC building

Bee hives on the roof of the WCEC building

WCEC building 6 floors above ground 3 floors below

WCEC building 6 floors above ground 3 floors below

All of the British Museum Conservation and Scientific Research Department have now moved into the WCEC building on the side of the British Museum site. (Except the eastern pictorial art people who remain in their traditional studio.)

Our new workshops are at the top of the building.

Other people in the Museum used to joke that it was only the bees in the hive on top of the roof that did any work in WCEC.

However, this week we got security clearance to start having antiquities in our workshop and we are all delighted to get back to doing our real work.

We do not yet have access to our full armoury of chemical might, but we are cleared to do manual cleaning. The task of filling out the Standard Operational Procedure forms for all of the rooms and equipment has only just begun.

In the morning of The Day of Archaeology, our student intern Suzanne van Leeuwen is visted by her tutor Tonny Beentjes (University of Amsterdam). She is able to show him coins she has been working on for the Treasure process.

Our move into WCEC has created a great back log of practical work and we are 4 coin hoards behind.

Later in the morning, Duygu Camurcuoglu continues her work on the Ur Digitisation project with colleagues from the Department of the Middle East. She has been preparing ceramic items for digitisation so that they can be included in web avaible account of excavations at Ur. It is a joint project with Penn Museum and it is hoped that, in the future, the Irag Museum in Baghdad will be involved as well.

In the afternoon, one technologically inept conservator tries to give a Powerpoint presentation about coin conservation to a numismatic summer school and later tries to upload all this onto the Day of Archaeology site.

Jacquetta Hawkes, Sir Isaac Newton, and the idea of stratigraphy

Archaeologists don’t just dig – they also write. And I’m spending today in the library trying to get today’s 500 or 1,000 words written for a book I’m working on over the summer vacation.

In the Bodleian Library

In the Bodleian Library

So, my small contribution to today’s ‘Day of Archaeology’ is to share something that’s looking back at me from the oak desk in front of me. It’s a 248-page volume, published in the middle of the last century, in which I have just this afternoon discovered this brilliant  explanation of the concept of stratigraphy . It’s from a chapter on ‘Recollection’ from Jacquetta Hawkes’ visionary book A Land. Published in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain, A Land sought to ‘use the findings of the two sciences of geology and archaeology for purposes altogether unscientific’ (p.1).

A Land by Jacquetta Hawkes

A Land by Jacquetta Hawkes

 

As a celebration of how archaeologists understand the landscape around them, the book is hard to beat, and is an inspiration to all those today who are interested in sharing how archaeologists see the world – what Michael Shanks calls ‘The Archaeological Imagination‘ – with others:

‘Geologists and archaeologists, those instruments of consciousness who are engaged in reawakening the memory of the world, have one guiding principle for their work. It is called the Law of Stratification, but it as simple as falling downwards – and, indeed, resembles it in that both are inevitable results of the working of gravity.

‘If instead of one apple falling on the head of Sir Isaac Newton a heavenly orchard had let tumble a rain of fruit, one of the greatest of men would have been overwhelmedand then buried. Anyone examining the situation afterwards in a properly scientific spirit, clearing the apples layer by layer, would be able to deduce certain facts. He would be able to prove that the man was there before the apples. Furthermore, that the blushing Beauty of Bath found immediately over and round Sir Isaac fell longer ago than the small swarthy russets that lay above them. If, on top of all this, snow had fallen, then the observer, even if he came from Mars where they are not familiar with these things, would know that apple time came before snow time.

‘Relative ages are not enough, the observer would want an absolute date, and that is where Sir Isaac comes in again. An examination of his clothes, the long-skirted coat, the loose breeches and the negligent cut of his linen, the long, square-toed shoes pointing so forlornly up to the sky, would date the man to the seventeenth century. Here would be a clue to the age of the apples and the snow.

The apples and snowflakes of this whimsical analogy are the equivalent of the falling grains that compose sedimentary rocks, and the whole of the Great Law of Stratification means no more than this – that the Beauty of Bath must be older than the russets lying above them. ’ (Jacquetta Hawkes A Land 1951, p. 26).

You can read more about Jacquetta Hawkes’s life in Christine Finn’s biography of her, published online here – Jacquetta Hawkes – archaeo-poet – and you can read some of A Land online here.

Image: a camera-phone snap of one of the illustrations from A Land from my desk today - Ben Nicholson's "Cornwall"

Image: a camera-phone snap of one of the illustrations from A Land from my desk today – Ben Nicholson’s “Cornwall”

 

From mountains to sea…and everything in between: Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service

It is our great pleasure to welcome you on the Day of Archaeology 2014 to the Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service.

Situated in the North East of Scotland, we are a small team (just the three of us!) with responsibility for a large geographic area – not only do we act as the regional archaeology service for Aberdeenshire Council, but also for Angus and Moray Councils, which is equivalent to 10,733km2!

Aberdeenshire, Angus and Moray Council areas in North East Scotland ©ACAS

Map showing location of Aberdeenshire, Angus and Moray Council areas in North East Scotland ©ACAS

Protection, Management and Promotion

For any given area roughly 95% of the historic environment is not protected by national designations, and it is down to Services like ourselves at local government level in the UK to protect it.

The team’s remit is to protect, manage and promote the historic environment of Aberdeenshire, Angus & Moray. A big part of this is maintaining a Historic Environment Record (HER) for each of these areas, an ever-growing database of sites and monuments of archaeological and historical interest hosted on our website.

There are currently almost 32,000 sites recorded in the HER, ranging from Lower Paleolithic auroch horns through Early Medieval Pictish stones to World War II defences. That’s almost 12,000 years of history!

The HER acts as the hub for our primary work within the Councils. We use it as the basis for assessing the potential impact of planning applications, forestry, utility and other consultations on the historic environment. The resulting archaeological mitigation work from these consultations then feeds back into the HER, broadening our (and therefore everyone’s) knowledge and understanding of the historic environment here in the North East, and helping to inform future decisions.

We will provide the best Protection, Management and Promotion of the Historic Environment of Aberdeenshire for the benefit of all ©ACAS

Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service Team Motto ©ACAS

(more…)

Anglo-Georgian Expedition to Nokalakevi (AGEN)

2014 sees the fourteenth season of excavation at the multi-period site of Nokalakevi by the Anglo-Georgian expedition, making us the longest running international collaboration in Georgian archaeology. Since we started coming out here there have been significant cultural, political and economic changes in Georgia most recent of which is the arrival of a 3G phone signal (and reliable electricity supply) to this rural part of western Georgia, and with it the internet and access to the Day of Archaeology tomorrow.

Those with an interest in our work here can read more in our recent publication of the first ten years, or in a brief article for the Antiquity project gallery published in 2010. Suffice to say here that the site was first settled (on current evidence) in the Chalcolithic, almost continually occupied until the 8th century AD, and restored as a significant regional locus in the 15th century. The distinctive features that survive at Nokalakevi today are the stunning fortifications dating to the time of the Laz kings and their Byzantine allies in the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries AD, culminating in the enormous refortification of the eastern gate under Justinian as he prepared for war with Persia.

Our work here has shed more and more light on the story of Nokalakevi, but at least as important, if not more so, has been our role in training the next generation of Georgian archaeologists alongside students/ volunteers from Britain, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, Holland, Poland, France and Spain. We were the first to employ modern, western methodology in Georgia and its influence is clear as a young Georgian heritage sector prepares itself for the threats that accompany a stable and improving economic situation.

This year, as we look forward to contributing to the Day of Archaeology, we are working in two trenches (Trench A and Trench C). The former is located next to the eastern gate, and is currently investigating 8th/7th century BC layers from which we have already retrieved a number of fragments of double-headed zoomorphic figurines for which Nokalakevi is famous. The latter, recently opened after Trench B was completed, has already revealed elements of the dig house that served as the base for the National Museum’s 1973-1991 expedition, and the village hospital that preceded it. It was particularly interesting to investigate the old dig house, and to combine archaeological techniques with the oral testimony of those who remembered being students living there. However, with the last of the structural elements removed today, tomorrow holds the potential for exposing Byzantine deposits that lie underneath the terracing dug for the hospital in the late 19th century.

 

Wrapping Up the Day of Archaeology 2013

The Day of Archaeology team pays tribute to all of our contributors for 2013. We’ve seen some wonderful posts and some great responses on social media and via the comments form.

The day in numbers

  1. Registered users: 1,067
  2. Number of posts: 329 published (we have 13 in draft if the authors would like to finish them?). In 2012 we had 343 and in 2011 we had 429. So in total: 1,122 are published.
  3. Number of images: 3,291 have been submitted, in 2013 1,148 images were uploaded to the site.
  4. There were over 5,500 tweets sent using the hashtag of #dayofarch
  5. Facebook: reach grew by 263.6% on the previous week. (It will no doubt follow the long tail model until next year.) Average reach for posted links was 37 and for status updates 52.
    A statistical breakdown from facebook for demographics

    A statistical breakdown from Facebook for demographics

    Use of gender-specific pronouns within the text of day of archaeology posts – by Ben Marwick

  6. Our fan base by country is weighted towards the UK, USA and Spain.
  7. People from 85 countries visited the site, with the majority from the UK, USA, Canada and Spain.
  8. The most viewed posts on the ‘Day’ were by Charles Mount (326 views) and by Amanda Clarke (233 views)

Making the day better?

There are some issues , that  we need to resolve as a collective and as a contributing mass to make this project a success on a grander scale:

  1. How do we engage (this word has been debated at length in the last two years, for example at the CASPAR events at UCL) with a wider public audience and break the silo?
  2. How do we bring in funding to pay for publicity materials such as posters, stickers and mail shots? At the moment, the only costs are for running the server (covered under PAS running costs) and registering the domain name.
  3. Do we need to recruit new team members to make this project easier to run?
  4. How do we get established, big name academics and archaeologists to participate? We haven’t managed to garner contributions from people of the standing of Hodder or Renfrew, and we don’t seem to have had anything from the big name TV archaeologists even though we’ve badgered them on social media, for instance. Why have they not joined in? What is the barrier stopping these people from participating?
  5. How do we get archaeologists from developing and even many developed countries to participate? We lack a volume of entries from say sub-Saharan Africa or Japan or China or South America. The map below shows where people have come from to view the site (blue shades getting heavier means the site was viewed in greater quantities there).
    Location   Google Analytics
  6. How do we retain people annually? Contributions have gone down from the first year of the project even though we now have over 1000 individuals registered. Why is this?
  7. How do we get people with an interest, but no professional or amateur involvement in ‘archaeology’ as a discipline but maybe as a passion to contribute?
  8. How do we reach out to media channels and get our project into their output?
  9. How do we get institutional buy-in on the scale made by Museum of London or RCHAMS?
  10. Can we make this a reproducible model for other disciplines? We built on the Day of Digital Humanities for instance.
  11. What do we need to do better? Did you hear about the project at the last minute, or did you have problems registering or contributing your post? If you don’t tell us, we can’t improve.

Research potential

Some academic work has already been done on these data that have been generated via the project website. Since the 26th, Ben Marwick of the University of Washington has done some in-depth modelling using the R programming language and previously, Shawn Graham from CarletonUniversity did some topic modelling and has blogged extensively about what he did with the website content. The content added here, provides a wonderful career insight for aspiring archaeologists world-wide and can only get more useful year-on-year.

Visualisation of author groups screenshot from work by Ben Marwick.

Visualisation of author groups screenshot from work by Ben Marwick.

Now, we as a collective have to write up three years of the project as an academic article and the raw content of these posts will be posted as CSV to github shortly.

See you next year?

The Day of Archaeology team 2013: Andrew, Daniel, Jaime, Lorna, Matt, Monty and Tom.