Andrew Gardner is Senior Lecturer in the Archaeology of the Roman Empire at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL.

Space and identity research in Berlin

Topoi House Dahlem

Topoi Haus Dahlem. Photo: Bernd Wannenmacher / FU.

I am a lecturer in Roman Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, but today I’m in the midst of a short research visit to the Topoi Excellence Cluster at Freie Universität Berlin. Topoi is a large research cluster dedicated to the study of space and knowledge in antiquity, and has a full programme of workshops and meetings which bring together researchers from many disciplines and institutions. I’m here as a Senior Fellow for a month, working with Dr Kerstin Hofmann and colleagues in the key topic group ‘Identities: space and knowledge related identification’. In addition to getting on with my own research on Roman Britain, it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to discuss various issues in the archaeology of identity with scholars based here. While there are many points of contact, there are also of course differences in the traditions of study into past identity in the UK/US and Germany, and it’s really interesting to learn more about these. So today is mainly a mix of research and discussion in the Topoi House in Dahlem, as well as keeping in touch with my postgraduate students in London. I should also say that it’s quite exciting to be in Germany when the national team is doing rather well in a certain global sports tournament!

Gaming the Past II

Well that paper I was working on earlier…

… is still going – but just some conclusions to go. I guess this highlights another verity of the archaeological life – sometimes the hours are a bit long! I’ve had a pretty enjoyable afternoon, though, delving into various discussion boards about Civilization and looking at some of the modifications (or ‘mods’) that players come up with for the game. All helpful for my argument that games are already a great way of engaging people in the past; they often have their problems, but many players devote a lot of time and energy to creatively adapting them, often to be more closely representative of different periods. Sometimes these modders are archaeologists too! (See, and Shawn Graham’s blog below).

So here are a couple of interesting things that people have done with Civilization and other computer strategy games:

Gaming the past

Hello all! Today I’m writing an article – indeed hoping to finish writing it – about the entertaining world of computer games which deal with the past. This is for a book about digital engagement strategies for archaeology being edited by Chiara Bonacchi of the Institute of Archaeology. Archaeologists have written quite a bit about other forms of media portrayal of the past, but not so much about computer games (with a few notable exceptions including fellow DofA blogger Shawn Graham). They are such a big cultural phenomenon – and business – today though that they shouldn’t be ignored, especially as they are already engaging lots of people’s interest in the past.

I’m looking particularly at strategy games like Civilization. While we can criticise various aspects of the way such games model the past, I don’t want to dwell on that and instead aim to draw attention to the vibrant fan communities and ‘modding’ scene, with players actively contributing new content to a game’s development. Later on I’ll post some links to a couple of websites which demonstrate the breadth of engagement that’s already happening through this medium.