I am a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at Durham Univeristy. I specialise in Classical Archaeology, specifically the archaeology of Iron Age and Achaemenid Anatolia, but I teach widely on Greek, Roman and Mediterranean Archaeology, as well as archaeological skills. I moved into archaeology from art and art history, and my focus remains on iconography, especially memorial imagery, but my work very much overlaps with economic history and landscape archaeology, since it asks questions about context that often have not been addressed.

What we do: reading and writing and writing

Many posts on archaeology will show exciting excavations and groups of people holding up new finds – what people think archaeologists do.  This is, of course, part of what archaeologists do, but as Indiana Jones apparently said: “Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library.”  Which is only partly true, as more than a little is done, now, in front of computers in front rooms, offices, cafes, working on paper work of some kind or another, whether payroll, reports on the field work just done, grant applications for next year’s field work or, and especially if you are an academic, and it’s ‘holiday’ time, thrashing out that book or paper for which the deadline was last month.  Or year.  Or whatever.

Desk photo

Writing Writing Writing

And so it is today that I am placed before the large table in my front room, banging on about some tomb or another for a book I am writing on memorial images and identities in Asia Minor in the first one hundred years after its conquest by the Achaemenid Persians.  If my tone sounds sardonic, that is because we can have the same problems sitting still, not checking email hundreds of times, looking at Facebook and baking unnecessary amounts of pies that other writers experience.  Productive procrastination abounds.  This post is, of course, excluded from that.

A sardonic tone might also imply that my book is boring.  And while many many writers would confess that they find writing itself boring, the subject matter is not: in the period that I am writing about, following its incorporation into the Achaemenid Persian Empire, Asia Minor experienced cultural and social change which is all the more fascinating to unstitch because these changes are not ‘in your face’, archaeologically.  In fact, the impact of the Empire has been considered to be quite low.  But for me, in studying images used on tombs, this is a rich period, since it is around the time of the conquest that burials of differing types start to increase in number, among them some with rich (if often badly preserved) images in paint or sculpture.  (more…)