Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity. /n /nShe received her PhD in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley and her BA in Anthropology/Asian Studies at the University of Texas. Since that time, she has worked both as a professional and academic archaeologist in Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, Oman, England, Greece, Texas, Hawaii and California, excavating sites 100 years old and 10,000 years old and anything in-between. /n /nShe remains deeply interested in excavation methodology, high falutin’ theory, interstitial spaces, skeuomorphs and good bourbon. /n /nCurrent academic publications: http://berkeley.academia.edu/ColleenMorgan

From Raindogging to Becoming a “Real Boy”: A Day in the Life of a New Lecturer

The crest over the doorway at King’s Manor.

Six years ago for the first Day of Archaeology (which I posted to my own blog for reasons that have become obscured by time) I posted about selling off my worldly possessions to live out of my suitcase. It was a mildly maudlin post, rife with Tom Waits. As predicted, I “raindogged” for 2.5 years afterwards, working, writing on planes, trains, borrowed couches and archaeological projects with no permanent address. I ended up circumnavigating the globe before landing in York, at the ragged ends of travel.

After a series of increasingly convoluted and miscellaneous postdoc/associate lecturer escapades, I found myself suddenly A Lecturer. A Real Lecturer. It’s about as magical and unlikely as the scene in Pinocchio, where the wooden puppet becomes a Real Boy. There’s a lot to unpack there with gender, posthumanism and transfiguration, but let’s leave it for another time.

So, while I’d love to polish my tiara (academics get tiaras, right?) and call it good, I had a lot of work to do on my Day of Archaeology. When I posted on my blog about getting The Job, one of the comments I received was:

“Congratulations! The down side is that we’ll be seeing fewer posts on Digs in Exotic Places, and more on the Joys of Faculty Meetings.”

It is true, I spent the morning in a meeting, but it was an exciting meeting, if there can be such a thing, about grants funding research that I’ve been thrashing about since at least 2009, with avatars and chatbots. Now that I’m A Real Lecturer I can lead on these types of things, instead of glomming onto grants led by others.

Though I’d earmarked the day for research, I found myself having to finish up a bit of admin: the last touches on a short video promoting the Digital Heritage MSc and Archaeological Information Sciences MSc programs here at York, which I’ll be taking over in the Autumn. I’d love to have more students from North America, let me know if you’d like more information.

After I finished uploading the video, I finalized the design of an incredible illustration of a papercraft King’s Manor, created by Nick Ellwood. I really enjoyed collaborating with an artist on this work, which is in turn archaeological and whimsical.

I also spent some of the day finalizing teaching for both undergraduates and postgraduates, including this delightful roster of lectures for the upcoming Analysis & Visualisation course offered to our Masters students:

Perhaps it isn’t quite as exciting as Sunrise in Bangkok or The Recent Ancient Tradition of the Ogoh Ogoh or even spending your days with your head down a toilet, but I’m up for it. I won’t even act jealous when I hear about Katy drawing up a storm at Catal, or updates from Freya’s project in Egypt or any of the other amazing Day of Archaeology posts from the field. Nope.

Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math…and Archaeology?) with the US Ambassador to the UK

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At first I thought I was in trouble. Why else would the US Ambassador contact me? My husband jokingly suggested that I was being recruited to join the long list of archaeologists who have been spies in the Middle East.

Spoiler Alert: No. (and ew.)

I was asked to join 15 other women (and ITN reporter Alok Jha) to discuss women in the sciences. This was inspired in part by the recent #distractinglysexy campaign wherein women posted photos in reaction to extremely sexist remarks by an unnamed Nobel laureate. The point wasn’t so much an attempt to destroy this man’s career as to make the every day sexism in sciences visible by laughing at it. Playing along, I posted a photo of me and Louise Felding in a building at Çatalhöyük.

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I liked the photo because both of us are so absorbed in our work, so completely immersed in figuring out the Neolithic puzzle. Honestly I was probably cussing–there were several burials in that rotten platform and they held us up all season. Sexy? Well, as they say, YMMV.

So I scrubbed myself up, got out the usual business attire/conference gear/that dress that covers most of my tattoos and went down to London. The house itself is a bit funny–very French regency meets American sensibility. Let’s just say, the toilets are gilded. There was actually a lot of incredible contemporary art, but all I managed to get a photo of was the teacups:

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Typical archaeologist, always interested in the crockery.

It was an interesting mix of science communicators and a few scientists in there as well. We all spoke briefly to introduce ourselves, then presented an opportunity and a challenge regarding women in science. While most of the presenters bemoaned the lack of women in sciences, I told them that we have a large amount of women in archaeology, how exciting that is, and how we are foundational to other sciences–providing bridges to computer science and biology in particular, using the examples of the Centre for Digital Heritage and BioArCh at York. For the challenge I mentioned that though we have a lot of women, archaeology & heritage funding was being threatened by both the US and the UK governments and that it was vital to fight for it to continue to provide a link for women to the sciences.


So, as an archaeologist some days you are out in the dirt, being distractingly sexy  doing research and some days you are drinking out of gilded teacups with Matthew Barzun and talking about how important it is that women are involved in science.

I’m not going to lie though, the best part of the day was meeting these trowelblazers:

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The Moabite Stone – A Failure of Communication


I created this comic to quickly and graphically sum up a near-apocraphal story in archaeology–the fraught, colonialist acquisition of The Moabite Stone, a important Iron Age inscription originating in Dhiban, Jordan. I had to change it several times, as there are several wildly different versions of the tale. It was fun to make the comic, but I wonder if I could have done a better job showing the complexity of the exchange between the local Bedouin and the artifact-hunting antiquarians. While I believe in using comics for archaeological outreach, I’m not sure that this one was much of a success, as it removes complexity from the story rather than showing there can be multiple narratives.

For that, I consider this comic a failure in its current state. But I think it’s sometimes good to show the failures in visual communication as well as the successes.