Podcasting Archaeology or Why to Communicate Archaeology via the Internet.

af logo

What started as a vanity project, a blog where I could vent my thoughts on psuedoarchaeology, has blossomed into a multi-bloomed flower of sorts. Each blossom requiring attention, and each one being as satisfying as the last. I’m talking about podcasting, of course.

Media, and the use of newer forms of media; podcasting, YouTube, twitter, Facebook, etc, is a weakness of Archaeology. Even with the influx of younger archaeologists into the field, those who should be more comfortable and accepting of digital media, it still seems to escape us as archaeologists. What is it? How does it work? What do we do with it?

When Chris Webster and Tristan Boyle launched the Archaeology Podcast Network (APN) back in late 2014, there were only about three (maybe 4) archaeology podcasts on the digital air. None of them were really aware of each other, and frankly, most people didn’t even know they existed at all. Today the APN has 15 shows covering topics ranging from broad topics like CRM archaeology, technology in the field, terms, techniques and concepts, to specific topics like women in archaeology, debunking psuedoarchaeology, Caribbean archaeology, and archaeogaming. If you consider that the APN isn’t even two yet, 15 shows is quite the achievement.

These shows attempt to educate and inform as well as entertain. They reach out to the archaeological community, trying to connect archaeologists together, and at the same time, reach out to the public and help them understand what it is we do. This is done with both female and male voices, both field and academically employed. It’s Archaeology for everyone, as Chris once put it, and it’s very effective at communicating.

So why are there not more shows out there? Why don’t were hear one from every University that has an archaeology program? Why isn’t there one for every sub-field of archaeology? One for every professional organization (I’m looking at you SAA)? One for every conference? We need to communicate with each other and with the public, so why aren’t we using this medium to do so?

I'mma Pro

Maybe some of it has to do with the perceived cost in money and in time. I assure you, this need not be a barrier. You can record a decent enough podcast in a quiet room with a laptop and free recording software like Audacity or Garage-band. You don’t even need an external mic, though sitting close to the computer is necessary.  If you want to up your game a bit you can buy a cheep recording mic, and most of them are good as well as affordable. Simple soundproofing can be achieved with a large cardboard box and towels. Only the pros go all in and get the big mics and the soundproof rooms, but hey, if you’ve got the budget, go for it.

Time is another story. How long your finished show is, will determine how long you’ll need to record. In my experience you should add 30 min to whatever the final show length is for recording. So an hour long show requires a minimum of an hour and a half to record. Editing can take a bit too depending on how familiar you are with the software, and how much you care about um’s, ah’s, and long pauses. Honestly, editing can be a time suck, but it’s worth it to hear your finished piece. Still, this is not as much time as you would think, unless you’re a procrastinator, and then I can’t help you.

So with time and money out of the equation, why are there not more shows? Some people just don’t want to do it, which is fine on an individual level, but when we get to the Professional and University level, this is less of a realistic excuse. Part of doing archaeology is making it accessible, and podcasting makes it accessible. This isn’t even the Open Access argument that grates on a lot of professionals and academics. I’m not asking you to talk about sensitive material, just talk about what you do, how you do it, and why it’s important. If it’s interesting, people will listen, and they wont care that your audio quality is crappy, or that your intro music is midi, or that you only publish once a month.


Which leaves me with, suspicion and the avoidance of being vulnerable. Archaeologists seem to tend to be suspicious of new things. Even I am times, but we have to push past that. I see it happening every day, with the new influx of young archaeologists who are accustomed to social media and digital media. When I joined Twitter back in 2009, I looked for every archaeologist I could find on twitter to add to my feed. I had about 20. In the whole world of twitter in 2009 there were 20ish archaeologists using it, and most of us didn’t have a clue what we were using it for. We did it anyway and we figured it out, and today, there are more archaeology twitter accounts than I can ever hope to follow sending me updates and pictures and artifact id challenges and blogs, etc. So if we can accept Twitter et al, why can we not make more podcasts (or even videos)?

I think some of it has to do with the avoidance of being vulnerable many professionals have. Making a recording, in real time, has the potential to catch a movement of vulnerability. A mistake, a misspoken word, the wrong date or term, an embarrassing laugh, an uncomfortable question. It’s called being human and mistakes will be made. Yet somehow we’ve become petrified at the idea of being caught being wrong, and instead of just saying “oops” and either fixing it or apologizing for it, we’d rather not even try. This causes lots of problems, one of which is being seen as aloof and unapproachable to the public, and thereby being invisible.

Some will tell me that they are afraid of being taken out of context. Well let  me tell you a thing. I’ve been working with pseudoarchaeology and the fringe for almost a decade now. It doesn’t matter what you say, how you say it, or even IF you say it. You will be taken out of context by someone at some time and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. So instead of hiding, come on out here and make create something informative and educational.

Podcasting is fun, it’s refreshing to connect with others, and talk about shared topics with peers. It creates a medium that is being embraced by more and more people as technology advances. It can be quick and informative, long and educational, and interesting at either length. It’s one of the best ways to communicate with the public, and it’s accessible to most people. Pretty much anyone with the internet or a phone can hear your podcast these days, making it one of the best ways to educate and inform. Recording software is free, hosting sites like Sound-cloud are free, Or you can join forces with the APN and make an ever bigger, better Archaeology Podcast Network. The benefit to this would be access to people who are already using podcasting as a way to communicate (and maybe edit). So basically, there is no cost to this beyond time, and lets face it, you’re probably supposed to be reaching out to the public anyway, why not make a lasting impression with a podcast that will live forever on the internet?

Join the podcasting revolution and spread Archaeology to the public, one show at a time.


indoor research

So here I am spending another day indoors in front of my laptop. Not all archaeology is having fun in the field! Instead, I have fun doing PhD research. My research topic is how to improve public perception of the Mesolithic in Britain. I’ve been undertaking an analysis of the narratives used to portray the period by academics in learned publications and in more public-facing media. I’ve also been developing resources for teachers to use in the classroom based on using compelling narratives that will help children understand this strange and far-off period of prehistory.

Today’s work.

Item 1 – continue compiling a list of wild foods that have been eaten in Britain, and identifying which of these would have been available in the Mesolithic, and which have been found on Mesolithic sites. Why? I want to get children to see the differences between their modern foods and what their forebears had to eat, and I want them to understand what kind of diet may or may not be healthy. It’s also good for me to see how many wild plants I could now use for food myself!

Item 2 – continue my analysis of the content of 178 items covering the Mesolithic that have been published in three popular archaeology magazines since the early 1970s. Not only is this essential to see how the subject is presented to an interested public, but it also helps me learn more about the period. I’ve already come across sites I had not heard about. How about Langley’s Lane? Possible Mesolithic votive deposits on the edge of a patch of tufa.

Item 3 – read an article on ‘perspicuous meta-narratives’! In other words how archaeology should use clear  language to communicate instead of jargon. Another reference I can add to my thesis, and more words that I shall have edit down later on (already over 84,000 of the damned things!).

Item 4 – make sure I have a piece of cake. I did some baking last night and brought in cake for the postgraduate room here in York – a squidgy oatmeal cake and a chocolate buckwheat cake with blackcurrant jam in the middle.

Item 5 – if I get time, investigate flights to Göteborg in Sweden in October, and trains to København in Denmark, and then to Schleswig and The Hague as part of round trip to look at museum displays and school visits on the Mesolithic later in the year.

Item 6 – pour myself a bottle of beer at home this evening and hope I have achieved half of the above.


Closing Time


by Giuliano De Felice

Digital Archaeology Lab, Foggia University (Italy)

Archaeology is nothing without a narration: aghat’s why I spend the most of my teaching and research activities trying to figure out how to connect archaeology and communication.

Day 1, in the classroom


One day, in the classroom …

Me: “… And if today it is impossible to imagine archaeological communication –and any archaeological activity- without the support of digital technologies, the question always bouncing in my mind is: what are the terms of this growing interaction and what can we expect for archaeological communication in the future?”

Class: “Better instruments, growing precision, more integration!”

Me: “Sure, but a real evolution is not to be confused with technological development, which, as we can easily imagine, will keep on growing enormously, but rather has to be pursued experimenting new and richer integration forms which aim to make the archaeology of the future a shared, public and sustainable one”.

Class: “Ok. And then?”

Me: “The starting point is that, as a side effect of the ‘digital’ approach to archaeological communication, archaeological heritage has swiftly become a collection of finds and monuments from which to choose, case by case, the one that will most enhance the technical capabilities of computers and software”.

Class: “Yes, we see that 3D visualisation is today the principal medium of archaeological communication: the demand for multimedia products in museums and parks or other cultural institutions remains high, while the pursuit of ever more beautiful and attractive products is in full swing. Today much of the communication game of archaeology involves the creation of breath–taking reconstructions and models”.

Me: “Yes. Today everyone can produce on a laptop a kind of content that 5 years ago was reserved to mainstream productions! But the rapid and uninterrupted development of computer graphic techniques seems to be taking archaeological communication toward a strange kind of a modern (and virtual) neoclassicism: the rest of the world still considers it as an adventurous occupation, delving into ancient secrets, strange objects and mysterious monuments.

Class: “Or else a dry and dusty routine of observation and cataloguing …”

Me: “Right! 3D surveys of entire monumental complexes or ancient art objects, immersive models of famous archaeological sites, as well as high quality virtual reconstructions have drawn the attention away from that bunch of stuff you learn during your classes”.

Class: “…”.

Me: “I mean that every archaeologist perfectly knows that archaeology is not only concerned with individual finds or monuments; it deals every day with mute, dull and irrelevant fragments (of a whole that no longer exists) and seeks to squeeze them to reconstruct activities, stories, visions, cultures, of which those fragments are often the only traces. So, if the significance of an archaeological object is more complex than its material aspect and is profoundly linked to the story it conceals and yet could reveal, let’s try to narrate this story!”

Day 2-118. In lab, at home, in the train.

In the next days, I was browsing some books when I casually saw a picture of a museum display. A simple museum display containing a bunch of twenty little loom weights. And it was love at first sight. I had to tell their story!

So I started to develop a little personal project during my spare time: realizing a short computer animation movie, inspired by archaeology but linked with all day life, something that everybody could understand and, I hoped, love. That’s the story of Closing Time; someone could describe it as an attempt to find new connections between technical solutions and the expressive potentials of archaeology, investigating new languages and expressive forms … For me it’s the attempt to raise a smile from archaeology.

The creation process has been a wonderful nightmare. I had to study a lot, learning to carry out a lot of activities, and to make a long and amazing journey through from the sweet lands of preproduction, through the stormy waters of production, to the not-so-still harbour of postproduction.

I started thinking about a subject, writing down a screenplay and than drawing and painting a storyboard …


Storyboarding 1

… and animating a storyreel:

first storyreel

The storyreel

Characters begin to take shape

One of the first thing I decided to do was choosing music. This has been the most difficult and more exciting part: music helped finding the mood of the movie, imagining the duration of the scenes and setting up what I can call the rhythm of narration. Before adding music my project was totally static and boring; music is animation.

Then I drawn, modelled, skinned and animated the characters …

Modeling and skinning

Modeling and skinning

After that I built a set …

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 15.11.44

The set

…and animated every character, scene by scene. Doing, redoing, deleting, starting over, many, many times.



And then rendered. 3 weeks on 3 PCs to get the job done (5400 HD720p frames needed) …



And, at the end … postproduction. That means for instance retouching the render output to achieve a good result, but also trimming scenes with precision, adding transitions and other video editing tricks, adding sounds, foley, titles. And of course easter eggs! You cannot release a CG movie without hiding easter eggs!



Day 119, in the classroom, again.

Me: “Dear guys, please let me introduce to you the project that has been my main activity for the last 4 months. It’s my first short animation movie. 3 minutes of …”

Class: “Wait wait wait … 4 months for 3 minutes?”

Me: “Yes; but every single second is the hard outcome of struggle among creative issues, technical problems, temporary lacks of inspiration and all the things I taught during my course!”.

Class: “He’s gone mad …”

Day 120. Today.

I believe that besides any kind of innovation what is really needed to renew archaeology is the creation of writing styles and narratives that can animate the bulk of knowledge scattered throughout the knowledge domain. Apart from requiring formal perfection in visualisation, we could require digital technologies to support a narrative plot, to tell a story, to help transmit cultural messages in different ways and forms.

I started this idea of creative reuse of archaeology last year with the 4 videos called Pazzi da museo. Those videos were deliberately ironic as the result of the choice to convey a message containing what little knowledge we have, using a simple and ironic style (last year my post for DoA 2014 was dedicated to the realization of these videos, together with Matteo Toriello, a very capable digital animator). This year, Closing Time is a further step: not only because I did everything on my own, but also because there is no connection at all with archaeological knowledge; the characters could have been everything else than loom weights. The important point is that they are used as characters: they want to introduce themselves, come to life and narrate their story.

A simple story, because, in spite to common belief, only in few occasions archaeological finds are masterpieces or wonderful objects: in most cases they are common people, exactly like the rest of us.

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of NewHouse Productions and Pazzi da Museo, please welcome Closing Time!

All the other videos quoted in the paper are on Giuliano De Felice’s YouTube channel.

The Curious Loneliness of the Director of Archaeology

Have you ever seen, on TV or on the Web, videos about archaeology, leaving aside documentaries?
Probably not if you live in Italy.

Have you ever seen an archaeologist recording with a camera?
Probably not if you live in Italy.

I’m an Italian archaeologist and when I don’t dig I edit videos recorded during the excavation (when I’m too tired for studying…).
I’m also a video-narration/storytelling enthusiast, and these two interests mixed together led me to produce footage like this, a docudrama that performs the 2011 excavation season in the Roman site of Vignale (Italy).

My archaeological life so far has been a mix of university studies, excavations and recording videos. But communicating fieldwork is my favorite activity and I like to do it via video, especially referring to the point of view of the archaeologists, translated in a story using the genre of docudrama. Putting together images and sounds/voices, in my opinion video is the best medium for telling histories of archaeology, from the most famous to the worst preserved site. I think video can become a fundamental way of communication and involvement, raising public awareness of archaeological fieldwork.
This summer seems to be not so different from the others, even if more satisfactory until now. In June, Giuliano De Felice and I won the first Italian video contest about archaeology, organized by Mappa Project, with this short video about Open Access in archaeology (not subtitled yet). It has been absolutely terrific winning this contest with a dialogue instead of the usual 3D models or documentary.

Later on, I’ve started a new column about video-narration in archaeology on “Archeologia tardoantica e medievale a Siena” Facebook page. Every week I review one or two videos from all over the world that are characterized by a special care about narration; from this derives the name of the column “Making archaeology as a movie“.

Today archaeology covers a wide variety of works and specialisms. Video-communication is not among the most popular at all and sometimes I feel I’m doing it for myself and a few other people (and always gratis!). But this doesn’t mean that is less important and less necessary. It’s part of the archaeological process and I’m going on doing it, trying to achieve a better and more involving communication of the fieldwork.

recording in vignale

I will spend my Day of Archaeology 2013 at home, editing videos but most of all studying boring books. Therefore I’m impatiently waiting for the new excavation season in Vignale, next September, when I can experience something new about video during fieldwork and resume the dig. This is definitely my favorite way for celebrating a great Day of Archaeology.

29th: A sunny summer day in Portugal.

At this time of the year there’s plenty of digs going on; it’s the time of school vacations, and many projects re-start their yearly digs. There’s also good weather for construction, so more archaeological sites appear throughout the country!
Well, I believe there’s a lot to be said about the days of doing Archaeology here in Portugal.
You may think not, since no one else here seems to be sharing what they did on the 29th…
And maybe that’s the biggest indicator, and one of my biggest fears concerning the state of our archaeological science: the lack of outreach. With so many reasons that can be found to justify the un-development of our heritage resources, is any justification valid enough to not do all we can to make it accessible?
It’s not an easy situation. And the current crisis will not help it get better in the near future. The good news is that slowly we are becoming more pro-active, creating more activities, communicating more, and in time ( and if our heritage survives well until then), we will have great sites telling great stories, giving visitors and communities a great experience and opportunity to reconnect with their past, and to evaluate their present and inspire their future with it.

As an archaeologist, I long for the field work, but these days I rarely go digging. Unfortunately, field work here means mostly going to a construction site somewhere and do “emergency archaeology”. Then most of those sites go back to oblivion, some are destroyed, and the reports and materials are all that is left for someday someone to read.
I still feel tormented by the fact that, after you dig a site, and discover so much about it, that information is going to only a few people, and most of the sites are left to be destroyed or abandoned.
So these days I work mostly at heritage management and science communication.
Hence, for me, the 29th was passed half in the office, answering e-mails and preparing some activities for children, and the other half at a national news agency preparing articles about science.
Maybe nothing particularly archaeologically special or surprising happened in front of me that day, but still, those are the small efforts and steps that archaeologists also have to take in order to make their science and activity reach further, to help spread the passion we have for what we do so that more people see the importance that our past has in our present and future.

Leonor Medeiros