community

A Highland view from Edinburgh

Like a number of other archaeologists, I haven’t been working within archaeology for a some months now. I was fortunate that following finishing my degree studies, I was working continuously – in some form or another – right up until Christmas last year. Since then I’ve been seeking gainful employment outside the archaeological world always with the hope of getting back into it. Jobs have been applied for, interviews taken, rejections accepted… Still, I’m a determined individual and accept that while it may take some time, I will be employed within archaeology again. I believe that with enough time, effort and blind faith, my determination will pay off. Though it may worth asking me in a year’s time if I still see this the same way…

So, this ‘day in the life of’ will be slightly different as I’m not – strictly speaking – an archaeologist, merely someone who wishes to be one (again). I live in Edinburgh, Scotland and in many respects it is a fantastic place to be situated as an archaeologist. There is an abundance of commercial units, government agencies and fantastic museums all of which provide great opportunities and resources for interested parties of all kinds – whether students, professionals or others. Indeed, it’s these ‘others’ that I’m interested in as an archaeologist. I see archaeology as a discipline breaking down into 3 basic (and, yes, exceptionally generalised) categories: academic, commercial and public. Now, I don’t really agree that there should be a separate branch of archaeology called ‘public’. I think that all archaeology should be public. This is an attitude that not everyone agrees with and an attitude that is very difficult to fulfil within the commercial and academic sectors. Happily, however, the importance of public archaeology is increasingly being realised and evermore funding and resources being given towards it. For anyone reading not immediately familiar with what ‘public archaeology’ means, it is a democratic approach to studying our past: ensuring the transparency, accessibility and opening up of archaeology to everyone. Community involvement and support is absolutely critical to this.

My own interest stemmed partly from what I was learning at university and my frustrations with hitting a brick wall of grey literature at seemingly every turn, and partly the fieldwork I undertook as part of my degree studies. I consciously chose sites that were varied, working with a wide variety of individuals and an equally as wide variety of subject matters. While I didn’t realise it at the time, my interests were drawn towards projects where there was a degree of community involvement and within cultural landscapes with which I identified (silly me thinking it’d be just the archaeology drawing me to a place!). These landscapes are the Scottish Highlands, or more specifically the Gaidhealtachd – the Gaelic-speaking Highlands. As a native Gaelic-speaker myself and having been brought up in the Highlands perhaps somewhat inevitably a significant part of my fieldwork experience has been in this area.

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SAA at Garfield Park, Washington, DC

 The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) is participating in the Day of Archaeology 2011 festival at Garfield Park in Washington, DC.  Today I’m preparing materials to distribute to kids, families, teachers, and anyone else who drops by.   We’ll also have some hands-on archaeology activities at the booth. The festival is sponsored by Archaeology in the Community--a network of archaeologists, anthropologists, teachers, and volunteers working together to make archaeology accessible to youth, schools, and community organizations though creative programs and community projects. Look for additional posts about the festival from organizer Alexandra Jones.

 

 

 

 

Historic graveyards and community archaeology in Ireland

wrapped Monaghan headstone

Low impact headstone rubbing from Kileevan, Co. Monaghan, Ireland

A colleague of ours spent years recording the archaeology of an island off the west coast of Ireland. In the last few weeks of the project the team commenced the survey of the islands’ historic graveyard.

‘Finally,’ his neighbours said jokingly ‘ you are doing something useful around here’.

 

We know, as archaeologists, the value of our surveys, excavations and publications (http://eachtra.ie/index.php/journal/) but that value is not always apparent to the general public. We have found that community-based historic graveyard surveys (http://www.historicgraves.ie/blog) are a great way to introduce members of the public to our methods and to our ways of thinking and looking at the world.

 

In the course of this Day of Archaeology we hope to touch on the application of archaeological methods to historic graveyard surveys and to also present the sights and sounds of the Irish landscape.