Over the years many people have asked me about the advisability of studying archaeology. Sometimes it is those who look to develop a career in it. Sometimes it is parents who are worried that their child has apparently decided to pursue a career in some fringe subject. Occasionally it is someone who wants to find out more about their long-term interest.
When I studied archaeology, it was a very different topic. We learnt about cultural change through the examination of specific artefact and monument types, often assuming that the pieces that we found were finished and perfect.
There is no shortage of television coverage of ‘big-name’ sites like Stonehenge. As I write I am still digesting the ‘new’ revelations of last week’s programme on Channel Five which presented a detailed breakdown of research on the big pits surrounding Durrington Walls.
Archaeologists like to pigeonhole things. It helps us to categorize and interpret the data we find. But life does not always conform to quite such clearly defined ways. We have to be careful that our organizational need for boundaries does not
Mesolithic Deeside are a voluntary community archaeology group who walk the ploughed fields along the middle reaches of the River Dee around Banchory in order to record the prehistoric archaeology by collecting worked stone from the surface of the field. In the three years from 2017 – 2019 their work resulted in the recovery of over 11,000 lithics representing at least 15 archaeological sites dating from around 12,000 BC to c.2,000 BC. Their work is exciting because it is shedding light on a period of Scottish archaeology about which very little is yet known: the Late Upper Palaeolithic right at the end of the last Ice Age. It also provides an unparalleled glimpse of the extent of human activity along the river.
I’m interested by the way in which so many of our current anxieties relate to mobility. As I write there are fuel shortages at garage forecourts, supermarket shelves are beginning to look a little depleted, managers are concerned about the flow of goods for Christmas, and problems with the harvesting of foodstuffs have been
The world of archaeology in the United Kingdom has been rocked this year by the announced closure of various university archaeology departments; some well publicised, some sneaking through with nary a comment. I felt a blog coming on about the loss of opportunity to put the past in perspective and consider the depth it provides to British society today. You do not have to take up a career in archaeology for a degree in the subject to be worthwhile. But then I was sidetracked by some rather ill-informed words in the Spectator about immigration and ‘the country’s original inhabitants’.
I’ve been enjoying some time with others, exploring the archaeological sites of Orkney. I always appreciate the variety of monuments here. There are sites relating to all the major periods of prehistory and history and it is a great opportunity to discuss not only the developing course of human society and lifestyles through time, but also the ways in which archaeologists untangle and analyse data. There are locations that lend themselves to a discussion of the traditional world of archaeology into which I was educated, and sites where it is possible to think about the myriad of forensic applications that can now be used to add a wealth of data to the pot. Archaeological interpretations have become so intimate and detailed that I sometimes think there is little privacy left for those who once inhabited an area once an archaeological research team has set their sights on it.