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Today’s post

October 17, 2014

was going to be a review of Time’s Anvil but due to unforseen circumstances (I haven’t finished reading it) and forseen ones – I’m on my way to London to see this – there’s going to be a delay. Hopefully I’ll be back after the weekend with an erudite and comprehensive review.

Have a great weekend, even if yours is free of lego


Changes* and a HARN Conference

October 9, 2014

We (as in ‘we the HARN administrators’ not ‘we, as in me but I feel ‘we’ sounds better’) have been planning some changes ever since we had the results of our survey back in January, they’re not major changes but hopefully they’ll lively up the place somewhat.

First and foremost, the inestimable Jonathan Trigg has offered to compile a HARN bibliography. All our publications in one place! Sounds like an excellent scheme to me. I have no idea how he intends to do this but I’m sure you’ll be assisting by sending him an email detailing past and forthcoming publications. Address it to and put bibliography in the subject line, or use the form on the contact page.

Allied to that we’re intending to compile, and publish on the blog, an index of people’s research interests and list the relevant HARN members under each heading. Hopefully this will make it much easier for everyone to find their interest group and contact each other about relevant matters. I’ll be doing that over the coming months and do get in touch if you’d like to add more detail than is present in the brief biography we each have.

We have been intending to update the HARN Conferences and Workshops page like, for evah! Ulf, who, like Jonathan, obviously needs less sleep than the rest of us, is going to be working on adding past HARN events adding programmes, abstracts, lists of participants and the like. If you’ve taken part in any HARN event then do email him with your information. Oh golly! I guess we should do the AGMs too – any volunteers for that?

I still like the idea of having regular book and article reviews and reviews of conferences and workshops, if you’re interested in writing a review, or if you’d like to get more involved with running HARN you’d be more than welcome. If you’re unsure what’s needed then do have a look at this post and this one, or email us with your own suggestions for how we can improve HARN.

And, finally – one of the main points raised by the survey and individual members is that they would like a specific HARN conference. One idea we’ve had is to organise something in Glasgow either immediately before or after the 2015 EAA meeting – on the grounds that many international HARN members will be attending the EAA. Does the timing and location sound like a good idea to you? Would you be interested in participating in such a conference – either giving a paper or as an audience –  and if so what themes would you like to see covered? Obviously this will take a tremendous amount of planning, fundraising, organising etc so again we’re asking for volunteers to help with this.

Get in touch! We really do want to hear from you with suggestions, criticisms, ideas to improve HARN, offers of help – we would love offers of help!

Have a great weekend


*It was inevitable my brain would get to Bowie eventually

Edit-on dudes: #ClassicsWomen are into Wikipedia

October 6, 2014

Originally posted on The word muses:


Editathon participants.

This week, after a lot of planning and persuading people to get involved, I ran a Wikipedia editathon to create and improve the pages of women who have been important to classics disciplines. (And I mean disciplines – philology, archaeology, history, ancient theatre, epigraphy, numismatics – the list goes on.)

The idea came about after I went to a conference about over a dozen women in modern history who have made astounding contributions to classics – but who I’d never heard of! Even though I unknowingly am influenced by their work pretty much every day I study.

Astonishingly, I realised that it is not a last-century development that women have been grappling with the thorniest problems of translation, publishing, teaching, engaging in classics scholarship at the highest levels – even gaining public recognition for this – but that women have been doing this throughout the modern period. So…

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I’m Back!

October 3, 2014

Unfortunately in my head the words ‘I’m back’ are immediately followed by ‘back in the New York groove‘. I often think if my brain retained fewer snippets of music and more useful information I would be a happier woman and this blog would be a better place or at least a more obviously archaeological place to visit. It would help if I could link glam rock to the history of archaeology by telling you that the band Hello met while they were archaeology undergraduates at UCL*, or that Ace Frehley had invested his earnings from Kiss in the Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Lab**. Instead I’m left wondering why my brain has the information that Kiss covered the song when I have never knowingly learned anything about Kiss***. But then why can I remember a not very good song from 1974 rather than where I’ve left my British Library card? Or, why can I remember a chapter/article being called ‘To See is to Have Seen’ but can’t remember who wrote it or even what it’s about? And given that all I have is the title why can I not get it out of my head? If anyone has any answers to any of these questions I’d love to hear them, especially if you’ve read ‘To See is to Have Seen’ and can remind me what it’s about.

So, as you can see by that incoherent waffle of an introduction, I’m back. Thanks are due to Kate for filling in and writing cogent, interesting and lucid posts. Sadly she’s busy with other matters – the HARN newsletter, HARN emails, her own blog – so we’re stuck with me again. I do have some sensible posts in mind, if anyone could fill me in on how the EAA went in Istanbul I’d be very grateful, plus we need to start thinking about Glasgow 2015. The themes have been put up on-line and this one looks exactly like the sort of material HARN members can supply. The deadline for session and round table proposals is midnight on the 31st of October and the form for submissions can be found here. I’ll be posting again about the EAA and a possible HARN conference beforehand in the near future.

I’ve also got in mind a book review, I am an avid reader of popular archaeology books, mainly from the first half of the twentieth century but I do try and keep in touch with what’s currently being published. I’ve been reading Richard Morris’ Time’s Anvil: England Archaeology and the Imagination and will hopefully soon be ready to write a review. It’s had rave reviews, I’m not so sure, but I haven’t finished it so maybe I’ll become a convert. If you’ve read it and would like to share your thoughts then please email me or write in the comments below.

I have another post about archaeology and art, partly following on from Kate’s which in turn followed on from mine. However, it’s not getting too self-referential over here in HARN Towers because my thoughts are going sideways into archaeology as an art, a craft or a science, I’m thinking about what it is we think we’re doing and how, if at all, this has changed over the last century. Allied to that, I’ve been questioning whether our increasing use of technology is shifting us too far away from experiencing the visceral past, or is this simply romanticised luddism? If I ever work it out I’ll post my thoughts.

And finally, we haven’t given up on the idea of Member of the Month. I know I promised you we’d begin with Sam Hardy in September, but he’s been rather busy, I have high hopes of persuading him to write something for us in October.

All of which may not be as coherent as I’d like but should have nothing to do with glam rock, I can’t guarantee there won’t be references to other music genres or whatever else floats through my brain, but this should be the last time I mention the music and make up of the 1970s.

Have a great weekend,


*They didn’t.

** He hasn’t.

*** However, I did go to the cinema to see the Kiss movie, it was as bad, if not worse, than you’re imagining. What can I say? I was very young, I lived in a small rural town, I’m sorry.

Must I paint you a picture? Part 2

September 25, 2014

Back in July, Julia posted on the HARN blog about archaeology in art.  At the end, she mentioned cryptically that a post about archaeologists as artists was another post entirely.  This is sort of an answer to that call.  As many of us know, many archaeologists at the turn of the century and later had to be competent artists in order to record finds, copy art on ruins, map sites, and more (see HARN member Sara Perry’s blog about imaging in archaeology, proving it’s still a critical skill).  In my work on Margaret Murray, it should come as no surprise that she herself had some art training when she was younger, and she put it into practice as an archaeologist.

When Murray was growing up in India, she and her sister had a number of visiting European teachers, one of whom, as Murray recalled, was a drawing teacher.  She wrote that “Monsieur Augier…made me understand that in drawing and painting you must put down on your paper or canvas what you actually see and not what you think you see” (Murray, My First Hundred Years, 72).  In Murray’s estimation, her sister Mary was a much better artist than she, but Mary didn’t really use her talents the way Murray would have liked.  Instead, Murray used her drawing and copying talents when she arrived at UCL in 1894.  She began working with Petrie, who found Murray to be a competent and hard-working copyist.  He began to trust her explicitly to do his copies for publications.  She finally put her talent to work in the field in 1904 and 1905, with trips to Abydos and Saqqara, respectively.  She found and wrote about the Osireion at Abydos (Murray, 1904); and at Saqqara her job was to copy a number of mastaba tombs to correct any mistakes Mariette had made years earlier with his copies.  Spoiler alert: as Petrie’s student, she of course found plenty of mistakes and told readers all about them while beautifully recreating the correct copies (see Murray, Saqqara Mastabas Part I and Gurob, 1905).  She continued this practice training her students, such as Myrtle Broome who later worked with Amice Mary Calverly at Abydos in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  See this article on the EES website for more information on the daunting work the two undertook, and how their recreations are the best record we have of that tomb.

Later on, however, Murray began painting for fun.  During the First World War, Murray began her sojourn into the study of witchcraft and folklore (See Oates and Wood for a discussion of this).  In doing so, she studied spells, stories, practical magic, and more.  While doing research for her biography, I ran across a watercolor of hers in the UCL archives:

Murray's watercolor recreation of image of Puck Fair

Murray’s watercolor recreation of image of Puck Fair, Killorglin, Ireland (1952/3)

She painted the above–the original is in a bank box somewhere–from a postcard:

Postcard of the Puck Fair, Killorglin

Postcard of the Puck Fair, Killorglin, Ireland

She believed that this Fair was a survival of the worship of the Horned God in England (see Murray, The God of the Witches, Chapter 1).  She repainted it not only because of her interest and work in the worship survivals, but also because she wanted to practice her copying talent.  Her trip to the fair was in September 1952, and she hadn’t been out in the field (in Egypt) since 1905.  The last time she had been in the field archaeologically was in Malta in the 1930s, so she was likely itching to practice.

Her watercolor is a beautiful recreation of the scene at Puck Fair, in which the community is honoring a male goat, probably for a good harvest and male fertility.  See the Puck Fair website for more information on the history and practice of this fair.  The painting honors Ireland’s oldest fair, and one of the oldest surviving versions of the fertility god, or the Horned God.  While her particular recreation is not absolutely necessary in the age of higher quality images of the 1950s and 1960s, it is indeed a testament to her talent in this field.

For more about Murray in general, you can see my biography of her: The Life of Margaret Alice Murray: A Woman’s Work in Archaeology (2013).  This really isn’t just a shameless plug–there’s a lot of good stuff in the book, with a full list of references in the back if you’re looking for something particular about Murray.

I know that there are a number of other archaeologists who were good artists.  For example, Winifred Brunton painted portraits of Petrie and of Murray that both hang in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.  Who else?



September 17, 2014

(Apologies in advance for the stream-of-consciousness that follows.  Thoughts are flowing thanks to a project I’m working on.)

Many of us, as historians of archaeology, have various points of interest but we usually tend to narrow down our fields into time periods, practical field methods, areas of study, institutions, collections, people, and more.  I, for example, am interested in British Egyptology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  There are loads of characters in that period and field.

Don't these guys look like a barrel of laughs? (Image from

Don’t these guys look like a barrel of laughs? (Image from

No, really.  As I read through the biographies of many of these people–men and women alike–their lives really are full of adventure (unlike Margaret Murray famously claimed).  Amelia Edwards decided to escape rainy Europe and found herself taking a journey up the Nile River, pretty much on a whim.  The Petrie camp was shot at during the 1904-05 season.  Visitors and tourists came to sites and caused all kinds of trouble for archaeologists.  Howard Carter constantly complained about the demands of tourists and the Department of Antiquities after he found King Tut’s tomb.  He even caused a huge uproar by closing the tomb until everyone left him alone (it didn’t work…).

I’m working on a project right now of monologues of female scientists for a possible play that might be done at my university.  I’ve been tasked with choosing some women, learning about their lives, and coming up with some good stories to dramatize on stage.  I’m finding myself making lists of all the amazing things these women have done, both personally and professionally.  But, I also find myself thinking about the problem of biography and autobiography–unlike our lives, the stories of our lives are constructed.  They are made to seem like a unified whole, when really, they are a bunch of strands that may or may not intersect with other parts of our lives.  This makes writing monologues for these women very difficult.

Many of them were “firsts”: first woman to earn a degree in a subject, first woman to be on this or that field site, first woman to publish a book about a certain topic, and more.  Do those firsts matter?  Well, yes.  But do the firsts, in and of themselves, make that woman important enough to include in the drama?  Maybe not.  So, what is important enough to include?

I’m finding myself wondering if I would have the same trouble if I had to choose men and their stories.  Is it just that men were more in the field and less in the classroom or museum that makes their stories more adventurous from the start?  There were plenty of amazing women in the field (see Trowelblazers), that much we know.  These women did a lot of important things both in the field and out of it.  I suppose my main question is: how do we choose what to include in short biographies of people who had long, productive, and sometimes very adventurous careers?  Any advice would be welcome!  What do you do?  How do you choose?


Conference Season

September 10, 2014

It’s autumn!  Well, it’s turning autumn here in the middle of the Midwestern US tomorrow, supposedly.  That means: cooler weather, leaves changing, wearing jackets, and fewer bugs.  It also means conference time is quickly approaching all of us in and out of academia. 

Sure, there are conferences year-round and all over the planet, but the autumn is the time when summer prep of papers and projects are presented to hotel ballrooms full of eager listeners who will not fall asleep, but will ask excellent and insightful questions to help you further direct your already amazing research.  Or, it’s the time you get to rush to finish that paper and hope that more than 10 people show up to hear the nervously delivered theory about post-processualism that you aren’t sure of in the first place.  Then, the room is full of crickets and silence, until one person raises their hand to tell you what they know about their own topic and then ask you what you think about what they know.  (“Yes, thank you for that comment…”)

Ahem, yes, a question in the back?  Please?

Ahem, yes, a question in the back? Please?

Actually, in reality, it will likely be a mix of both.  We all have projects we are working on in various stages of completion, and in need of various comments, questions, helps along the way. 

Here I am presenting a partial list of the many conferences happening all over Europe and the US this autumn and next spring.  Are you presenting at one of these?  Let us know about your paper!  Send us your abstract so we can include it on the website.  Help us get some HARN people together for a meet-up or drinks.  Also, see below for possible CFP and put together a panel with other HARN members so HARN can sponsor your panel (see links to the left and above for finding other members).  Did we miss any?  Post them in the comments or email us at with information and we’ll post it!

EAA: European Association of Archaeologists, Istanbul, Turkey.  10-14 September 2014.  It starts today, so if you didn’t have plans to go you may be out of luck.  But here’s the program, and watch for next year’s CFP for Glasgow.

TAG: Theoretical Archaeology Group.  There are a few regional TAG groups–TAG (UK), Nordic TAG, and North American TAG.  All have their own conferences.  TAG Manchester is coming up in December! Nordic TAG took place in April 2014, but will be in Copenhagen in 2015.  North American TAG will be in May, 2015 in New York. 

SAA: Society for American Archaeology.  The 2015 Conference will be in San Francisco, CA in April. 

HSS: History of Science Society. The 2014 Conference is in Chicago, IL in November.  The 2015 Conference will be in November in San Francisco, CA.  There is no link for 2015 yet, but stay on the HSS page for CFP.

BSHS: British Society for the History of Science. The 2014 Conference was held at St. Andrews, but 2015 will be at Swansea. 

AIA: Archaeological Institute of America.  The 2015 Conference will be in New Orleans, LA, jointly held with the Society for Classical Studies (SCS). 

Most of these are larger conferences that allow for a number of different disciplines to participate.  There are many, many more small conferences available.  We don’t have the space to list them all here.  If you’re presenting at one, or many, let us know! We would like to get larger HARN contingents at many of these larger conferences by sponsoring panels in 2015.  If you’re interested in organizing a panel or being on one, please let us know ( 

Search around the sites given above for other conference notices.  There’s a lot of great scholarship happening among us and our colleagues and we really want to know more about it.  We are a network of scholars and need to work together!  Put together panels, meet other members, speak with other scholars who know more about other things.  Where is everyone going this autumn?  What are you presenting?



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