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Explorers’ Club 50

May 12, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

Join us in congratulating HARN administrator Alicia Colson in being
recognised as one of the Explorers Club 50. The award recognises her
contribution to the furtherance of knowledge and exploration in an area
which is less well studied than others. The award highlights her study of
pictographs in collaboration with First Nation Elders in northwestern
Ontario, Canada. Alicia has also been involved in fieldwork in Namibia,
and Iceland, and has recently published ‘From Banishment to Cool’ an
ESRI-StoryMap of the Archipelago of Santa Catarina, Brazil
( She plans to visit the Canadian Subarctic
English River area. You can read about her achievement, and those of her
fellow 49 nominees, here:

Best wishes,

Jonty, Monica and Kemal

Beyond Notability

February 6, 2022

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Beyond Notability is a new project which looks to investigate the participation of women in archaeology, history, heritage and the wider intellectual networks of Britain from the 1870s-1950s. Co-ordinated by Katherine Harloe, James Baker and HARN stalwart Amara Thornton, the aim is to produce new understandings of the contribution of women to knowledge of the past, as revealed by the archives of the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Royal Archaeological Institute.  Please feel free to have a look at their database,  introduced in this blog post:, and their email is  More on the project can be found on their website here:  Beyond Notability – Re-evaluating Women’s Work in Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Britain, 1870 – 1950

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Trigg and the HARN Administrators

Book Review

December 22, 2021

Dear HARNers,

We are very happy to be able to send you, just in time for Christmas, what looks like an excellent volume! Remember, please feel free to get in touch with us if you have any recommendations for book reviews, or indeed anything else that you would like to publicise, publish or propogate through our blog!

Very happy holidays,

Jonty Trigg

Book Review: ‘Olga Tufnell’s ‘Perfect Journey’: Letters and Photographs of an Archaeologist in the Levant and Mediterranean. Edited and Introduced by John D. M. Green and Ros Henry’. 

London: UCL Press, 2021, 416pp (ISBN 978-1-78735-905-5. RRP: HB £50, PB £30, OA Download £0)

Anna Garnett

Our understanding of early scientific excavations, and our knowledge of those who worked on them, would be significantly poorer without archaeological archives. This volume presents the story of the archaeologist Olga Tufnell (1905–1985) through her rich personal archive, showing the endless potential of this material. These documents, including letters, notes, doodles, and photographs, are drawn largely from the Palestine Exploration Fund archives and shed light on the lives, and work, of key characters in the late 19th and early 20th century archaeological world. 

While her story has not been recognised as prominently as those of other early 20th century female archaeologists, Tufnell had a significant impact on the field and helped to make archaeology a better place for women to work. Born into privilege in Great Waltham, Essex, with little formal education, Tufnell’s family connections with Flinders and Hilda Petrie set her up as the Assistant Secretary to the British School of Archaeology in Egypt in 1922. As part of this role, Tufnell helped the Petries with their annual exhibitions, gaining first-hand experience of archaeological finds. When Flinders Petrie sought a team to complete his work copying reliefs at the site of Qau el-Kebir in Egypt in 1927, and then move on afterwards to join his main expedition in Palestine at Tell Farah, he recruited Tufnell to this task which ignited her long archaeological career. 

Over many years, Tufnell worked across sites in Egypt, Cyprus, and particularly Palestine, where she worked during the British Mandate Period following the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Despite seeing herself as an amateur archaeologist—describing the way she picked up techniques as she went along as ‘the blind leading the blind’—Tufnell became a significant contributor to the field and achieved the professional archaeological standards of the day. Tufnell was a prolific letter writer during her excavation seasons, and she kept her family properly informed of the details of her experiences: from encounters with local people, to the technical details of the archaeological sites, to the folk traditions she observed during her travels. 

The chapters of the book focus on letters written from the different sites where Tufnell worked, beginning with Qau el-Kebir and ending with her time at Tell ed-Duweir (ancient Lachish) during 1936–38. Tufnell’s social and professional networks included archaeologists, colonial officials, and academics, and her letters hold great potential for a future detailed biographical study of connections in these countries during this period. Her letters also indicate the many nationalities and different occupations of the people she travelled alongside, which will be of interest to those studying the history of tourism in this region during the 1920s and 1930s: the ‘new mobility era’ during the inter-war period.  

Tufnell describes her trips as a ‘perfect journey’ on several occasions in her letters, clearly indicating her enthusiasm for her work; an approach which must have left a positive impression on those around her (and continues to do so for the reader today). In his reminiscences of working with Tufnell at Nimrud in 1955, Robert Hamilton describes these qualities: 

‘Olga is an admirable woman, very unselfish and kind; rather solemn about potsherds and archaeology, but quite ready to laugh at other things, and always being as nice as possible to everyone, including the horrid little cat we had for a time…’ 

This volume is beautifully illustrated with colour and greyscale images and line drawings, and each chapter provides relevant bibliography for further reading. Biographical and place indexes will also undoubtedly prove vital to the reader, as will the detailed list of principal persons at the start of the book. Importantly, this volume is also freely available through Open Access which is very welcome. The rich detail and personal reflections in these letters provide crucial insight into one of the most important periods in the history of archaeology, which will be of equal interest to scholarly readers, students, and to those with a general interest in this subject. 

Cabinet of Natural History

November 29, 2021

The following comes from Pamela Jane Smith, one of our founder members:

  This term’s last Cabinet of Natural History seminar will take place
on Monday, November 29th at 1pm on Zoom [1]. Elizabeth Yale (University
of Iowa) will present:

  Tender Curiosities: Natural History and Gendered Knowledge-Craft at
Country Houses, Counting Houses, and Royal African Company Factories

  In Britain in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, households
were key sites for developing scientific, medical, and other forms of
learned knowledge. At the same time, Britons collected natural
historical and medical know-how—and materials—as part of the
trans-Atlantic trade in spices, sugar, luxury goods, and enslaved West
African laborers. Yet how were households connected to Royal African
Company ships, merchants’ offices, and coastal African slave factories
in networks of knowledge and mercantile profit? One way, I argue, is
through women’s paper keeping activities. In learned households, women
recorded experimental results and observations; managed correspondence;
archived and preserved papers; translated scientific texts; took and
maintained reading notes; and edited, authenticated, and published
scientific books. They generated records that transited between
households and public institutions, between learned, medical, and
mercantile users, accruing different kinds of value in different hands.
In reading these records closely, we see how early modern Britons—both
men and women—sought out and built on West African and indigenous
Caribbean botanical and medical knowledge even while erasing enslaved
and free Africans and indigenous people as knowers.

 Join us on Zoom

  Meeting ID: 945 8974 0426
  Passcode: 115508


September 26, 2021

For some reason, the illustrations for Tim’s post were not copied into the post I just sent. Here is the Punch cartoon, and the 1891 self portrait. Blame the administrator (JT) not the blogger!! Or think of it as two posts for one.

Lord Avebury

September 26, 2021

Dear HARN members,

Professor Tim Murray has been kind enough to supply a blog post about John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury. We are sure that you will enjoy it – I know I did!

Unexpected Connections: Sir John Lubbock  and Linley Sanborne*

I am sure that many readers of and contributors to HARN have experienced the great pleasure  of hunting historical rabbits down holes, and then discovering yet more additions to the long list of ‘truths being stranger than fiction’.

This blog very briefly recounts the outcomes of one current hunt, well really the outcomes of a very long-standing inquiry into the activities of Sir John Lubbock (afterwards Lord Avebury), that has more recently expanded to include the work of Victoria cartoonist Linley Sanbourne, and even more recently the legacy of the late Lord Snowdon (previously Tony Armstrong-Jones), who was Sanbourne’s great grandson. I have already written in Antiquity about the connection between Lubbock and the illustrator Ernest Griset as an example of new strategies for communicating the importance of research into deep human history. This brief exposition of  the Lubbock/Sanborne connection  considers aspects of Lubbock’s celebrity in Victorian England.

In March 2015 my colleague Penny Crook wrote to me  from London enthusing about the  house museum at 18 Stafford Terrace in Kensington, known as the Linley Sanborne House. There was much to celebtrate with its rich décor of William Morris wallpapers, displays of not particularly high quality Chinese porcelains, and a strikingly consistent display of the very cluttered materiality of late 19th century Victorian aestheticism. Given her research interests,  Penny’s focus was on the material culture of the house rather than on the life of its most famous occupant. Some years later I was able to find the time to visit the house museum myself and draw the connection between the cartoonist who drew Lubbock as a bee, and 18 Stafford Terrace.

The Lubbock Cartoon

Sir John Lubbock. Punch’s Fancy Portraits No. 97

Between 1880 and 1889, cartoonist Linley Sanbourne contributed almost 200 cartoons of contemporary celebrities to the London magazine Punch, in a format titled ‘Fancy Portraits’. Sanbourne’s work in this context encompassed many of the important soldiers, artists, scientists, politicians of Victorian society (such as Matthew Arnold, Tennyson and  Sir Joseph Bazalgette) , along with some international celebrities (such as the Empress of Austria, Phineas T. Barnum,  Sarah Bernhardt and – memorably – Cecil Rhodes).

These images were in pen and ink and often linked with some silly or ironic captions. The Lubbock image celebrates his work as a banker as well as his great skill as an entomologist. Readers will be aware of the extensive literature discussing the many elements of Lubbock’s working life as a Victorian intellectual -spanning politics, banking, social reform, archaeology, anthropology and of course entomology. Sanbourne (and others) were particularly impressed by Lubbock’s industry (like the bee) and his commitment to the value of ‘well spent leisure’ in socially responsible ways. Of course, given Sanbourne’s somewhat ‘exotic’ personal life, there is possibly just a bit of irony  in all of this!  I have not yet been able to locate any evidence of Lubbock’s response to this pretty gentle mischief.

Edward Linley Sanborne

1891  self-portrait

Edward Linley Sanbourne (1844-1910) was a middle class Londoner, most famous for his long-running association with the London satirical magazine Punch. Sanbourne  worked there as a cartoonist and illustrator from the late 1860s until his death. As was common at the time Sanbourne took private commissions as an illustrator, especially for books, magazine covers, and advertisements. While never rich, Sanbourne and his family lived comfortably in Kensington I think largely due to the wealth of his wife Marion. He purchased 18 Stafford Terrace in 1875 and lived with his family  there until his death.  A visit to the house includes a short video presentation by the late Lord  Snowdon.

Sanbourne was a collector as well as an artist but, unlike many of his friends,  his financial circumstances prohibited him from purchasing high quality Chinese porcelains and other ceramic items. Nonetheless 18 Stafford Terrace contains a cornucopia the key elements  of late Victorian décor. All of this is interesting in its own terms, but a visit to the house allows us to get a bit closer to the more ‘hidden’ aspects of Sanbourne’s life – especially his interest in photography. From the mid 1880s Sanbourne began to embrace photography as an aide to his work as an illustrator. All well and good, but things seem to have gone a bit further than that. The guides at 18 Stafford Terrace have many stories to tell about Sanbourne’s habit of taking photographs of women, and some of the local schoolgirls,  in the street, using a camera that focused at right angles to where it was pointed! Its very hard to explain the need for such a device other than it facilitating his voyeurism. Nonetheless his street scenes provide a fascinating insight into Edwardian fashion (and hairstyles). Of course all of this is a mere sideshow to the exhibition of some of his MANY images of naked women which are hung in the house. It is understood that Sanbourne  took these while his wife was out of the house. Presumably she was also unaware of  this aspect of his interest in photography. If nothing else the sometimes highly explicit images  prompt yet more discussions of the sexual mores of late Victorian Britain!

This discussion of the Sanborne House leads me to share the experience of a recent ‘virtual’ visit to a new house museum in Cambridge, which dates from much the same period as 18 Stafford Terrace.

The David Parr House

This marvellous evocation of the interior décor created in the  Arts and Crafts style was the work of the decorative David Parr, who bought  186 Gwydir Street, Cambridge in 1886. Unlike Sanbourne, Parr was a very highly skilled tradesman who worked for the local firm F R Leach & Sons. The Colleges (and associated churches and ecclesiastical buildings)  provided a great deal of work for Parr who was able to execute the designs of major figures such as William Morris across Cambridge. Unlike Sanbourne, Parr did his own work at Gwydir Street, and there is at least the possibility that he was able to ‘repurpose’ some of the materials from the ‘day’ jobs to decorate his own abode.

Over next 40 years Parr transformed the interior of an unexceptional house into a jewel of Arts and Crafts décor. It is to our great benefit that Parr’s family kept the interiors intact and the house can be visited today. Due to Covid restrictions the house has been locked down, but but virtual tours are available: Earlier this year I took one and I can thoroughly recommend it.

* The spelling of our cartoonist’s name varies between Sanbourne and Sambourne. They are the same person!

Some useful references

A good general summary of  the range of Lubbock’s activities is:

J.F.M. Clark 2014 John Lubbock, science, and the liberal intellectual.

Notes Rec R Soc Lond.Mar 20; 68(1): 65–87.  Published online 2013 Dec 11. doi: 10.1098/rsnr.2013.0068

An excellent catalogue of Sanbourne’s work for Punch is housed by the University of Heidelberg at the following (very long) URL:

Nicholson, Shirley 1998. A Victorian Household: Based on the Diaries of  Marion Sambourne. Sutton Publishing.ISBN  978-0750918268

Ormond, Leonee 2010. Linley Sanborne: Illustrator and punch cartoonist. Paul Holberton. ISBN 978-1-907372-03-2

Adventures in Post-Colonial Archaeology: 2

August 24, 2021

By: Tim Murray

This short blog – the second of several engaging with some of the more important matters raised by a growing interest among practitioners in the development of post-colonial perspectives in archaeology – begins as a brief response to Allison Mickel 2021 Why Those Who Shovel Are Silent. A history of local archaeological knowledge and labor. University of Colorado Press.

The relationships between archaeologists and indigenous peoples has spawned a vast literature which explores the key elements of a complex interaction that has changed greatly over the last forty years. Its not surprising that much of this literature stems from the Anglo-Saxon world and its connections to the former British and American empires, given that these were the locales of significant indigenous dispossession, the massive demographic changes wrought by migration, and the oppression of indigenous populations. Over the same period there has been a focus on documenting the relationships between archaeologists and populations of the Old and New worlds, which have also been transformed by the decline of other empires (be they French, Spanish, Belgian, Portuguese, Ottoman or German), and the rise of post colonialist perspectives.

Those interested in the history of archaeology have long appreciated that our discipline (like many others) has been complicit in effectively conquering or colonising the pasts of other countries and peoples. Sometimes this has taken the form of an acquisition of those pasts to bolster the perspectives of social evolution, while in other cases the physical remains of those pasts have been exported to (and monetised by) Europe and North America. It is perhaps an over-simplification of a complex relationship, but we might generalise that until recent decades archaeology was most often done to colonised peoples rather than done with them.

I have no doubt that the discipline needs to continue this process of decolonisation – whether it be to the descendant communities of indigenous groups in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia, or to the inhabitants of contemporary countries that were once imperial territories. I also have no doubt that this process will have a greater chance of success if it is done in partnership with those peoples. Notwithstanding the common experience of colonialism, it is nonetheless true that the nature of those partnerships are unlikely to be precisely the same. Historical context is crucial here, as is the contemporary politics of archaeology and heritage management in each and every national instance. Thus the issues faced by archaeologists working in countries such as Turkey and Jordan – where nations set the rules governing the activities of international archaeological teams, and those experienced by non-indigenous archaeologists working on indigenous heritage in countries such as Australia, are not the same. This makes generalisation tricky, but it also provides a perspective for a comparative analysis specific colonial or post-colonial experiences.

Judging by the discussions in Why Those Who Shovel Are Silent the experience of archaeologists and the local labourers who work for (with?) them at Petra or Catal Huyuk are very different to those obtaining in Australia. Significantly the significant expansion in fieldwork related to the archaeology of pre-1788 Australia pretty much coincided with an even more significant expansion of indigenous activism related to land rights and control over heritage. Although archaeologists exploring the histories of indigenous North America have been active for much longer than in Australia, it is also true that in recent times there has been a strong commonality of perspective about the rights and responsibilities of the respective participants. For example, in Australia interactions reflect strict legislative controls on the activities of archaeologists, a recognition that indigenous Australians own their heritage, and a fundamental position that the interests of all are advanced through consultation and collaboration. Importantly there is also an understanding that differences of perspective and understanding can exist within a collaborative and cooperative framework.

While I appreciate that international archaeological teams have long operated in what used to be known as the Near East, and that the conditions of their operation have changed since work began in the 19th century, I was fascinated by the detail of Mickel’s archaeological ethnography. At Petra and Catal archaeologists have l been operating under permits granted by national governments that have set conditions pertaining to a wide range of activities – from site selection, excavation and retrieval strategies, employment of local labour, the management and distribution of finds, and the ‘return’ of information to the host countries. It is only natural that these conditions have changed on sites that have been the focus of long-running investigation, as the expectations of archaeologists and government authorities have changed over time. Of course this is entirely proper, as it surely must be the fundamental responsibility of the Turkish or Jordanian governments to manage the heritage of their countries as they see fit. 

I was particularly interested in Mickel’s discussion of strategies to decolonise interpretation and action on sites with a long ‘colonial’ history. Part of this relates to operationalising the strategy of changing the basis of cooperation and collaboration from simple employment to a deeper engagement with the perspectives of Mickel’s ‘silent shovellers’. I do not have the space to unpack all of the assumptions that underpin this strategy, but it seems that this more open and reflexive approach is long overdue. Nonetheless I am left wondering just how much has changed for both sides. Have archaeologists substantially changed the questions they ask or the strategies of interpretation and exploration they employ? Of course it might be too early to expect such transformations in approach and purpose, but it should also be understood that these will be necessary if we are to avoid the charge that this is more than simple window-dressing.

It would be foolish to believe that becoming more inclusive of differing perspectives on archaeology, history and heritage will be an easy and smooth thing. Certainly in Australia the last forty or so years have seen some anguish as old approaches are superseded and new aspirations have emerged. There have been bruising exchanges and heated arguments, but these can only be expected when really important matters of principle are debated and a new consensus established.

Notwithstanding a laudable desire to manage debate and to keep things positive, there is light years between this open exchange and a desire to suppress or to coerce (no matter who does this). So, you can imagine my surprise when Mickel observed (pp7-8):

Over the years, the project re-hired those who had worked on the project in the past, allowing these individuals to build on their previous training and to take on jobs with increased responsibility. Hodder (2000) also deliberately hired women, a decision that elicited vehement resistance at first from the conservative and patriarchal local community, but which Hodder has defended as essential to engaging and uplifting the local community as a whole, not just the men.

Employment and training are very valuable outcomes of the archaeological process, but it seems to me that a great deal more was being attempted here. Archaeologists assuming the mantle of self-appointed agents of social change using economic coercion smacks of the very colonialism we should be striving to avoid. 

I look forward to further discussion of this strategy, and an evaluation of the outcomes of such interventions.

Adventures in Post-Colonial Archaeology: 1

July 8, 2021

This post comes to us from professor Tim Murray (University of Melbourne).

Author’s note: This blog – one of several that will engage with some of the more important matters raised by a growing interest among practitioners in the development of post-colonial perspectives in archaeology.

I am an Australian, now 66 years of age. I have research interests in the history and philosophy of archaeology, archaeological theory, historical archaeology, heritage archaeology, and the archaeology of Australia. I began at the University of Sydney (Gordon Childe’s alma mater) in 1973, straight after a high school career at Sydney Grammar School, steeped in History, Classics, Philosophy and Economics. The curriculum at school was intense and focused hard on developing our capacities for ratiocination, debate, and providing strategies for gaining knowledge of the world. Three of Australia’s Prime Ministers were educated there. 

Australia was deeply involved in the war in Vietnam when I was at high school, and I (like many students at the time) loved the whole business of contesting just about anything, be it about politics, social norms, music or fashion. Radical politics was in the air and we had learned much from Richard Neville’s Playpower (1970) as well as the Cohn-Bendit brothers’ Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative (1968). While hardly being a paradise for social or cultural contrarians, at that time a diversity of opinions and hard argument were encouraged. ‘Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend’ as Mao Tse Tung had observed in 1957. It was a liberal education in the very best sense of the term, with the added benefit that contrarians were not executed, unlike many of those who took Mao at his word!

There were no trigger warnings (even though our parents were very frequently assaulted by their offspring banging on about the evils of the bourgeoisie or the virtues of Ho Chi Minh). I expect that we were all regularly offended. Sometimes it felt more like those epic scenes from Monty Python’s Life of Brian about the Judean People’s Front and its opponents. But for all of the turmoil, we left school and began university with a strong sense that culture and society could really only flourish if we were able to identify shortcomings and develop concrete proposals for fixing them. That sense was powerfully reinforced by the election of a Labor government in Australia in late 1972, the first in 23 years. The possibilities seemed endless, as Australians embraced real social and cultural change right across the spectrum from indigenous land rights to free tertiary education for all. Most of all it was a time when the thoroughly normal social, cultural and economic divisions in Australian society could co-exist without endangering the strength of the fabric that held it all together.

Fast forward to the new century, when most of those certainties have been eroded, and the things that unite us seem to be much less important than those that divide us. Of course this might readily be interpreted as the consequences of transformations in the social order, as new alignments of interests and perspectives (however these may be constituted) break down existing power structures, and foster the birth of new elements based around different identities. It is natural that these kinds of fundamental change can both excite some and be a cause of apprehension to others, if only because of the importance we all place on being able to correctly predict the outcomes of the actions of others.

It is hardly surprising that social commentators have drawn attention to the potential negative consequences of identity politics, cancellation, and the suppression of unpopular ideas. Indeed novelists such as Michel Houellebecq, especially in the novel Les Particules Élémentaires(translated as Atomised in 1998), have seen the atomisation of society, rather than the transformation of the social order, as being the most significant consequence of all this change. Houellebecq’s dystopian vision is really unpleasant, but it does merit careful consideration rather than outright rejection. 

In 2017 while I was a Scholar at the Getty Centre in Los Angeles I participated in what became a quite heated discussion with other Fellows and graduate students about the practice of iconoclasm – ancient and modern. This excerpt from the Getty’s PR statement for its 2017-2018 program gives a good sense of the point of all that dissension: 

Iconoclasm raises contentious questions that transcend cultural and temporal boundaries. It can be understood as vandalism, destruction, or a means of repression, all of which fundamentally put culture at risk.

However iconoclasm can also be a form of protest or a vehicle for creative expression. Iconoclasm is transformative, creating entirely new objects or meanings through alterations to existing artworks. Charged with symbolism, these remains testify to a history of reception, offering clues about the life and afterlife of an object. To a certain extent all radical changes in cultural production can be described as iconoclastic. 

Quite sensibly, all participants wanted to bring the discussion forward to the present – particularly to the removal (or sometimes destruction) of monuments related to the American Civil War. I was fascinated by the sharp differences of opinion, and even more by the fact that those differences tended to cluster around the ages of the disputants. Boomers like myself were opposed to sanitising historical landscapes, most opting for what is now referred to as the ‘retain and explain’ position. Our younger colleagues mostly took the view that statues of Robert E. Lee, Nathan Bedford Forrest (see images), and a host of others were so offensive that they needed to be expunged – if only to prevent them from becoming lighting rods attracting all manner of radical right groupings. They also pointed out that many of these statues were erected during the height of the Jim Crow laws effecting racial segregation in the South from 1877 to 1954, and were material expressions of that race-based prejudice. A further observation was that since iconoclasm was nothing new in human history, there was nothing especially problematic about continuing its practice., especially when the goal of reconciling the United States with its past might be achieved.

Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877). Confederate general, Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (1867-1869). Among other activities he was a slave trader. The statue and plaque have been removed from what was then known as Forrest Park (now known as Health Sciences Park) in Memphis, Tennessee. Statue erected in 1905. Photos by the author.

I was not alone in rejecting these arguments – if only because one of the great lessons to learn from history has been not to reject it, nor to destroy our capacity to remake it. In that sense, removing Jim Crow-inspired monuments detracts from our capacity to witness the materiality of prejudice. While retaining them ran the risk of their continuing capacity to inspire racism, removing them ran an even greater risk of infantilising a population thought to be incapable of confronting its past. Furthermore, suppression drives race-based prejudice underground and does not facilitate the kinds of discussion that might foster change in what are clearly highly entrenched ways of thinking. It is going to be a long journey. As Mark Bradley wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (June 23, 2020):

The famous George Santayana quote: “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” That’s the thing, though. None of us have forgotten. Darned if we’re not repeating it anyway.

Debate around these issues has intensified in the US, England and Australia over the last couple of years, as people have struggled to deal with the history of dispossession, racism and slavery in those and other societies. The desire to commemorate in this case is now firmly balanced by the desire to expunge from cultural memory, and through this to create new presents and futures. There is much more to be said, and it is vital that a conversation about such important matters can proceed. It is difficult to see how the sensibilities of the participants cannot be offended at least some of the time, but it is a small price to pay for a clearer understanding of what happened and why it is so important to our presents and futures.

Call for Papers: “Where knowledge is created – places of research, exchange and learning in ancient studies”

April 22, 2021

Our colleagues from the research cluster 5 of the German Archaeological Institute are organizing the following conference on the history of archaeology: Where knowledge is created – places of research, exchange and learning in ancient studies. Please find more details below.

Dear colleagues, The research cluster 5 of the German Archaeological Institute (History of archaeology) is organizing a conference entitled “Where knowledge is created – places of research, exchange and learning in ancient studies” on November 24-25, 2021. Subject of the conference is the role of learning sites such as universities, museums, research institutions, long-standing excavations, and congresses for knowledge generation in ancient studies. The conference will take place in Frankfurt am Main (if possible) and online. Please find the detailed Call for Papers in the attachment. Contributions can be submitted until 30.06.2021 at You are welcome to forward this call to colleagues who might be interested.
We are looking forward to interesting contributions! 

With kind regards Sandra Schröer, Gabriele Rasbach, Thomas Fröhlich (Spokespersons of DAI-Cluster 5)

Liebe Kolleginnen und Kollegen / Dear colleagues (for english version see below),das Forschungscluster 5 des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts (Geschichte der Archäologie) veranstaltet vom 24.-25.November 2021 eine Tagung mit dem Titel “Wo Wissen entsteht – Orte der Forschung, des Austauschs und des Lernens in den Altertumswissenschaften”. Gegenstand der Tagung ist die Rolle von Lernorten wie Universitäten, Museen, Forschungsinstitutionen, langjährige Ausgrabungen sowie Kongresse für die Wissensgenerierung in den Alterumswissenschaften. Die Tagung wird in Frankfurt am Main (sofern möglich) sowie online stattfinden. Den ausführlichen Call for Papers finden Sie im Anhang. Beiträge können bis zum 30.06.2021 unter eingereicht werden. Gerne können Sie diesen Call auch an interessierte Kolleg*innen weiterleiten.
Wir freuen uns auf interessante Beiträge! 

Mit freundlichen GrüßenSandra Schröer, Gabriele Rasbach, Thomas Fröhlich (Sprecher/innen des DAI-Clusters 5)

Tales of the Modern City

March 12, 2021

Another interesting post from professor Tim Murray (University of Melbourne).


Over several decades I have had the great good fortune to spend a significant amount of time in great libraries in Europe and the United States, pursuing research on the history and philosophy of archaeology, and the historical archaeology of the modern city. This has meant that I have had the opportunity to live for extended periods in London, Paris, Leiden, New York City, Washington DC and Los Angeles, and in doing this to spend many hours waiting for trains, trams and buses, as I made my way around. 

It’s a commonplace that one of the best ways to learn to live in a new city is to develop a reasonable command of its public transport system. Yet the near endless variety of solutions reached by city governors to ensure that the population can get from A to B (and back again), has never ceased to amaze me. Some cities, such as Tokyo, have superb systems that operate at the extremes of population – an example being Shinjuku station having over 3 million visitors every day. Others, such as my own city of Melbourne, are far less efficient and sometimes downright irritating. Nonetheless wherever a city’s public transport system sits on the continuum from excellent to terrible, the commuter always has to wait.

So, how to occupy your time? International data costs make using your mobile as a form of info/entertainment an expensive business, and even Angry Birds or Candy Crush can pall after a while. Then there are the advertisements plastered beside the tracks, but even the best ones change too infrequently to hold your interest beyond the first day or so. Observing fellow commuters is always fun, especially as a source of inspiration for creating fantasy stories about urban lives. But too much staring can come across as creepy!

My standby (and that of family members when we travel together) has been to closely examine the metro map of whichever city I am working in. When the pastime first began I was mostly focused on identifying interesting or amusing station names, and enjoying the pretty harmless diversion this provided. The London Underground and the Paris Metro were perfect for this. All of my family members have their favourites, but I have long been attracted to Mudchute in London, Picpus in Paris, Clot in Barcelona, Onkel Tom’s Hutte in Berlin, Principe Pio or possibly Prosperidad in Madrid, Los Heroes in Santiago Chile, and Malatesta in Rome. To me these are far more exotic than the stations names we find in Melbourne, Sydney and (most boring of all) New York City – accurate about location, but totally lacking any humour or mystery.

Other people seem to derive similar pleasure from this past time. Once when I was staying with friends in Silver Springs, Maryland and riding the DC metro to the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian, I was entertained by a couple of young girls reading out the station names and then falling about laughing when they came to Foggy Bottom – or as they said it Fargy Bartom. Commuters need to make their own fun!

But what first started as a game of identifying amusing or interesting names has gradually morphed into a more serious pursuit as my interest in the historical archaeology of the modern city has grown. Being naturally nerdy I began to dig a bit deeper into the station names that had first piqued my interest. Google (and Wikipedia) were my research assistants here as I began to use that station names as a vector for understanding the histories of those cities. I soon came to realise that I had located a seam of gold that connected place and history from (in one case) the 11th century to the present. It also allowed me to connect with parts of those cities that are generally off the normal tourist itinerary.

My first excursion was into the London stations of Mudchute (which I particularly liked) and Tooting Bec (beloved by my son).

Mudchute is a station on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) located on the Isle of Dogs, which opened in 1987 and has undergone several transformations in the years to 2009. The original plan was to name it Millwall Park, but this was shelved due to a particularly vicious outbreak of football hooliganism among fans of the club. A local landmark, the Mudchute, was suggested as an acceptable alternative. The Mudchute was the outcome of the creation of the Millwall Docks in the 1860s. Spoil from the excavation in the form of liquid mud was dumped via hydraulic pumps there. Despite what was described as being the source of a terrible stink , the Mudcute quickly becoming a wildlife sanctuary. The site is now known as the Mudchute Park and Farm covering some 13 hectares, and is an important conservation area as well as being the largest urban farm in Europe!

If Mudchute was the product of the expansion of British imperial trade in the 19th century then Tooting Bec has a longer and richer history, most recently burned into memory by Matt Lucas and David Walliams in Little Britain in the episodes featuring Ting Tong from Tooting. The station opened in 1926 and was originally known as Trinity Road. Tooting Bec station is on the Northern Line. 

The area is named after the St Mary de Bec-Hellouin Abbey in Normandy and was partly owned by Westminster Abbey, title to the land being granted after the Norman conquest of 1066.  Tooting Bec is on Stane Street which is formed from the remains of a Roman road linking London   with the port of Chichester. The area appears in Domesday book  of 1086 as Totinges (its original Saxon name). Among much interesting information about the place since the time of the Saxons, is the fact that Finnish punk rock group Hanoi Rocks wrote the song Tooting Bec Wreck (Andy McCoy 1983), about life there in the early 1980s. You can see it performed This excerpt from the lyrics gives a good sense of their contribution to late 20th century rock.

I’m the living wreck, I live in Tooting Bec,
I’m the Cosmic Ted spaced out of my head
I’m the living wreck, I live in Tooting Bec,
And I’m equal to anyone I’ve met.

Picpus was the next one to get the in-depth treatment, revealing a wonderfully rich (and very sad) slice through Parisian history. Thestation on line 6 of the Paris Métro in the 12th arrondissement, opened on 1 March 1909 as Saint-Mandé , but renamed Picpus on 1 March 1937 to avoid confusion with Saint-Mandé on line 1. Picpus has the additional name of Courteline, named after author Georges Courteline (1858–1929). The area is particularly famous for the Picpus Cemetery, which is the largest private cemetery in Paris, and one of only two private cemeteries in the city, the other being the Cimetière des Juifs Portugais de Paris. Although the cemeteries of Pere Lachais and Montparnasse are more popular with tourists, Picpus has a special story.

The Picpus Cemetery was created during the Revolution of 1789 on land seized from the Catholic Church. It came into heavy usage due to it being located a very short distance from where the infamous guillotine was operating at top speed during the Terror (14th June to 27th July 1794). The remains of 1306 decapitated people were buried in two mass graves there. The names of all of the victims are found on the walls of the nearby chapel. Of the 1,109 men there were 108 nobles, 108monastics, 136 members of the clergy, 178 military personnel, and 579 commoners. There are 197 women buried there, with 51 from the nobility, 23 nuns and 123 commoners. 16 of the nuns were Carmelites, later made famous in Poulenc’sopera Dialogues of the Carmelites. They were beatified as martyrs in 1906.

The Cemetery is also particularly notable as the resting place of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, made famous through his participation in the American Revolutionary War. The Daughters of the American Revolution tend his gravesite and keep Old Glory flying. His wife is buried next to him, and several of their relatives were among those interred in the nearby mass graves.

The sadness does not end there. 

In 1852 the banker James Mayer de Rothschild built a hospital and hospice next door to the cemetery which treated only Jewish patients until the First World War. After the Nazi occupation the Jewish population were assembled at the Drancy internment camp in the northern suburbs of Paris. Between 1942 and 1944 some 67,000 Jews (including 6,000 children) were deported to the death camps. At the time of liberation only 1,542 remained alive. During this time the hospital became an extension of the Drancy camp where pregnant women, the seriously ill and children were housed prior to deportation.  A plaque dedicated to their memory was erected at the Picpus Cemetery.

I had a very different experience chasing down Onkel Tom’s Hutte station on the Berlin U-Bahn U3 line, although Himmler’s SS made an appearance here too. The area was named after Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which clearly made quite an impression on Berliners. In 1885 an entrepreneur called Thomas opened a pub just outside the Grunewald Forest, and erected some shelters to keep the drinkers dry. These came to be known as ‘Tom’s Cabins’ and the link to the novel was quite easily made. Over time the name was applied to the railway station, the main street, some shops and a cinema, but most famously to a housing estate designed by the great modernist architect Bruno Taut. This is a truly remarkable place and although it is not widely known outside of architectural circles, it stands as one of the great Bauhaus developments in Berlin built between 1926 and 1932. It stands in stark contrast to the houses in an adjacent residential quarter, which were constructed to house families of members of the SS. This was ‘total’ architecture expressing in concrete form the cherished values of the Nazi regime – especially the importance of ‘traditional’ German culture. It is marvellous that both housing estates survived the Second World War and the subsequent upheavals in German history.

I could go on and reveal the outcome of my research into Clot, Malatesta and all of the others that helped me while away the time waiting on platforms around the world, but I hope that I have already made my point that its proved to be time very well spent. At the very least it has helped reveal the riches of the local histories and geographies that go to make up the biographies of great cities stretching away from more commonly visited points of historical interest. There are plenty more hidden gems to find!