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Call for Papers: HARN International Conference 2017

May 24, 2017

‘Not within the scope of this argument’:Archives and Rabbit Holes


  HARN (Histories of Archaeology Research Network) Conference 2017

3 November 2017

UCLan Campus

Preston, UK

 HARN 2017

As archaeologists and historians, we depend upon archives as crucial repositories of primary and secondary sources.  We visit them to dive deeper into our subjects and to learn about people and events on a personal level.  Not only are archives rich in unpublished sources that undoubtedly add new angles to our scholarship, but they also produce a number of curious topics that simply do not fit within the scope of our projects.  The goal of this conference is to highlight the utility of archives in our work as historians and archaeologists and we hope to analyse the purpose of archives in our unique investigations while at the same time answering questions about archival research. We focus specifically on the idea of research rabbit holes.  We have all fallen into these, but what subjects keep leading us astray?  Or are we led astray?  Does the seemingly unrelated material bring us back to our original research?  We have all experienced the mischief of archives and their materials but they do not always fit in the scope of our larger research.  We invite presentations that talk about and analyse the important influence archives, archival materials, and the tangents that pull us away temporarily.

Papers may focus on the study of archival research as a methodology, but we will give preference to papers that allow researchers to discuss a topic that they have found interesting but that does not fit within the scope of their usual projects.

We are seeking abstracts of 250 words for papers/presentations that will be no longer than 20 minutes.  By August 1, 17:00 GMT, send your abstracts in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format with your name, institutional affiliation, title, and contact information to  Please note that all presenters must be members of HARN, which is free, or will join automatically upon acceptance.

This week

July 14, 2017


I’m recommending that you stop reading the HARN blog and instead go here  to Archaeowomen instead.

Although Anne only has a few posts on so far, what there is is really interesting and a significant piece of archaeological history. BWA began in 2008, it’s now 2017 and it’s interesting to see how things have (or haven’t) changed. Also, what about other places? How does the British experience compare to other archaeologies?

Her two posts about Sally Binford’s remark ‘I’m not here to cook – I’m here to dig’ (here and here) are – for me – particularly interesting. My initial reaction was to smile – archaeologists are the worst gossips, they love to know who’s dating whom; but I also smiled because of the questions the public ask too –  I remember Rick being asked by an aristocratic member of the public if he was the foreman. Who knew anyone still had foremen? Poor Rick looked so stunned, but explained that no, he was in fact the director.

But there’s a less comfortable side to it too, most of the excavations I have been on have been with Rick. We did dig as a team. Also – as will be obvious from the final paragraph of ‘I’m not here to cook – I’m here to dig!’ Part Two – often I was on these excavations as the cook, so that phrase does hit home. Right from the beginning of cooking on digs I felt guilty that I was betraying my feminism*, that by being a woman performing what was traditionally a woman’s role I was undermining all the other women archaeologists. Well, obviously not all, I’m not quite that egotistical! But, it did make me uncomfortable Especially since my reasons for doing it were hardly exemplary – the previous year we’d been on a student excavation where the food had been inedible and having said we could do better I found I was having to, plus it was a way to get paid and I was an undergraduate.  I discovered, to my great surprise, that I was good at it and I enjoyed it so for many years that’s what I’d do every summer: Rick would dig and I would cook. It is where I met Anne and many other wonderful people who became friends.

(*Yes, I do know that feminism is the freedom for women to be what they want, and I knew it then, but it still felt that way)

So, why am I no longer a cooking archaeologist? There are several reasons: because of all the things a cook has to do as well as cook, all the pastoral stuff. I got old and tired and found the students (and staff) irritating rather than endearing, their problems and issues became a chore and I didn’t like feeling that way about other people. Particularly not people who you I had to live with 24/7 for however long the dig lasted. I began to feel like this should be part of the work of the director rather than defaulting to the cook. Other life got in the way, it’s difficult to parent (and care for parents) when you’re many miles away living in a field, these days neither Rick nor I work away for any length of time. That’s our personal decision not a universal moral view by the way. All power to parents who do work away through choice. Additionally, my research wasn’t dependent on excavation so digging and cooking became more of a holiday than work related and these days the ‘holidays’ involve doing child friendly things and we’ve trained our children so badly they’d revolt rather than come on an excavation with us. But mainly because I was never entirely sure of where I stood in a dig’s hierarchy, everyone I ever worked for and with treated me with respect, but it was, inevitably, respect for my culinary and organisational abilities rather than my archaeological ones. I always felt I was having to fight to be an archaeologist as well as the cook which is why I always insisted on getting onto site as often as I could, just to remind everyone that I was also a field archaeologist – these days I suspect that was more my insecurity than a true reflection of their thinking, but it was certainly a factor. And then there was that uncomfortable self image of a woman doing typically women’s work while around me other women were digging, surveying, directing etc, demanding equality and parity while I  – it felt like – was holding back feminism with cake.

Reading Anne’s piece has made me nostalgic for those days of cooking, not for the horrendously early starts, but for the simple satisfaction of knowing I was doing a job that few can do and that I did it well. Research and parenting are rarely that straightforward. But despite really knowing that feminism is being able to do what you want to do because you want to do it rather than being forced into specific gender roles, I’d still feel ambivalent about going back to such a stereotypically female role and I’m not sure if that says more about my own shortcomings or about wider attitudes within archaeology and society.

I shall continue to ponder this and do weigh in with a comment if you have one.

Next week I shall return to Spitalfields, in the meantime – have a great weekend



July 7, 2017

It was my birthday recently and as part of my present to myself I took 48 hours off, went to London to see my sister and meet up with friends. We didn’t intend to go to Spitalfields, but due to collective incompetence and inability to check museum opening times an exciting and innovative change of plan we went to Shoreditch and then walked down to see Christ Church


Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

(No idea how David Iliff managed to take that photo without losing life or limbs to the traffic. It took us 10 minutes just to get across the road.)

It is a lovely little church, built in the early 18th Century and one of the first of the ‘Commissioners Churches‘ or ‘Queen Anne Churches‘. The intention had been to build fifty new churches within London as a show of Anglican strength/pride/attempted conversion in those areas that had large non-Anglican populations. Spitalfields was largely populated by Huguenots and later Eastern European Jews fleeing the pogroms – so, to Queen Anne and the British Government it an obvious place to start evangelising Anglicanism. Remember that in Britain while it was no longer illegal to be non-Conformist, Unitarian, Catholic or anything other than an Anglican Protestant, only Anglicans were allowed to hold office or assemble for prayers – amongst other injustices. In typically British fashion, however, the full fifty churches were never built, the money ran out so only ten new churches were created and a two others were revamped.

Christopher Wren was one of the commissioners on the committee and his protégé Nicholas Hawksmoor was one of the surveyors. It has changed since Hawksmoor drew up the original plans. As recorded on a memorial outside, extensive rebuilding had to be done after a fire nearly destroyed the interior and spire in 1836. In 1866 they had a major re-fit and changed the entire interior, then in the 1960s it was decided to return the church to its original state (more information here and here). Knowing nothing of this, I simply admired the cool beauty of the interior:


By Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

That makes it look enormous, whereas it’s remarkably small for such an extensive parish, but I’d temporarily forgotten I can take photos with my phone so I’m relying on what I can find on the interwebs – there’s a lot, this is particularly good for all things Hawksmoor. It has a very restrained plastered ceiling (particularly restful on such a hot day) except over the chancel* where cherubs run riot and there’s an especially nonthreatening lion with his traditional unicorn adversary


It also has a beautiful restored organ,


By Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

which unfortunately led to an outbreak of infantile sniggering – as an aside ‘Crikey, that’s a huge shiny organ’ is not something to say out loud in the company of a certain respectable archaeology lecturer and an equally respectable museum curator. I know that now.

It is a surprisingly large organ for a small church though. Look, this is what Wikipedia says ‘With over two thousand pipes it was, when built, the largest organ in England, a record it held for over a hundred years’. And it is very shiny, as I think you’ll agree. And this is probably not the moment to mention that the church is now also an events venue and  hosted a documentary and dinner celebrating Gilbert & George – they live in nearby Fournier Street. Whether the documentary featured enormous shiny organs I couldn’t say, but knowing Gilbert & George it seems extremely likely. Although I have to say their Jason Donovan picture was one of my favourite paintings in the Southampton City Art Gallery along with Chris Ofili’s poo pictures

I appear to have sidetracked myself. Hawksmoor, churches, eighteenth century architecture, Spitalfields, I had a plan when I started this. It all came together in my head and I thought it would make a good blog post but I seem to have got caught up in double entendres and modern art. I’m a bit out of practice at this blogging business.

Now, unlike Martyn, I haven’t read Peter Ackroyd‘s Hawksmoor (I tried, but really? My life is too short. I couldn’t get along with London, the biography either which I very much wanted to read) so I can’t do clever linky stuff to the histories of archaeology.  However, as I’ve said before, chuck a brick in London and you’ll hit some archaeology and Spitalfields has a lot of archaeology and history. I mentioned the Huguenots and the evidence for silk weaving and all forms of cloth production is still extant, Fournier Street (home of Gilbert & George and also Jeanette Winterson) is one of the best examples of early Georgian domestic town houses in Britain, Spitalfields Market has been extensively excavated  revealing multi-period occupation and Spitalfields is on the route of the Elizabeth Line, the new underground train route being dug by Crossrail, which has uncovered so much archaeology a lot of which is on display at the Museum of London Docklands. Add in the old Bedlam Hospital and there’s an awful lot that can be said about the past in Spitalfields.

But not today.

I’ve run out of time and written too many irrelevant words. I shall write some more next week, hopefully a little more cogent and coherent.

In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend


*It may not be the chancel, none of us could remember anything about ecclesiastical architecture or interiors despite having done directly relevant archaeology courses. ‘Squinches’ said E authoritatively ‘unless they’re pendentives’ I suggested we were looking at pilaster strips (it being the only term I remember from Anglo-Saxon church studies, and no, there is no reason an 18th century church would have Anglo-Saxon features but I was trying my best) and L, who knows a considerable amount about architecture, tried to decide if the columns were Ionic or Doric. It just goes to show, let 3 archaeologists loose in London for an afternoon and we will have a lovely time even if we haven’t a clue what we’re looking at.


June 30, 2017


Jacques Aymeric, University of Geneva

University of Geneva  Department of Genetics and Evolution

I study the medieval (pre-colonial) fortifications of West Africa. My current research focuses on the region of eastern Senegal and western Mali where I am interested in the causes of the inplementation of these structures, the techniques of constructions used and the heritage aspects related to their conservation.
My previous work allowed me to explore the interactions between fortifications and the formation of state entities in western Cameroon between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Welcome, Jacques, and many thanks for joining our community!

Workin’ for a Livin’*

June 30, 2017

Ahhhhhh, summer.  The time when we’re supposed to get a reprieve from our coursework, student supervision, or other administrative duties and get some actual research done.  That is, that’s the case if you’re in academia and have students to consider.  If you’re on the research side of things, maybe you’re off to the field this summer, or putting together an exhibit, or writing up your research from last year.  Or you’re an independent scholar who doesn’t get a break from your paid work to write.  The point is, there is so much time away from admin in the summer that we cannot but help be super productive in other ways.


Well, that’s meant to be the point, anyway.

Around HARN towers, it means a lot of other things.  For some of us, it means lots of painful fun children’s events from school carnivals, to zoo trips, birthday parties, summer school shenanigans, swimming lessons and more.  For all of us, it’s more admin, more paperwork, more prep for next term.  I think it also means a break—any kind of break.  We really do need mental and physical breaks from the work we do for most of the year.  Taking a vacation, a mini-break, or simply spending a few days on the couch with some tea and a good book—or seven.  It is the 20th anniversary or the Philosopher’s Stone, you know (Go Ravenclaw!).

As for the writing, writing, writing we are all expected to do, we never get as much as we’d like.  What do you do to combat this?  One of my favorite tools is the Pomodoro technique.  I did learn about this from this post, and I love this woman’s blog in general.  She has a lot of practical tips for being productive while “only” working 40-hour weeks.  Granted, those hours are packed.  But if we say we work 60-80 hours per week, do we really?  But I digress…

Pomodoro timers are basically a customizable time-management tool that you can set for as much work/break time as you want.  Ideally, you do 25 minutes of work with a 5 minute break.  That’s as much as science says our brains can handle.  I try to get 5 Pomodoros of writing in per week.  Even during the semester.  It’s hard sometimes, but I consider “writing” to be any sort of activity that helps my research move forward.  Sometimes, 1 Pomodoro is looking up sources and ordering them (our tiny engineering library here does not carry a lot of books in my field…).  Did I create words for a count?  Nope.  But I did some activity that will allow my project(s) to move forward.  Writing in this way reminds me a bit of exercise—seriously, you have 30 minutes a day to do this, so quit putting it off and just do it.  If you have trouble finding a time to write because of meetings, appointments, other commitments, try thinking of it as an appointment in itself that you just cannot miss.  I do this with writing as well as exercise.  (Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes when people ask for a meeting at a time I have set aside for a run or a Pomodoro of writing, I tell them that I have a meeting scheduled for that time.)  There is also a project call Shut up and Write which has specific online workshops on Tuesdays for this purpose.

In the hectic summer, these practices help me write.  What are the practices that get you writing?

In summer

On top of writing, this summer, here in HARN Towers (Midwest US), I am having some renovations done to the house (the contractor is in my garage looking at some supplies AS I WRITE actually), leading a study abroad group to Nicaragua, trying to edit a couple of pieces of writing, edit other people’s writing, and prep for 2 new classes next term.

Ahhhhhhhhh, summer.

*I mean, Huey



June 19, 2017

Josef Mario Briffa,

Pontifical Biblical Institute (

Josef Mario Briffa SJ is Lecturer at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He read for a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the same institute (2012), and for a PhD at the UCL Institute of Archaeology (2017) on The Figural World of the Southern Levant during the Late Iron Age. He has recently co-authored, with Dr Claudia Sagona, a Catalogue of Artefacts from Malta at the British Museum (Archaeopress, 2017), and has researched extensively on Fr Emmanuel Magri SJ (1851-1907), pioneer in Maltese archaeology and folklore studies. He currently also works on archival material held at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and Jerusalem, with a particular interest in the excavations of Teleilat Ghassul. He has excavated in Malta and Israel, and is a staff member of The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition.

Welcome, Josef, and many thanks for joining our community!

A Grand Adventure

June 15, 2017

A Grand Adventure

The Lives of Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad and Their Discovery of a Viking Settlement in North America – Benedicte Ingstad


“Benedicte Ingstad’s biography of her parents succeeds on many different levels. It is first and foremost a portrait of two remarkably different explorers who eventually made one of the most important archaeological discoveries of their time. The book is also a terrific adventure yarn and a wonderful scientific mystery story. Researchers had long puzzled over whether the descriptions in Scandinavian sagas of Viking voyages to Vinland were in fact true. Deeply fascinated by these accounts, Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad set out to solve the mystery. The author presents their superb detective work in a deft, engaging way. This book is a classic.”—Heather Pringle, author of In Search of Ancient North America: An Archaeological Journey to Forgotten Cultures

In 1960, Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad made a discovery that rewrote the history of European exploration and colonization of North America – a thousand-year-old Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. In A Grand Adventure, the Ingstads’ daughter Benedicte tells the story of their remarkable lives spent working together, sharing poignant details from her parents’ private letters, personal diaries, their dinner table conversations, and Benedicte’s own participation in her parents’ excavations.

Following young Helge Ingstad from his 1926 decision to abandon a successful law practice for North American expeditions through Canada’s Barren Lands, Alaska’s Anaktuvuk Pass, and the mountains of northern Mexico, the story recounts his governorship of Norwegian territories and marriage to Anne Stine Moe. The author then traces Helge and Anne Stine’s travels around the world, focusing in particular on their discovery of the Viking settlement at the northern tip of Newfoundland. With Anne Stine as the head archaeologist, they excavate these ruins for eight years, while weathering destructive skepticism from academic peers, until indisputable evidence is unearthed and their find is confirmed. A remarkable look at a personal and professional relationship, A Grand Adventure shows two explorers’ unrelenting drive and unfailing courage.

Benedicte Ingstad is professor emerita of medical anthropology at the University of Oslo.

McGill-Queen’s University Press | June 2017 | 472pp | 9780773549685 | HB | £33.00*

20% discount with this code: CSL17AGABI**

*Price subject to change.

**Offer excludes the USA, South America and Australia.

CfP Silk Road Workshop

June 12, 2017

International workshop:  
The Rise and Fall: Environmental Factors in the Socio-Cultural Changes of the Ancient Silk Road Area
September 28-29, 2017
Kiel University, Germany

Call for Papers


Dr. Liang E. Yang, Graduate School Human Development in Landscapes, Kiel University
Prof. Dr. Josef Wiesehöfer, Institute of Classical Antiquity, Kiel University
Prof. Dr. Hans-Rudolf Bork, Institute for Ecosystem Research, Kiel University
Millinda Hoo, Graduate School Human Development in Landscapes, Kiel University


Supported by: Graduate School Human Development in Landscapes, Kiel University
Past Global Changes project (PAGES)


The Silk Road is a modern concept for an ancient network of trade routes that for centuries facilitated and intensified processes of cultural interaction and goods exchange between West China, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. The Silk Road flourished when the Han dynasty explored Central Asia around 139 BCE and thrived throughout Antiquity and far into Middle Ages under the Islamic and Mongol Empires. Along the ancient Silk Road, empires, dynasties and the associated institutions, social structures, and economic systems changed for several reasons. There is increasing discussion that climate and environmental factors may also have played a role in fostering economic and socio-cultural changes along the Silk Road and in a broader area. Coherent patterns and synchronous events in history suggest possible links between social upheaval and climate/environment forces; in some cases, environmental factors have been claimed as multipliers that accelerated socio-cultural changes. Such links between climatic, environmental, economic, social, and cultural changes would have manifested themselves differently according to place and time; however, it often remains unclear if and how exactly they affect socio-cultural situations on the ground.

The Silk Road serves as the geographical scope and inspirational concept for the workshop. The objective of this workshop is to increase our understanding of the role played by the environment in socio-cultural changes that occurred in the territories along the ancient Silk Roads, and to initiate a network of young researchers to facilitate international connectivity and multidisciplinary cooperation. Specific topics include (but are not limited to):

  •   Paleoclimate and environment changes in the Silk Road area
    ·   Proxy reconstructions of environment disasters and socio-cultural consequences
    ·   Climate-related human migration and demographic changes
    ·   Conflicts, cooperation, institution, and social organization under environmental stresses
    ·   Quantitative, qualitative, and material culture approaches to analyzing relationships between environmental and social and cultural changes


The workshop especially encourages junior researchers (PhD students and postdocs) to participate. Interested participants are encouraged to submit a 500 word abstract via email by June 30, 2017, and state the willingness to submit a full paper. Full paper is due by the time of the workshop for the peer review process, and a book of the proceedings will be published by early 2018.

Authors will be notified of acceptance/rejection by 14 July 2017. Those selected to contribute to the workshop will receive full funding to cover the costs of participation.

Contact: Dr. Liang Emlyn Yang (

Attachments area