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What shall we talk about today?

May 26, 2016

WordPress has been being awkward for the last couple of days. If by ‘awkward’ you understand me to mean won’t let me write anything other than a title, won’t let me save the title, won’t let me do anything other than stare at a blank web page as I furiously hit the keypad and watch nothing happen. Last week I was locked out of the HARN email account, I kept getting ‘Error 404 Forbidden Access’, which bemused me vastly ‘but, but, but I’m one of the administrators, whadya mean ‘forbidden access’? How can I be forbidden? I no understand!’ This is often the way of my dealings with the interwebs, I either fall down a wormhole of stuff-that-at-a-very-long-stretch-could-be-considered-to-be-relevant or I spend my time pathetically whimpering ‘Why? Why are you doing this to me?’

I’m sure all of these problems are entirely of my own making, I have undoubtedly pressed a button I shouldn’t have pressed, or there has been an external hiccup which is nothing to do with my ineptitude, but I don’t care, it is personal and it is unfair.

Talking of personal and unfair, tomorrow is the first day of my son’s half-term holiday. I knew half-term was on the horizon (despite the so-called Easter Break only finishing last week or whenever it was) I have it marked on the calendar, what I didn’t factor in was that it starts on a Friday. This wouldn’t be a problem – indeed it isn’t really a problem, it’s a whinge – but we are going to decorate his bedroom over the holiday. He’s going to have one of those loft/cabin/high up beds with a desk underneath. More storage – so he can squirrel away even more random bits and pieces – and the room is going to be re-painted blue, with clouds and glow-in-the-dark stars and planets. It will be lovely when it’s done, but I dread the getting it done part. Oh, and hamster ownership comes into it too, when it’s done there will be a hamster installed in there with him, no doubt enjoying the glow-in-the-dark stars and planets as it stays up all night on its wee hamster wheel, ensuring we all stay up all night listening to it on its wee hamster wheel.


‘Who me?’copyright

Why am I telling you all this? Because I have nothing else to tell you. I was going to talk about archaeology and ghost stories – there was an email conversation with Martyn (of course) and a slightly different one with Kate. It was going to be good, there would have been links and controversial opinions guaranteed to provoke discussion in the comments. Or, one of my favourite bloggers is talking about assumed identities and that led me on to thinking about how we assume the identity of an archaeologist – that was going to be a deep and thoughtful piece, also with links. Or, I don’t know, something that isn’t my decorating plans. Then WordPress refused to let me write anything. Then I realised I had one morning to do it because Friday is now marked down for putting teddies and books into boxes. But I don’t really have a morning because I need to find the boxes and given they’re in the attic it’s best if I do that without 4 year old help, which means now. Obviously I’m not actually doing it now, I’m writing this and drinking a cup of tea. But, I will be doing it soon, this is the preparation,  I’m calling it ‘forward planning’ maybe even ‘logistics’ you may wish to term it ‘procrastination’.

I think it’s best if you just talk amongst yourselves, I’ll be back next week, no doubt paint spattered and weary but hopefully with a brain full of archaeology and no technology problems.



Oh, The Places You’ll Go, The Thinks You Will Think

May 20, 2016

As you’ll have seen from a previous post, over on Adventures in History and Archaeology  Kate has been talking about time management. I am in awe of her determination and focus, I seem to lack both. Now I do have some ready made excuses to hand,  I may have mentioned a few (!) times that I have children, they are wonderful, marvellous, hilarious children but they are time-consuming and they do mean I’m not as free to roam and research as I would like. I live next door to my 80 year old mother, she’s mostly fit and healthy, but she’s been hospitalised a couple of times since she moved in a few years back, she’s also a bit bored and inclined to call round for a chat and a coffee. This is fine, this is why she moved here, but again it does cut into my research time. There’s also the small matter of  juggling research, domestic stuff and paid work, I’m a freelance illustrator, editor, archaeology factotum. So, a wealth of excuses for my lack of productivity, hell, there are days when I can even blame the cats! But, I think the main reason is the very thing I use for most of my work.  I’m lucky to live in a city with a university and library but it’s not a very good library for histories of archaeology. However, I do have the internet and holy cow the stuff you can now get at online!


Copyright Dr Seuss Enterprises L P

Unfortunately, I’m easily distracted so I can often end up down ‘long wiggled roads’ and in ‘weirdish wild space’, but it’s always an entertaining journey and on arrival there’s usually something interesting to see.


Something I often ask myself, especially about politics.           The thinks you will think    Copyright Dr Seuss Enterprises L P

I do have certain sites bookmarked, so I don’t always get lost in the ‘waiting place’: Project Gutenberg is invaluable, the Victorian Web is likewise an enormously useful resource, as is CanmoreJSTOR and all those online museum archives – the Artefacts of Excavation project is going to be amazing when it’s finished. I’m sure you have your own favourites. But, I’m always on the lookout for new sites, new information, and Martyn sent me a fantastic link last week to this article from The Girl’s Own Paper, it’s on this site .

I have been reading all about archaeology in the Girl’s Own Paper for 1895, except when being distracted by articles such as ‘High Ideals in Courtship: An Address to Working Girls’ (that’s girls working in a shop, domestic service or a mill say, not the other sort of working girl). It is fascinating that so much space is devoted to archaeology in the Girls Own Paper, as you can see from the index there’s other pieces including one by Mrs Holman Hunt in 1890 on Petrie’s work in the Fayum. [Is this Edith Holman Hunt, the second wife of William Holman Hunt? Or a completely different and unrelated Holman Hunt? I have no idea, playing around on the interwebs hasn’t helped (see what I mean about getting distracted?) so I’ll have to ask The Kissed Mouth *.] What I have discovered is that there isn’t an equal resource to see if the Boy’s Own Paper was similarly enthusiastic or if archaeology was seen by the Religious Tract Society, who published both magazines and much more besides, as a particularly feminine interest. If this was the case it does help explain both Petrie’s and Wheeler’s insistence on the robust masculinity of archaeology**.


How come the boys get to wrestle tigers and the girls mess about with lace? Swiz! Image from

Or is it that Victorian Liberal belief, expressed by Ruskin in Of Queen’s Gardens, that girls should be educated  so they can sympathise, but not compete, with their husbands’ interests? At no point in the article does the author suggest that archaeology could provide a career for young women. What is also striking is that an article describing archaeology is so much of it’s time, there is anti-Semitism, stereotypes of Empire, complete faith in the Bible as an historical source, and the past itself is seen as a vehicle for strictures on dress, etiquette and behaviour: ‘We need scarcely point out that to dress is a sign of civilisation, and to cover the body completely is a mark of high civilisation. . . It is, however, curious to learn that they [Biblical Jewish women] wore “nose jewels”; probably they adopted this unpleasant custom from the Egyptians. They also, as we see, wore ear-rings. Modern civilisation has abolished the first of these barbarous mutilations and deformities of the human face, and it is much to be hoped that the other will before long be abandoned’ (27).

Attitudes to, expectations of, possibilities for young women did change markedly between the end of the Victorian era and the Second World War, this dramatic shift can be seen in the fictional stories serialised in the Girl’s Own Paper; the 1895 edition has a typically moral tale Her Own Way by Eglanton Thorne,  whereas by 1940 Captain W. E. Johns’ thrilling Worral books were being published.

image004 (1)

Copyright estates of W.E. Johns and D.L. Mays.


Copyright estates of W.E. Johns and D.L Mays

Should you, as I did, become intrigued by the Girl’s Own Paper itself, in addition to the Victorian Voices website there is also thisthis and this. If your library is well-stocked you may have this and if not you could always read this.

And there we have the explanation of why Kate writes papers and books and I don’t.But, I do now know masses of stuff about the Girl’s Own Paper that I didn’t know previously, and that’s important, right?

Thankfully, before I fell down another black hole and started talking about what archaeology was understood to be by the writer for the Girl’s Own Paper back in 1895, I had the sense to email Martyn and ask him to write a blog post for me. So, coming sometime soon-ish, the Victorian/Edwardian magazine possibly with reference to archaeology. Meanwhile, I’m going to carry on reading back issues of the Girl’s Own Paper and following links, thinking thinks, seeing where my journey takes me.

Hopefully I’ll be back next week, unless I’ve strayed too far into bang-ups and hang-ups, in the meantime have a great weekend


*Another link provided by Martyn, he has all the best links!

** E.g. ‘one might as well try to play the violin in a pair of gloves as profess to excavate with clean fingers and a pretty skin’ (Petrie, Aims and Methods: 7 and see Wheeler’s Archaeology from the Earth).


Lisbon at the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists: actors, projects and their (mis) adventures

May 19, 2016


May 24 | 18.00 | Carmo Archaeological Museum | Free entry


«Lisbon at the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists:
actors, projects and their (mis) adventures »

(the monarchy to the New State)


Ana Cristina Martins

Researcher Postdoctoral FCT
Institute of Contemporary History-CEHFCI-EU-FCSH-Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Time hangs so heavy in the summer…

May 16, 2016

Hmm, good question

Adventures in History and Archaeology

Henry James wrote in his Portrait of a Lady: “Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

As for this lady, well, so many summer mornings will be filled with lovely runs and rides through town, summer days filled with research and writing long delayed, summer afternoons full of trips to the park with my toddler, and summer nights with relaxing on the deck with a glass of wine.  (This is all not to say anything about afternoon tea [see opening lines of Portrait for my thoughts on that].)  But with all the hours free from teaching, grading, prep and campus duties, how will I organize my work?  How do you organize it?

PhD comics

Usually, at the start of every new chunk of time–summer and winter break, as well as each semester–I do a breakdown of tasks for…

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Review Copies

May 13, 2016

Aside from the inevitable email conversation with Martyn, my post on Children of the Stones* had the unexpected response of Robin Derricourt getting in touch to suggest I ask for a review copy of his Antiquity Imagined. This has reminded me that one of our intentions for the blog was to review new histories of archaeology. So, only a few years later than intended, I’m going to resurrect this idea. If you have a publication or upcoming publication that you’d like us to review, get in touch. Likewise, if there’s something out there you’d like to review for us, get in touch. Hopefully sensible reviews of serious tomes will start to feature here.

I will, undoubtedly, continue to review things I’ve pulled off my shelves, borrowed from the library, seen on TV etc. But, additionally, there will be some useful material too.

Aside from that, there’s been a lot posted on the blog this week so I feel there’s little point in my wittering when you’ve got the good stuff to read. Have you been reading James Henry Breasted, the Accidental Spy? It’s fascinating.

I’ll be back next week, have a good weekend,



*Yes, I do still want to be Rafael Hendrick. I’ve realised that mind control/brainwashing is the only way anyone in this house is going to pay any attention to what I say.

In Conversation Workshop

May 11, 2016

The Museums and Galleries History Group have sent the following notice:

We are running an archives, objects and people workshop at the University of Leeds & Temple Newsam House on TUESDAY 17th May 10.30am-4.30pm, with FREE lunch and free coach to Temple Newsam.  If you would like to attend please book via the eventbright link below:

Email Dr Mark Westgarth if you have an questions etc

Part 5: The Paper and my #CVofFailures

May 10, 2016

Adventures in History and Archaeology

This is the FINAL post about what I’ve detailed in this, this, this, and especially THIS post.

After I posted the 4th part, and as I read through it as I posted it, I realized that my argument is valid, based on the evidence I had available to me.  I may not have done an exhaustive search of declassified documents, but the support is there.  One complaint from one reviewer was that Breasted was “such a famous raconteur” that the content of his letters can be misleading.  I absolutely agree and agree that finding other evidence would be useful here.  However, his letters home were also meant as his field journals, so one might also argue that they could be taken literally.  Although, if you use a field journal or field diary, you do always want to check contextual sources.

I lamented this particular source issue distinctly…

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