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Message to our members

March 23, 2020
Dear HARN members, colleagues and friends
The Histories of Archaeology Research Network was founded in 2008 to promote communication, support each other in our work and share ideas and knowledge. Let us stand together in these difficult times and continue to exchange resources and talk to each other.
There is already a vast number of groups, channels and initiatives out there to share online teaching resources and provide access to books and other library materials. If you have difficulty finding the right kind of group for your research or want to start your own, we are happy to share your message through our website and social media accounts. We are already retweeting links and information on Twitter, so check out our account!
We would also like to encourage all of you to share your experiences with the group through our blog. Are you conducting research from home? What are the challenges you are facing? Are you a student coping with lack of access to archives or libraries? How are you keeping up communication with your colleagues? Are you organising online conferences or have you found different ways of keeping up scholarly exchange and teaching? Or perhaps you have time to finally read that book that’s been on your desk for six months and you want to write a review for our blog?
We look forward to hearing from you!
Stay safe and be kind to one another!
Your HARN adminstrators
Mustafa Kemal Baran
Monica Barnes
Alicia Colson
Helene Maloigne
Vladimir Mihajlovic
Anna Reeve
Jonathan Trigg

Megalith Hunting in Ireland

February 25, 2020

By Monica Barnes, a HARN administrator and the lead editor of Andean Past.

I thought I had exhausted my husband’s patience several years ago during a trip to Wiltshire. Let’s just say that he doesn’t share my enthusiasm for prehistoric monuments and artifacts. So when he volunteered to go megalith hunting with me in Ireland I was surprised and pleased and immediately booked two round trip Newark to Dublin airline tickets.

When we were fledgling archaeologists, the Ordnance Survey of Britain guided our lives. In those days before GPS and Google Earth, we treasured our expensive and awkward paper maps. The large-scale editions gave us a great deal of local detail, even indicating individual buildings, fields, and tracks. Now these are available online and are still a great resource as we struggle with our awkward and even more expensive tablets, laptops, or phones.

On the Emerald Isle, the Ordnance Survey of Ireland and the Archaeological Survey of Ireland are amazing cartographic projects. Begun in 1829, by 1842 the Ordnance Survey had produced one of the first detailed maps of an entire country. This was just before the Great Famine/Hunger hit, and the year that English novelist, journalist, and illustrator William Makepeace Thackeray made his coach tour there, the basis of his Irish Sketch Book. At the time, Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, so until the formation of the Republic of Ireland in 1922, the survey of Ireland was part of the survey of Britain and followed the same conventions. Since 1922, work has been carried on independently. After almost two hundred years of sustained effort and developing technology, there is both considerable historical depth and contemporary usefulness. Results are available free of charge on a platform called GeoHive. In addition, an interactive map of Archaeological Survey of Ireland data can be found at: http://webgis.archaeology.ie/historicenvironment/.

For even more information on specific sites, we turned to a print source, Ireland: An Oxford Archaeological Guide by Andy Halpin and Conor Newman. Divided by regions, this book lists and describes important sites, some accessible to visitors, some not. It includes many plans taken from published reports. While useful, follow-up is not made easy. Illustrations are credited as being after Leask, Bradley, Cotter, etc., but there is otherwise no indication of source (date, publication). Although there is a page and a bit of further reading suggestions, surely we could have had a full bibliography in a 556 page book not intended for package tourists.

Armed with these sources of information, plus GPS and two laptops for internet consultations, we set out confidently in September 2019. We intended to drive a circuit around Ireland over the course of two weeks, visiting as many Neolithic and Bronze Age sites as possible, noting how they were presented to the public. It was my first trip, but my husband had been to southwestern Ireland several times as a student. Decades ago I worked in British archaeology, which I knew was somewhat similar to that of Ireland (but with the addition of Roman remains). We both retain vivid memories of a course on the archaeology of Britain that we took at the Institute of Archaeology in London. Irish sites and research were often mentioned for comparative purposes. My husband went on to specialize in the archaeology of Western Asia, and I concentrated on Andean archaeology. We therefore had some preparation for our Ireland trip, but not much.

After recovering from our transatlantic flight in a Dublin airport hotel we set out for Newgrange early on a Sunday morning. Guidebooks warned that tickets should be booked at least three months in advance. Having a few years ago successfully accomplished the similar long-range planning necessary to visit Stonehenge, I would have booked New Grange early last summer–but on-line advanced bookings are temporarily unavailable. The only option at present is to turn up and hope for the best. This we decided to do. The first obstacle was to find the parking lot where admissions are sold. It is across the River Boyne from the site and not well signposted. By the time we figured this out it was obvious that hundreds of people had arrived before us and we would not be seeing Newgrange that day (Figures 1 and 2). Why the confusion? Newgrange, along with its sister sites Knowth and Dowth, is currently being incorporated into an archaeological park, the first in Ireland. During this transition period there is a certain amount of chaos. As there is no visitor center open, we would have had to supply most of our own context. At present we have the worst of mass tourism with restricted admission, but without the facilities that such tourism demands. Things have changed a lot since Michael O’Kelly was excavating Newgrange in the 1960s and he simply gave the key to Knowth to one of our colleagues, telling him to just walk over there and see the interior for himself.

Figure 1. New Grange symbol on bus

Figure 1: Newgrange Symbol on a Bus

 

Figure 2. New Grange symbol on bottle

Figure 2: Newgrange Symbol on a Water Bottle

 

The following day, sticking to our schedule, we drove west to Donegal where we consoled ourselves walking around Donegal Castle in the rain (Figure 3) and shopping for tweeds. The Castle is partly a stabilized ruin and partly reconstructed, a good compromise, I think. (Figure 4) Medieval ruins, it turns out, are a lot easier to find than prehistoric ones. From there it was Galway. Not having yet bagged any Megaliths, we thought we could at least see a few prehistoric artifacts. That brought us to the Galway City Museum where there are small displays of worked stone and local pottery. Figure 3. Donegal Castle exterior

Figure 3: Donegal Castle Exterior

 

Figure 4. Donegal Castle interior

Figure 4: Donegal Castle Interior

 

Next stop: Kenmare. Once known for its exquisite lace designed by nuns and worked by local girls and wome, Kenmare is also the site of a stone circle. This one is accessible and easy to find, being right on the edge of town. (Figure 5). It is a Bronze Age circle of 15 stones, a sort of mini-Stonehenge, one of 15 stone circles in County Kerry and 41 in County Cork, or so various tourist brochures relate. In Ireland such circles always consist of an odd number of stones, varying from 5 to 19. These reduce in height from the two portal or entrance stones to a low axial or recumbent stone opposite the portal.

Kenmare Stone Circle center stone resized

Figure 5: Kenmare Stone Circle

 

The monument at Kenmare really should be known as the Kenmare Stone Oval, as it is egg-shaped, but such a designation has little resonance. Probably there was an astronomical alignment. In the center is a boulder burial, that is, a large stone resting on a few smaller ones, perhaps marking a grave (Figure 6).

Figure 6 Sign Kenmare)

Figure 6: Kenmare Sign

 

This monument is on private land. The family who maintain it have recently built an entrance kiosk and request 2 Euros per person to help with landscaping costs. Although some online commentators have criticized this tidiness, I find it rather sweet to have an ancient circle functioning as a sort of town park. Unfortunately, the view of the Finnihy River is obscured by trees, but two of these are hawthorns, associated with fairies and thought in Ireland to bring good luck to their owners and prosperity to the land on which they stand (Figure 7). People attach messages to them, usually wishing for good health for someone else. Thus, in a sense, veneration and invocations still occur at this magical spot. There is parking and the site is accessible to people who use wheelchairs.

Figure 7 Fairy trees Kenmare (1)

Figure 7: Kenmare Fairy Trees

 

Encouraged by our first success, we set off the next day for Bonane Heritage Park about ten kilometers outside Kenmare on the Beara peninsula. Somehow we missed it. I understand the park is still a work in progress. However, it was a beautiful, sunny day, so we decided to drive over the spectacular Healy’s Pass observed by sagacious sheep and avoiding the impressive participants of a bike rally.

Driving through the park, I realized that although much of the landscape looks “natural” at first glance, the entire island of Ireland is a series of (hu)man-managed environments from the moorlands and peat bogs to the fields, meadows, hedgerows, tree plantations, roads, drainages, fish farms, and canalized rivers. The construction and maintenance of all this represents a stupendous collective effort (Figure 8).

Figure 8 Countryside Ireland

Figure 8: View of the Countryside in the West of Ireland

 

Sticking to our goal of making a complete circuit around Ireland, we proceeded to Cork. A few times we spotted the brown and white menhir symbols that indicate proximity to a prehistoric site. Once or twice we tried to follow these signs without success. At one point we rushed past a landscape designated as the Cashel Barrow Field. I could see the mounds from our car windows.

Given that we had visited only one megalithic monument so far, I was getting a tad discouraged. I was also beginning to wonder why two people who had successfully performed archaeological survey in difficult parts of the world prior to the development of GPS and armed with guidebooks, the highly detailed information provided by the Archaeological Survey of Ireland, paper maps, and the directions of locals couldn’t find these places in a well-surveyed country where they are abundant. Later I took comfort in the advice provided by the website The Ring of Kerry. Many monuments are noted as being hard to find even for locals. Unlike most guides that tell you something is X kilometers from somewhere along a particular road, The Ring of Kerry provides directions in terms of easy-to-find places like hotels or holiday camps. I noticed that some very prominent sites like the Kenmare Stone Circle are not mentioned in specialized guidebooks such as the Ireland: An Oxford Archaeological Guide, while the interactive Archaeological Survey of Ireland map is so detailed that it is actually difficult to use. Sometimes we encountered useful information by accident, as with a spread on the Kenmare circle in the South Kerry Advertiser, a give-away publication (Coyne 2019) and a tourist map of the Bonane Heritage Park we found in our hotel. That let us know what monuments are in the park, without actually allowing us to find them. I began opportunistically to collect additional reference material like Christine Zucchelli’s Sacred Stones of Ireland.

In years past my husband had made several visits to County Cork, and from those he remembered the Drombeg Stone Circle, 15 km southwest of Clonakilty, off the R597 (Figure 9). Without his recollections I doubt we would ever have found it. Drombeg is a 17-stone circle excavated in 1957. It is similar in form to other Irish circles and is aligned to the mid-winter solstice. The interior was once covered with a layer of gravel, beneath which were five pits. One contained the cremated remains of an adolescent and a charcoal-encrusted pot that yielded a radiocarbon date somewhere between 1124 and 794 B.C. Several pieces of worked flint were also found. Nearby are the remains of two stone houses and a fulacht fiadh, a place where water was heated for cooking, bathing, and possibly ritual purposes. This part of the site dates to the first millennium B.C. and was probably used for centuries (Figure 10).Figure 9. Drombeg Stone Circle sign (2)

Figure 9: Drombeg Circle

 

Figure 10. Drombeg Stone Circle sign (1)

Figure 10: Drombeg Sign

 

From the circle there is a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. It is possible to park along the narrow road leading up to the site. Given the crowds and hassles involved in visiting the world-famous and admittedly more spectacular prehistoric sites like Stonehenge and Newgrange, it is refreshing to explore a place where one can just walk in, with or without a dog, and without an admission fee or reservation.

Confidence restored, the next day we set out to find the Island Wedge Tomb, excavated in 1957 by Michael O’Kelly, the excavator of Newgrange. This grave of an elderly woman dates to the second millennium B.C., although the monument may have been in active use for many years. We will have to content ourselves with O’Kelly’s publication, however, because the site is on private land and permission must be sought to see it.

Our Oxford guide did not mention this. The locals were all attending a funeral, so we never did see the Wedge Tomb, although we were very close. On the spur of the moment we decided to visit the nearby Bridgetown Augustinian Priory, a lovely ruin still used as the local graveyard. The recent monuments are very moving. Sometimes they commemorate family members who died almost a century ago. It is, I think, a testimony to increasing prosperity that people are now able to afford this and to the interest in genealogy that the Internet fosters. At this point we were actually staying in a medieval ruin. Well, sort of. We enjoyed a few nights of luxury in the Castlemartyr Resort, which incorporates a medieval castle. The castle has a dark history which includes the forces of Elizabeth I hanging the elderly mother of the seneschal from its walls to force his surrender, but times change. (Figure 11).

Figure 11 Castlemartyr
Figure 11: Castlemartyr

 

By now it was time to return to Dublin, having seen only two megalithic sites, but numerous interesting medieval buildings, imposing Georgian houses, lovely landscapes, and craft centers. Our final archaeological stop had to be the National Museum of Archaeology. It is particularly strong on Irish metalwork, much of it unfortunately decontextualized, and recently discovered bog bodies. The bodies are sensitively displayed so that those who object to viewing human remains can easily avoid them. Unfortunately, many parts of the museum are not accessible to people who use wheelchairs. There is a gift shop where I purchased several books (e.g., Brennan 1994) that may help in a future megalith hunt. For archaeologists and aficionados who want to avoid the same-old, same-old and get off the beaten path, Ireland is a wonderful place. You’ll get used to driving on narrow, one-lane roads.

I thank my husband, David Fleming, for allowing me to post his beautiful photographs and for his driving skills.

All images © David Fleming.

References cited:

Brennan, Martin. 1994. The Stones of Time: Calendars, Sundails, and Stone Chambers of Ancient Ireland. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International (first published in 1983 as The Stars and the Stones: Ancient Art and Astronomy in Ireland).

Coyne, Frank. 2019. Kenmare Stone Circle and Stone Circles Archaeology. South Kerry Advertiser, September, pp. 12–13.

Halpin, Andy and Conor Newman. 2008. Ireland: An Oxford Archaeological Guide to Sites from Earliest Times to AD 1600. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thackeray, William Makepeace. 2005 [1843]. The Irish Sketchbook of 1842. Dublin: Nonsuch Publishing Limited.

Zucchelli, Christine. 2016. Sacred Stones of Ireland. Cork City: Ireland. The Collins Press (first published in 2007 as Stones of Adoration).

Dangoor Infinity Expedition to Iceland

November 21, 2019

This post comes to us from Alicia Colson, a HARN administrator and
freelance archaeologist and ethnohistorian with a PhD from McGill and an undergraduate degree from UCL

 

Teaching, as we all know, comes in all forms and occurs in a wide variety of places.

I taught this past August as “knowledge leader” on the British Exploring Society’s Dangoor Infinity Expedition (http://www.britishexploring.org/) which was jointly run with the Jubilee Sailing Trust (https://jst.org.uk/). British Exploring Society takes young people to “extraordinary destinations, both in terms of the places they visit and in their own lives.” The charity designs some of their expeditions for those with particular abilities or challenges while others are open to all young people aged 16-25. (The pilot of Dagnoor Infinity occurred last Autumn). Both charities worked jointly to launch and run it this summer as they are determined to empower people, particularly young people. British Exploring Society’s mandate is to “provide inspirational and challenging expeditions to remote, wild environments so as to promote the development, confidence, team work, leadership and the part of adventure and exploration”. The Jubilee Sailing Trust provides “people of mixed abilities and circumstances the freedom to explore their ability, potential and place in the world through inclusive adventures at sea”. It owns and manages the two tall ships, SV Tenacious and the Lord Nelson, which are only tall ships in the world to be wheelchair accessible. The Tenacious is the largest wooden tall ship built in the UK in the last 100 years. It is 65 metres (213.25 feet) long including the bowsprit. It is rigged as a (three-masted) barque with two mizzen gaffs. It is a formidable sight with a deck measuring 49.85 metres in length, hull of 54.02 metres, and beam of 10.6 metres at its widest point.

For this expedition I was cast as a “knowledge leader” rather than the conventional title of field teacher/teacher/field scientist. This was a new role for me; I’d previously been on expeditions in the Canadian Boreal Forest, more recently Chief Scientist (for six weeks on a British Exploring Society expedition, based in the foothills of the Brandberg Mountain, in northern Namibia.) and conducted fieldwork in the US and Antigua.

The role of a knowledge leader is a new role for the British Exploring Society.

“It is an evolution of our science and media roles. It has been created to reflect our method of adventure, personal development and knowledge. Our aspiration is this role will allow greater flexibility for Leaders to play to their strengths and expertise to design and deliver engaging, relevant and meaningful projects for our Explorers. The role of a Knowledge Leader is to Lead a group (“Fire”) of approximately 12 explorers (participants) in partnership with a second, and possibly third Leader and to give direction and inspire curiosity in science, media and the environment they are in.”

This expedition had four teams called a “Fire”. The “Fire” contained approximately 10 to 12 young people per team lead (managed) by four Leaders of different types. There was always an Expedition Medic, qualified in expedition medicine, but Knowledge Leaders were either specialised in Media or Science. I worked as a Knowledge Leader with Susannah and Zoe. Zoe, as an Adventure Leader, is also a trained Mountain Leader, while Susannah, is a biologist with a PhD. All of us had acquired the skills to live, study, and move safely through the rugged landscape as we’d been on expeditions before elsewhere in the globe.

Base camp for the half of the expedition that took place on the land was in northeastern Iceland while the other part was at sea on the Tenacious. So on the Land there were two “Fires” and on the ship there were also two “Fires”. As we walked, through the various landscapes of northeastern Iceland, a distance of more than 100km, Susannah and I discussed the physical landscape, and the experience of walking through it. We “wild camped” every evening, selecting a site, setting up tents so that the students learned how to deal with the physical environment for themselves while meeting the learning objectives each of us had set for them.

My task was to deal with the geology and the geomorphology of this cold region, so I read up on the landscape so I was prepared to cover topics ranging from climate change, weather, igneous landforms, soil development, to land settlement patterns. For her part Susannah considered the plants, animals and other wildlife. For some two weeks we used features of our stark surroundings to encourage the students to connect what they could see with climate change, heritage and the future of the planet.

In mid-August we travelled by bus to Reykjavik to join the sailing ship, SV Tenacious, as part of its crew. Once on board the ship, the two “Fires” became part of the working crew responsible for sailing the ship from Reykjavik, Iceland to Greenock, Scotland. The Leaders who’d taught on land also had to learn how to continue teaching while part of the 57 strong crew of “Tenacious”. This meant that the Young People learn project management and team work and became voluntary crew as they worked alongside the permeant crew.

We had to learn to work and manage our time differently. Firstly, each “Fire” of Young Explorers was subdivided into four groups of five called a “Watch”. Each of the Leaders accompanied each “Watch”. Each “watch” was assigned a Watch Leader, drawn from the ship’s experienced crew. As a Leader, I was taught how to sail the ship, to navigate, to be a watch on the helm, the names and functions of the ropes (lines), masts and the sails, be on watch on Port or the Starboard and “do a Night watch”. Time was organized in four hour blocks called “watches” spanned over the 24-hour day. Teaching was tougher as it was undertaken on top of the daily activities connected to life onboard ship where each person had a defined role. So we all had talks and classes on sailing, the sails, climbing the ropes (going up the mast), the buoy system, weather (clouds), marine life, the threat of micro- plastics, the elements of water management in which we were immersed. Tenacious provided an environment that enabled that the Young Explorers continued to learn how to work as a team and to do project management both for themselves and with their “Watch”.

Now it might be asked why would I, as an archaeologist, undertake such an expedition? It is not an excavation, nor directly about obtaining information, even learning about the past, trying to understand the relationship between the evidence and the contrasted past, and definitely not the land! It was about the necessity of empowerment of other people.

Some good reasons:

  • People don’t learn in the same way: different teaching styles exist.
  • It’s imperative that people learn how to understand the world holistically.
  • On a personal note I was continuing a tradition of teaching developed by the late C. S. “Paddy” Reid, Regional Archaeologist, for Northwestern Ontario (an area the size of France and Germany). I met him as an undergraduate and undertook some of my field work training as an archaeologist under his auspices. “Paddy” believed that an education went hand in glove with empowerment, was holistic and could be undertaken anywhere. He took kids who were potential dropouts at secondary school on so they could become empowered by realizing that learning didn’t just happen in a classroom.

As a bonus I managed to give a talk at Sea on archaeology and I also climbed the mast! – Amazing views!

Indian Museums

August 26, 2019

This post comes to us from Monica Barnes, a HARN administrator and the lead editor of Andean Past.

“India is demanding”, a friend told us last February before my husband and I left for our first trip to that country. Ok. Demanding. But in what ways? People warned me that India is terribly crowded. About eighteen percent of everyone on earth lives there. That’s got to cause some serious stress. But can it be worse than Midtown Manhattan in the evening rush? (It is) Then there is the poverty, deep and wide enough to cause an existential crisis in people from prosperous parts of the world. About two thirds of the Indian population is destitute by any reasonable international standard. However, I’ve seen some profound want in Latin America without becoming an avatar of Mother Teresa. Then there is the intense air pollution. A veil of haze covers the entire country. For a long time India argued that is a necessary corollary of much needed development, but I think attitudes are changing.

Combine all this with the slight or profound sense of disorientation that develops when visiting a country utterly foreign to oneself. Yes, India is demanding, but utterly fascinating, too.

I’m fortunate to be associated with a major museum, the American Museum of Natural History. So, naturally, when I’m traveling I take a busman’s holiday and visit museums. There is always so much to enjoy and learn, not just in terms of the contents of displays, but in museology as well.

I have to confess that I hit the Indian museums cold, without knowing much about them or the art and archaeology they present. Fortunately, my husband and companion was somewhat better informed. We started with the Indian Museum in Kolkata. Founded in 1814 by the Asiatic Society, it is the oldest museum in the country. It has galleries devoted to art, anthropology, archaeology, and natural sciences. It is housed in a “legacy building”, meaning a colonial structure, in this case a large, white compound of courtyards with open arcades.

Figure 1 Indian Museum Kolkata courtyardFigure 1: Indian Museum Kolkata, courtyard

Through these arcades birds fly. Arriving early in the day, we observed a man removing spots of guano from the floor. Is someone assigned the task of cleaning droppings from the ancient statues? The birds are bad conservators, but they lend the place a peaceful, meditative air. They come and go as they wish, while numerous dogs, sacred cows, and a few monkeys wander outside.

In one important respect, many of the great European and North American museums differ from those in Latin America, Asia, and, I presume, Africa. Institutions like the Louvre, the British Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History were chartered to study and present world culture, and, in the case of the latter, the entire natural world. Outside Europe and North America, almost all museums follow nationalist principles. That is, they offer glimpses of their national, or perhaps regional or local, cultures and, with few exceptions, do not address the rest of the world. This can make for collections and related activities of great depth, but little breadth. An institutional goal is to instill proprietary and patriotic pride by presenting the glories of the nation. This is the case with the four Indian museums we visited. Nationalism is emphasized by the fact that non-Indian visitors pay much higher admission fees, except at one private museum.

India has 24 official languages, including English. Museums have artifact labels in English and at least one other tongue. However, these are minimalist. If you don’t walk in the door with good prior knowledge of Indian history, culture, and geography you won’t develop it simply by exploring the museums. You cannot depend on the bookstalls, either. A very limited number of publications are on offer, but these, at least, are inexpensive.

In general, the museology is old-fashioned. Forget about interactive displays, or multi-media presentations. We have objects lined up in vitrines. Make of them what you will and try to maintain your attention as long as you can. Fortunately, JATAN, a national digitization project, is underway and coming to the rescue. Many objects can be studied through this on-line, open-access catalogue. http://museumsofindia.gov.in/repository/museum/im_kol. At the time of writing, 4144 ornaments, 4399 tools, and 6060 coins from the Indian Museum can be viewed with their catalogue information. This resource is being expanded rapidly.

Having mentioned these shortcomings, I can focus on the unique and extraordinary. Given my own interests in art, archaeology, crafts, and ethnography, I skipped the natural history displays. At the Indian Museum, as with the others we visited, the quality of the objects shown is extraordinary. Particularly strong are the Bharhut Gallery displaying early Buddhist architectural sculpture, the Bronze Gallery with lovely Buddhist and Hindu religious images, and the magnificent Gandhara Gallery housing second century C.E. Buddhist sculpture made under Hellenistic influence. The large L.Archaeology Gallery shows the evolution of sculpture in India.

 

Figure 2 Ganesha Indian Museum KolkataFigure 2: Ganesha, Indian Museum, Kolkata

Figure 3 contemporary miniature on a vintage postcard (2)Figure 3: Durga, Sheep-headed Goddess, Indian Museum, Kolkata

Here one must remember that what is now Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan were once in the sphere of greater “India”, so works from those countries are often found in Indian museums. Indian miniature paintings are arranged in chronological order to present the development of this art form. Such paintings are still being executed. I was able to purchase some lovely contemporary ones at the National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum (see below). Textiles, especially nineteenth century ones, are well represented and nicely conserved. Archaeologists have a rare opportunity to see a large selection of Harrapan artifacts.

Figure 4 contemporary miniature on a vintage postcard (1)Figure 4: Contemporary Miniature painted on a vintage postcard

Indian cultural sites have accessibility problems. That is, if you cannot walk up flights of stairs, often without handrails, you will be limited in what you can see. The Indian Museum has a freight lift to the upper galleries. You can use it, but you won’t find it without staff help.

The next museum we visited was the National Museum in Delhi, the Indian capital http://www.nationalmuseumindia.gov.in/index.asp. Time constraints prevented us from visiting the many museums in that city dedicated to various deceased members of the Gandhi and Nehru families. The National Museum (Delhi) has a lot in common with the Indian Museum (Kolkata). It is heavy on lovely Indian religious sculpture (Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain) and miniature paintings. The focal point of the Buddhist gallery is a shrine containing bones believed to be those of the Buddha himself. You may see pilgrims offering prayers there. Although not all the museum’s holdings are Indian, part of its stated mission is “to serve as epitome of national identity”.

There is a hall devoted to Central Asian antiquities gathered in the early twentieth century by Sir Aurel Stein during his expeditions to the “Silk Roads” and another dedicated to Indian jewelry throughout the centuries. For descriptions of other permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions see the website.

Given the general lack of facilities for people with mobility problems, it is refreshing to have a tactile gallery where individuals with low vision can feel reproductions of typical objects. The museum website promises that special needs are being addressed.

At the time of our visit we were unable to see many of the collections because of extensive reinstallations. These included several hundred pre-Columbian objects, the only such collection normally on public display in Asia. Also closed for reinstallation was the Anthropology Gallery, strong on the material culture of India’s northeastern states and traditional Indian musical instruments, and the Textile Gallery.

Figure 5 publication on Nazca pottery in the National Museum, DelhiFigure 5: Publication on Nasca pottery in the National Museum, Delhi

Two other Delhi museums, both dedicated to Indian crafts, share a very different tone. The private  Sanskriti Museums http://www.sanskritifoundation.org/about-the-foundation.htm on the southern edge of the city are composed of pavilions, each dedicated to a particular topic, surrounded by gardens displaying large ceramic pieces. The museums are part of the Sanskriti Kendra, a foundation-supported institution dedicated to preserving Indian traditional arts. There are ceramics, block printing, enameling, and general studios as well as exhibit and meeting halls, and accommodation for resident artists. Admission is free.

Figure 6 ceramics in the grounds of the Sanscriti MuseumFigure 6: Ceramics in the grounds of the Sanskriti Museum

The Museum of Everyday Art highlights objects in daily use exhibiting excellent craftsmanship (many created by women). The exuberant Museum of Indian Terracotta has both indoor and outdoor displays. I was lucky enough to see all this with a man from Orissa who described his mother and grandmother’s involvement in traditional house decoration, as displayed. The Museum of Indian Textiles originated as an individual’s collection and does not attempt to be comprehensive, but it is interesting.

Figure 7 Wall painting Sanscriti MuseumFigure 7: Wall painting, Sanskriti Museum, Delhi

Closer to central Delhi is the National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum, commonly known as the Crafts Museum, and run by India’s Ministry of Textiles http://nationalcraftsmuseum.nic.in/  (Note that the website is not kept current). Not surprisingly, it houses India’s largest collection of cloth. This, too, follows an in indoor/outdoor format, with a whole village reproduced.

Figure 8 National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum DelhiFigure 8: National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum, Delhi

The collections of folk sculpture, textiles, and decorative architectural elements are particularly strong. There is a “contemporary Indian restaurant” on-site, as well as an area for crafts demonstrations. This is a great place to shop, because the artists demonstrating their work have some to sell.

Figure 9 Doorways National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum IndiaFigure 9: Doorways, National Handcrifts and Handloom Museum, Delhi

Like much else in India, museums are “demanding”, too. While anyone probably could enjoy the displays, prior knowledge of Indian art, history, archaeology, anthropology, geography, and crafts would definitely enhance one’s experiences. The museums are demanding physically, as well as intellectually, with few seats in the galleries, or anywhere else, and only one out of the four I visited has a café. Sometimes wheelchairs are available, but check ahead of time if you need one. You can count on clean “wash rooms”, though, and some extraordinary collections.

Following Footsteps…

July 22, 2019
This post comes to us from Hélène Maloigne, a HARN administrator and 4th year PhD student at the Department of History at UCL.

 

I’ve been thinking about Leonard and Katharine Woolley almost every day for the best part of ten years. It all started in 2011, when I first saw the call for participants for the 2012 excavation season at Tell Atchana/ancient Alalakh. At the time I was studying for a degree in Museum Studies at the Institute of Archaeology (IoA) at University College London and the name struck a cord in my archaeologist’s heart. I was familiar with both the site and its famous first excavators from when I studied archaeology of the Ancient Near East, and the idea of following in their footsteps immediately called out to me. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Tell Atchana/ancient Alalakh lies in the Amuq Valley in the Turkish State of Hatay. The site is located about 20 km from modern-day Hatay/ancient Antioch and about 100 km west of Aleppo in Syria. During the Middle to Late Bronze Ages it was the capital of the regional kingdom of Mukish. This was vassal, in turn, to the Mitanni and the Hittites, before the site was abandoned in the Early Iron Age, when the administrative centre shifted to neighbouring Tell Tayinat (excavated by the University of Toronto).

Charles Leonard Woolley (1880–1960) directed excavations at the site from 1936–39 and 1946–49, focussing on the palatial and temple precincts. Professor K. Aslıhan Yener, who has been exploring the site and the surrounding Amuq Valley since the early 1990s, directs the current excavations.

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Figure 1: Map of Turkey showing the location of Alalakh
courtesy of E. Kozal: R. Szydlak background map; E. Kozal archaeological map

 

When I first arrived at Atchana in 2012 I immediately felt at home, in the inexplicable way you do in some places or cities or with some people, but not with others. While there have inevitably been some changes to the team over the years, the constancy of friendships forged during the short but intense field seasons has always fascinated me. There is a comfort in the ease with which a conversation can be picked up where you left it a year ago and jokes remain funny no matter how old they are. For me, going to Atchana is like visiting family—with all the ups and downs that entails. One of the ups has been encountering the Woolleys in the traces they left at the site and back in London in the archive of the IoA. Out of that first season in 2012 and the MA thesis I was then writing developed a project, which resulted in an exhibition at the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED) at Koç University in Istanbul in 2014. My co-curator Murat Akar and I explored photographic practice at Atchana from the 1930s until today. Juxtaposing the images taken by Woolley’s foreman Yahia ibn Mohammed ibn Sheik Ibrahim with Akar’s own superb portraits of the local and visiting communities allowed us to explore the continuities as well as changes of archaeological practice over the last eighty years.

A lot has changed, that much is certain. Archaeologists in general, and we who work in the Middle East in particular, have started listening to the ghost of archaeology past and have started to explore our discipline’s entanglement with modernity, nationalism, colonialism and a range of other isms. We have come to acknowledge our dependence on these power structures and have started thinking about how to redress some of the imbalances they have engendered. HARN blog readers will be more than familiar with the deluge of books exploring the history and practice of archaeology in a variety of ways to appear in the last thirty years. Nowadays, conferences on archaeology in the Middle East, almost by default, include a session on endangered heritage or site preservation, usually with an emphasis on previous or current Western involvement in the region. In a similar vein, the archival turn has opened up new and exciting ways to explore the many ways in which archaeology has influenced and interacted with wider society.

Yet at the same time, some things have remained almost the same since the Woolleys’ days. The public have always been fascinated by the past and the ‘riches’ it keeps hidden from us in the ground. The image of the heroic male archaeologist, travelling alone to dangerous lands to rediscover a lost temple, jealously guarded by a hostile, primitive indigenous population has obstinately stuck in the popular imagination. And there is always a tinge of excitement in people’s voices when I tell them about my profession and they ask me what ‘the best thing’ is I’ve ever found. While some archaeologists roll their eyes and sigh at these questions, I embrace the fame Indiana Jones has brought us. After all, we ourselves have created and cultivated this image. Ever since Austen Henry Layard’s hugely successful popular accounts of his travels and diggings (we can’t call them excavations in the modern sense) in nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire, archaeologists have been attuned to the importance of publicity and the ‘riches’ lying dormant in the popular book and newspaper market.

As I am packing my bags to travel to my seventh season at Atchana, I (inevitably) think about the Woolleys and how their journey to Ur in southern Iraq and later to Tell Atchana was an essential part of their archaeological lives. I am currently completing my PhD thesis exploring how British archaeologists working in the Middle East in the interwar period made the most of the public’s fascination with their profession by writing books, newspaper and magazine articles and speaking on the radio. The period of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, the Royal Graves at Ur, and the Indus Valley culture coincided with an expansion of the British Empire as a result of the Great War. Archaeologists made good use of the connections forged during their military service to obtain excavations permits as well as high positions in colonial administration. At the same time, cheap daily and weekly newspapers and magazines reached a mass readership in Britain hungry for anything but casualty lists and heavily censored reports of minimal shifts on the front line. The human-interest angle and the public’s budding obsession with ‘celebrities’ worked in favour of archaeologists (like the Woolleys) with a talent for popular writing. How archaeology was practiced, the methods being developed, began to subtly creep into popular writings emphasising life on a dig or travel to and in foreign lands, as archaeologists began to narrow the boundaries of their discipline.

Iraq_Site_300dpiFigure 2: Map of southern Mesopotamia
© The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

 

The trip out East often featured prominently in Leonard and even more so Katharine Woolley’s (1880–1945) newspaper articles. The Middle East was familiar enough to the reading public in Britain through centuries of travel accounts as well as reports on the Mesopotamian theatre during the Great War, yet still ‘exotic’ enough as ‘the Orient’, the location of Biblical events and the origin of the monumental sculptures from the Neo-Assyrian palaces of Nineveh and Nimrud brought home by Layard and others in the nineteenth century.

In one of her articles published in 1929, Katharine Woolley described her journey to the readers of the magazine Britannia and Eve. Travelling to Ur in southern Iraq, they usually took the Orient Express to Istanbul, then the Taurus Express to Aleppo where they met up with their long-term collaborator and foreman Hamoudi (Mohammed ibn Sheik Ibrahim, Yahia’s father) and his sons who lived in the area of Jerablus (on the Turco-Syrian border). Over coffee they’d relive the highlights of the previous season, enquire about friends, exchange gossip and make lists of supplies to buy. Hamoudi, Yahia, and his brother Alawi then travelled ahead to prepare the site for the Woolleys’ arrival who stayed behind for a few days. The couple drove on to Damascus where they booked places on the Nairn Company’s cross-desert car service which took them via Ramadi in Iraq to Baghdad and from there by train to Ur near Nasiriyah.

I’ll be travelling on my own, not looking forward to a night-time layover in the vast new Istanbul Airport, five hours under the glare of neon lights and gigantic advertisement screens. I know that the only thing keeping me awake there will be cups of strong, sugary Turkish tea and filled pastries, which are a delight everywhere in Turkey, even at an airport café…

The Woolleys usually spent October/November to March at Ur (depending on the always slightly precarious funding by the British Museum and the University Museum in Pennsylvania). In 1928 there had been a sandstorm prior to their arrival at the house, and Katharine evocatively described their approach to the site at dawn to her readers. The vast desert landscape of southern Iraq, only relieved by the numerous Tells dotting the scene, made a strong impression on her. She wrote about the sun rising over the abandoned ruins of ancient Ur, partially excavated since 1922, and the vision of the men appearing slowly on the plains as little dots, some of them walking for a couple of hours to be signed up for the season. Their first task was to dig out the house covered up to the roof in sand.

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Figure 3: The excavation house at Ur after the sandstorm, 1929.
© The Trustees of the British Museum. Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence.

 

After a gruelling six months the Woolleys returned to Britain. Accompanied by Hamoudi, Yahia and Alawi as far as Aleppo, they stopped to visit other sites on the way (Uruk, Kish, Mari and Dura-Europos), enjoy the comfort of cool restaurants and coffee houses in the winding streets of Damascus and then Aleppo, where they said goodbye until the next year. Once again, friendships had been strengthened over an intense period of time spent working together from dawn until dusk, jokes had been laughed at and small dramas averted.

BM-Ur-GN-1586_300dpi2500pixSizeFigure 4: Father Eric Burrows, M.E.L. Mallowan, Katharine Woolley, and Sheik Hamoudi watching Leonard Woolley.
© The Trustees of the British Museum. Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence.

 

All of this lies just ahead of me as I glimpse the familiar silhouette of Tell Atchana through the car window and I must leave you to your own summer adventures…

 

Hélène Maloigne is completing her PhD at the Department of History at UCL. She has been working at Tell Atchana since 2012.

The Forgotten Kingdom – ANAMED
https://ucl.academia.edu/HeleneMaloigne

Joining the Field

July 9, 2019

Our next post comes from one of our newest members, Rebecca Hopkins.

This past year, I decided to completely restart my life by ending a decade long teaching career, and returning to university to pursue my dream of being an archaeologist, and, oh, what a year it has been. I’ve travelled 12 hours away from home, spending a year away from my husband and dogs to start this new career. This has been one of the most difficult and challenging times of my life, not only being away from my support system, but also due to the fact that I’m starting a new phase in my life where I am significantly older than most of my peers, and have to establish a new foundation and network, along with learning new skills. The first two terms of my program were incredibly intensive coursework, and this summer will be spent working on my dissertation and getting experience by going to field school. Since I’m specializing in Cambodian archaeology, I’ve also decided to learn Khmer, and I’ve been taking lessons since September 2018. This summer will see a lot of revision and practice. So what that translates into for me this summer is lots of coffee, very little sleep, and trying to do everything in as second language.

In May I attended the’ Training Week for Students’ on a Roman Villa at the Kent Archaeological Field School in Faversham, Kent, led by Paul Wilkinson. That training week was an absolute joy, mainly due to the people that I was taking the course with. What I really enjoyed about it was that both the staff and the students genuinely wanted to be there, to learn, and to share their love of archaeology. I spent a lot of time in one corner of the site, uncovering a wall and the barn floor, while also sorting through an endless amount of flint. This being my first excavation, I was excited about every little find, the chance that anything could be the next big find. I love that rush, the potential of anything to reveal some part of the story of the people who lived on this site at one point in time. I hope that feeling never goes away, because I believe that whatever you are doing with your work, you should always be able to find this much excitement in it. I think that I picked the right career for me. While we also did find some interesting objects (Roman coins, a barn threshold floor, and a hypocaust), what will stick with me is the experience of working with individuals who are truly passionate about that they do. Being out in the middle of the Kentish countryside in beautiful spring weather didn’t hurt either. I did also learn the hard way about how taxing troweling can be on your hands! Mine were aching for a few days after the end of field school.

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Figure 1 Working on site in Faversham (Author’s own)

 

My next field school will be in August with Ramparts Scotland Battle Hill – Prehistoric Landscape Project 2019 in Huntly, Scotland. I’m greatly looking forward to this, getting more experience under my belt. In the meantime, I’ll be spending the rest of my time working on my dissertation on the transition from small-scale Bronze Age societies to early Iron Age centralized states in Cambodia. My dissertation will take up the majority of my time, but I’m already learning a lot about this time period and finding some interesting connections between sites and objects. I’ve also been very struck by how helpful the community of Southeast Asian archaeologists is and how very generous with their time and expertise. I’ve been reaching out on social media when I get stuck on a particular point, or have a question, and the support I’ve received so far is amazing. There will clearly be a large number of acknowledgements in my dissertation. This summer will be a challenge, no doubt about it, but so far, because of the people I’ve met, the support I’ve received, and the powers of caffeine, I am confident that I will see it through successfully.

Rebecca is currently studying for an MA in Archaeology and the Heritage of Asia at the Institute of Archaeology at UCL. Follow her on Twitter: @beccainhkinlon1 and on Instagram: beccainhkinlondon.

Let’s get started!

June 17, 2019

Ok, I’ll start things rolling… on the grounds that everyone is waiting to see who goes first in responding to the HARN Group’s call for “I know what you did this summer…”

 

I have just returned from visiting University of Beijng, China for three weeks. I gave a lecture at the School of Archaeology and Museum entitled “Pioneering women in archaeology: A very short history (18th to mid-20th century)”.

I worked from research undertaken with Dr Penelope Foreman (Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust) which looks at ‘constellations’ of women in the history of archaeology. Why? We think that the career of a woman in the discipline regardless of the time period likely depends on her personal group, a network of people and contacts. We use the term ‘constellation’ to refer to such a group. Their careers depend on these broader networks, those women generate – ‘constellations’ of pioneers. Such constellations form the core of Archaeology. I discussed the methodology, the software utilised (yes it’s a digital humanities project as well) and I showed some of the networks that are being generated. Since there are 184 people included in the database (84 fields) I was able to posit some observations. The networks of women such as Gertrude Caton-Thompson, Gertrude Bell, Freya Stark, Harriet Boyd Hawes, Margaret Murray, Dorothy Garrod, Hilda Petrie, Tessa Verney Wheeler, Esther Boise Van Deman, and Winnifred Lamb provided food for thought. Given an hour and the long timer period covered I discussed a larger number of women (and men) than listed here, some of the tendencies and observations that are emerging, including our motivations and the material evidence. Both Penelope and I are particularly interested in those women who are not as well-known as Gertrude Bell, Gertrude Caton-Thompson and so on.

Since I was in Beijing, I could sample its archaeology aka ‘touristic stuff’ visiting the Summer Palace, Winter Palace, Beihai Park (which is a public park and former imperial garden located in the northwestern part of the Imperial City, Beijing. The Park was originally built in the 11th century and contains many notable structures, including palaces, and temples). I also visited the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, the National Art Museum of China, Wangfujing and various hutongs including: Nanluoguxiang and Yandai Xiejie. As a newcomer I took many photos. Here’s a photo of the West Gate of Peking University, on my route to campus.

 

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The campus itself is stunning. I naturally visited the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Beijing University. If you want to see more photos check my Instagram account as I’m posting a few of the photos of my time in China there:

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alicia_colson/

 

What’s next? I’m off in a few months to do some teaching in Iceland!

 

So who’s next? Looking forward to hearing from everyone, Alicia

 

Dr. Alicia J. M. Colson FRGS