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Announcements – TAG, EAA, Archaeological Journal

November 25, 2015

Bradford TAG 14th – 16th December

Thanks to the inestimable Jon, HARN will be at TAG this year. We’ll have a stall and we’d love to see you there. We will have biscuits – yes I am prepared to bribe you to come and say hello to us. In fact the bribes don’t stop there. No, I will go further, if anyone is prepared to come and relieve me or Jon for an hour I will give you two biscuits!

I’ll be sending an email to all our British based members asking the same thing, so if you do feel you could volunteer on the stall then do let me know.


The EAA are also looking for volunteers – they’re not offering biscuits.

The European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) seeks volunteers to work on the following EAA Committees and working parties:
– Statutes Working Group
– Fundraising Committee
and to represent the EAA at the various relevant European arenas where you are already active, and report to the EAA Executive Board. If you are willing to contribute to the work of the EAA, we will appreciate you letting us know your areas of expertise and capacities in which you could enhance the work of the Association. Your engagement will be highly appreciated.

If you’re interested (despite the lack of biscuits) contact Sylvie Kvetinova the EAA Administrator.

The Archaeological Journal

They’re looking for a new editor – they’re not offering biscuits either, although you could spend the £4,000 on an awful lot of biscuits, I guess.

The Royal Archaeological Institute is seeking an editor for the multi-period, peer-reviewed Archaeological Journal to succeed Prof. Howard Williams, who has recently produced the first volume in conjunction with our new publishing partner: Routledge – that for 2015: Vol. 172. His last volume will be Volume 174 for 2017. We hope that the newly-appointed editor will shadow Howard during 2016, and will then edit Volume 175, to be published online in January and June 2018, and in print in July that year. We anticipate that the person appointed will commit to the publication of a minimum of four volumes, to Volume 178.

Membership of the Institute will be expected. Current members, or those at subscribing institutions, may review the back stock of publications online on Taylor and Francis’ website. (Those unable to familiarise themselves with the Institute’s published work may contact the Administrator on for login help.)

The editorial team also includes a Reviews Editor, and a compiler of the Summer Meeting Report that results from our week-long field visits.

The position attracts an annual emolument of £4,000, and is supported by an Editorial Committee who will consider expressions of interest at its meeting on 9th December. The person appointed will be expected to attend the next Editorial meeting, at Burlington House, London, on 11th May.

Please submit expressions of interest to the Institute’s Administrator at by Friday, 4th December.

For further information, please contact Dr. Pete Wilson, Hon. Secretary, on

That’s it. Remember TAG + HARN = biscuits.


Review – Creating Prehistory

November 19, 2015
Isn't that a lovely cover? Copyright Skyscan Balloon Photography/English Heritage

Isn’t that a lovely cover? Copyright Skyscan Balloon Photography/English Heritage Photo Library

Let me begin by saying I enjoyed this book tremendously, despite it taking me so long to getting round to writing a review. Stout’s examination of the esoteric ideas about the past that were concurrent with the expansion of British archaeology in the first half of the twentieth century is excellently written and researched. Stout makes the point that to the outsider all those interested in the excavated past, whether mainstream or marginal, were seen as unconventional, archaeology in the first half of the twentieth century was an off-beat and unorthodox interest. Additionally, Stout’s work is embedded in the contemporary political and social understandings of pre-war Britain and as I said here he weaves wider social ideas and attitudes into his narrative, particularly ideas about the past being envisaged as wild and how this connects to the search for the wild in pre-war Britain, the untamed and untainted, pre-modern, folkloric, simple, innocent and how this was linked to the burgeoning outdoors movement including the Woodcraft Folk* and the mass trespass of Kinder Scout. As a piece of social history it is absolutely fascinating and I would – and have – recommended it to undergraduates as an essential book about the history of archaeology. But I recommend it with provisos, I’ll get to those later, and I will admit that even after I’d read his sympathetic account my view of the more outré believers was still ‘Holy cow! What a bunch of nutters!**’ –to use a technical reviewing term.

As the subtitle suggests Stout is interested in the druids, ley hunters and archaeologists of pre-war Britain (by which he means pre 2nd World War) and the way the archaeologists sought to contain the unconventional elements and control which past was disseminated to the public while the fringe tried to ensure that their voice was heard. But there’s both more and less to his book than that, in particular (although not referred to in the title) he documents the work of Smith, Perry and the other hyper-diffusionists, giving their story as much weight as druids and ley hunters.

Smith is a fascinating character, his work on anatomy, and particularly the anatomy of Egyptian mummies, as well as his psychological work alongside his friend W. H. R. Rivers on treating, sympathetically, sufferers of shell shock is well-known. When I was researching my PhD I came across Shell Shock and its Lessons and – because I was supposed to be reading other things – promptly sat down and read it from cover to cover. As you do. Obviously a work of this kind is going to be anti-war, but that Smith then used diffusionist understandings of anthropology/archaeology to promote pacifism is not something I’d picked up on, yet Stout makes a convincing case. I had obviously just uncritically accepted the idea that Smith and Perry were cranks whose ideas could therefore be simply dismissed, Stout demonstrates that this was far from being the case. Their ideas were fascinating, coherent and connected and make so much more sense when read within the anti-conscription and anti-war framework. Stout argues that Perry’s ‘peaceful primitives’ overwhelmed by the ‘Children of the Sun’ military aristocracy was framed to counter the idea from Sir Arthur Keith and others that humanity was predisposed to war. In Perry’s view war came about through greed: the sea-faring warriors enslaved various natives in order to gain access to life-giving precious metals. The counterpart of this argument was that humanity could therefore return to its former peaceful condition. Understandably Perry’s books Children of the Sun (1923) and The Growth of Civilization (1924) were enormously popular with those promoting peace in the shocked aftermath of the First World War. However, they and Elliot Smith’s book Human History (1930) as well as Massingham’s Downland Man (1926) were popular beyond this group and diffusionism really caught the public imagination.

Stout argues that anthropologists were not so keen and details the power struggles of Elliot Smith’s rise to dominance and the epistemic revolution he attempted. It’s riveting stuff. He details who was on Smith’s side, initially these were Manchester illuminati (including the wonderfully named Dr Henry Guppy of the John Rylands’ Library) but diffusionism spread from this centre (sorry!) when Smith moved to UCL and Perry followed to take up the Rockefeller funded Readership in Anthropology. Other anthropologists, especially those affiliated to the Royal Anthropological Institute became highly suspicious of Smith and Perry’s intentions, particularly their refusal to join in academic debate, and the two were gradually ostracised and marginalised as Malinowski and the functionalist anthropologists became more influential. Possibly because of this ostracism, possibly because of the rise of Nazi ideas of Aryan races, possibly because Perry was increasingly ill with Parkinson’s, he and Smith abandoned their intransigent hyper-diffusionism over the 1930s and came back into the fold of social evolution and functionalism.

Stout looks at the impact of diffusionism on archaeology and it’s here that his insistence on calling Elliot Smith and Co ‘diffusionists’ as opposed to the more accepted ‘hyper-diffusionists’ becomes confusing. Because diffusion did appeal to archaeologists and was used by them, for all they dismissed Smith and Perry’s insistence on hyper-diffusion, on an Egyptian origin for all cultural change. This is an area Stout barely explores, and even when he raises interesting points such as contemporary archaeologists’ (and particularly Wheeler’s) insistence on the naturalness of warfare, he goes into hardly any detail. Tell me more Adam! What are you basing this on? However, what Stout does do, is point out how damningly and unfairly Daniel and Trigger wrote about Smith and Perry which has made me want to go back and re-read Smith and Perry’s work.

What else can I tell you about this book? Stout looks at the rise of alternative religions and the affinity this appears to have to socialism and healthy living, I was delighted to learn that 1920s druids were mainly Labour Party supporters. His section about druids is quite short, but sensitively and honestly written. While he notes that the druids were largely ridiculed and marginalised by archaeologists and government, he doesn’t exonerate either side, rather he talks about how archaeologists attempted to control the understanding of Stonehenge as a ‘dead’ monument while the druids attempted to present the site as part of a living tradition. This concern is repeated in the section on The Straight Track Club – ley line followers – a more disparate and interesting group than the early druids, and presented as more of a threat to archaeologists than the druids. Stout notes the similarity of purpose between archaeologists and Straight Track searchers, their concern with locating and defining the monuments within the landscape, their competing ruralism and, from Watkins at least, the emphasis on observation not imagination.

Again, this alternative approach to the past is discussed as credible and reasonable, even when it veered off into believing in Atlantis. Again, mainstream archaeologists are shown as deliberately distancing themselves from the ‘lunatic fringe’ although the work undertaken by both sides seems very similar, and when Watkins was attempting to gain Crawford’s approbation.

It is refreshing to read an account of archaeology that does discuss alternative readings of the past and treats them as valid approaches rather than presenting them as ridiculous caricatures. So, why do I only recommend it with provisos? I think the problem is that Stout veers too far in the opposite direction and the archaeologists become caricatures. Maybe I just know too much about these people, but by setting up a dichotomy pitting mainstream archaeologists against those who believed in hyperdiffusion/druids/ley lines I would suggest Stout misrepresents inter-war archaeology. Presenting mainstream archaeology as homogeneous with agreed upon attitudes and principles ignores many of the diversities and disagreements between members of that band. There were marked differences in approach and understandings of the nature of archaeology and when rifts appear they were very noticeable – for example Wheeler was viewed with suspicion and distaste by many and his fieldwork credentials questioned as shown in Glyn Daniel’s autobiography Some Small Harvest (1986), the fallout after Wheeler’s review of Hod Hill (see Antiquity 42 for the original review, reaction and riposte), or the letters between Piggott and Keiller in the Avebury Museum archive.

There are other examples I could give but let’s look at Stout’s assertion that ‘the mind-set of the ‘heroic band’ was hardly conducive to respect for esoterica, whether prehistoric or modern’ (118). Yet many of that heroic band wrote articles for Folklore, Leslie Grinsell, unarguably a mainstream archaeologist, was a linchpin of the Folklore Society. He was not alone, among other examples: Keiller was well known for his research into witchcraft, Piggott wrote an article about Mummers plays published in 1929, and obviously there was Margaret Murray whom Stout dismisses in less than a page. How does this translate as not respecting esoterica?

Then there is Stout’s understanding of fieldwork during this period, I’m not going to go into detail here but let’s just say that he’s obviously never worked in modern development led archaeology and he really should have read Gavin Lucas’ book Critical Approaches to Fieldwork (2000).

But, criticisms are inevitable when you read something that relates to your own field of interest/expertise. Despite my quibbles and occasional outright indignation about what is and isn’t included and despite disagreeing with him on several points, Creating Prehistory has made me think and that’s always the sign of a good, thought-provoking book.

On that upbeat note, I will wish you a fantastic weekend


* They were the precursors of the Kibbo Kift y’know – yes I am obsessed and fully intend to visit this exhibition.

** So, maybe I haven’t mellowed as much as I’d thought/hoped.

Filming Antiquity

November 17, 2015


Excavations, Exhibitions, Archives: a seminar series sponsored by FILMING ANTIQUITY
Please join us for a series of talks surrounding the excavation, exhibition, and archiving of objects and information. From the artefacts of ancient cities to films of everyday life to digital curation, these talks centre on the overlapping activities of researchers working on early twentieth-century Britain and is open to all. Each talk will be followed by questions, discussion, and drinks.  Abstracts for each talk will be added in due course.

Tuesday 8 December 2015 | Gabe Moshenska | Ghostly and Ghastly Antiquarian Fiction | Rm 209, Institute of Archaeology | 6pm-7pm

​This talk will explore the connections between ghosts and antiquarians in late 19th to early 20th century supernatural fiction. Focusing on the works of M.R. James and E.F. Benson it aims to highlight and examine distinct themes that emerge in the literature. One such common theme is the concept of ghostly guardians of buried or forgotten antiquities. Another is the tension between relics and ghosts of Christian, non-Christian and pre-Christian pasts, particularly when the latter are depicted as demonic. Finally I want to consider the fictional ghost as subject of scholarship by the antiquarians depicted in the stories – sometimes leading to their dooms.

26 January 2016 | Michael McCluskey & Amara Thornton | Footage from 1930s Iraq | Royal Asiatic Society | 6.30pm-7.30pm

23 February 2016 | Lee Grieveson | Colonial Film Archive | Room 209, Institute of Archaeology | 6pm-7pm

22 March 2016 | Jenny Bunn | Digital Curation | Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL | 5pm-6pm

Archaeology in Film Part 1: Who’s Been Polishing the Sun?

November 17, 2015


Speechless! What a joy!

Originally posted on Adventures in History and Archaeology:

I’ve been doing research on a new project.  It’s mostly new, even though the ideas have been milling about in my head for about 5 years.  With the first book done, and the child born and into toddlerhood, I can finally move forward with some of this new stuff!

That being said, in the midst of some searching for Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo–the one off the Azbakiya Gardens that was finally destroyed by revolutionaries in 1952, not the one on the east bank of the Nile that is being refurbished–I have found some interesting and fun things.  First, if you’re looking for a good book about hotels, including Shepheard’s, look no further than Andrew Humphreys’ book The Grand Hotels of Egypt in the Golden Age of Travel (Cairo: AUC Press, 2011).  He also has a website where he adds even more images and new stories.  Don’t miss it. He…

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The History of Archaeology in Action, or, In Which “X” May Actually Mark The Spot

November 12, 2015


Excellent post by Kate, and cheerful, so in complete contrast to me then!

Originally posted on Adventures in History and Archaeology:

First, thanks to Shereif Nasr, Chris Naunton, and Meegan Neeb for helping in my adventure.

When I was in Cairo in September, not only was I doing research for a new project, I was also having fun.  How can you not?  Cairo demands you enjoy yourself.  From the beauty of the Nile, to the energy of the city and the fun-loving people who live there, it’s hard not to join in.  On the flip side of that, Cairo can make you tired, and quickly so.  The energy the city gives off also means you use a lot of energy, too.

The Nile, Cairo Tower, 6th October Bridge The Nile, Cairo Tower, 6th October Bridge

There are so many options—the new, modern, desert developments offer high-end shopping; the older, 19th century buildings offer hints at the city’s “belle epoque;” the even older medieval souks offer textiles and tourist trinkets as well as important cultural experience.

El Fishawy El Fishawy

Turkish coffee and mint tea at Fishawy Turkish…

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In Which I Contradict Myself (again)

November 12, 2015

A while ago I said that I didn’t think this blog was the place for me to express my opinions, or at least not my political opinions. Obviously I’ve done this explicitly several times with remarks about UKIP, Eurovision/gender identity, pacifism etc and my writing is always going to have my political slant, but this post is going to be me, my opinion, my view, not just an aside but up front and out loud. This has been brewing for a while and finally I’ve realised I have to say something. I want to talk about the way we, as archaeologists, respond to news about the destruction of antiquities and particularly when it’s done by the Islamic State. Several things have set me off on this. The media reports in particular, especially when an archaeologist is asked for their opinion of the latest destruction and, regardless of what they might have said, all that is reported is the terrible loss of these important sites. Then, while I was in a session at the EAA someone remarked about an image of Syria ‘Oh, every time I hear about ISIS destroying another archaeological site I feel sick’. I didn’t say anything and I should have done, it’s been bugging me ever since that I didn’t speak out then. I remember similar views being expressed when Britain and the US bombed Iraq, killing hundreds – which went largely unmarked – destroying the archaeology and, as was later reported with much outrage, looting the Baghdad museum. Similar things were said around the Egyptian Revolution with the thefts and damage to the Cairo Museum. There are many other examples, I’ll leave you to supply your own. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, I follow Sam Hardy’s Conflict Antiquities blog and this post in particular helped coalesce what I’d been feeling. And finally, yesterday was Remembrance Day.

Now, I’m not going to try to defend the destruction of cultural property, it is indefensible. I’m not even going to discuss the destruction of cultural property under Assad, I’ll leave that to Sam who is an expert. Nor do I intend to get into an argument about what was or wasn’t stolen/destroyed in Egypt, Baghdad, etc etc. What I am saying is that maybe it’s time that we, as archaeologists, stop deploring the loss of archaeological sites and artefacts by IS and start deploring the deaths caused by both sides. Maybe it’s time we stopped talking about the loss of irreplaceable archaeology and started talking about the loss of irreplaceable people. Because those people, regardless of their beliefs, regardless of whether they’re involved on one side or the other or are simply caught up in the conflict, are irreplaceable, they’re mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, grandparents – they’re people and they’re dead. The sites? Well, obviously they’re important to us, but they’re just stuff, they’re not living, breathing people. At some point, in all wars, the two (or however many) sides have to sit down and talk. Maybe, as archaeologists, if we turned round and said ‘The important thing here is not the archaeology it’s that you all stop killing people’ it would have an effect?

It’s got to be worth trying. It may have no effect at all, but I think we need to think about our priorities and our humanity here, rather than about our archaeology.

I promise normal service will be resumed next week and I’ll be back talking about conferences, museums, book reviews I’ve failed to write and how I have no time because one of the chickens is sick – she really is not a well bird, we’re very worried about her and also worried that we’re worrying about a hen – my children, all the usual stuff.

In the meantime, stay safe, may peace be upon you and have a great weekend.



November 9, 2015


DAN HICKS ( Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Dan Hicks is Associate Professor and Curator of Archaeology at the School of Archaeology/Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. Among various other things, his research interests include the history of archaeological collections, archaeological fieldwork and archaeological ideas in Britain (early modern to contemporary). Current work on the history of archaeology includes the archaeology of Augustus Pitt-Rivers, the history of post-war rescue archaeology, and the connections between archaeology and photography, past and present.

ANNA REEVE ( University of Leeds

I am a PhD student in Classics at the University of Leeds, funded by the AHRC via the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH). My research centres on ancient Cypriot collections in the Yorkshire area, and their reception from the late 19th century onwards. In particular, I am investigating the Leeds City Museum’s ancient Cypriot collection, and the roles of the collectors, excavators, antiquarians and curators who brought the objects to Leeds and interpreted them for local audiences. My interests include the early history of archaeology on Cyprus, and exploring the connections between people and material culture through object biography

BELA SANTA ( University of Liverpool

I am a part-time PhD student at the University of Liverpool. My research interest is 19th-century Hungarian archaeology and my PhD research focuses on how systematic archaeological research in Hungary began and evolved in the late 19th century and to what extent, if at all, it was influenced by western, especially German, scholarship in terms of archaeological interpretation and research agenda. I am interested in how ‘romanisation’ was interpreted by Hungarian scholars and whether German ideas of ‘cultural change’ made their way into Hungarian research as they did into British scholarship. As a side project, I am currently looking at the work of Zsófia Torma (1832-1899), who was one of the first female scholars to carry out archaeological excavations. Although her achievements were remarkable, her work was largely belittled in Hungary, simply because she was a woman. She found more appreciation abroad and her correspondence with Romano-British scholar Francis Haverfield (1860-1919) and British Assyriologist Archibald Sayce (1845-1933) shed light on professional relationships of respect and genuine interest sorely missing in Hungary.

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