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HARN Conference – Friday, 12 February 2010

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Held at Birkbeck College, London

Speakers & Abstracts:

Session One: Circulation: Objects and Images

Michael Seymour, British Museum, An illustrated lecture on Assyrian sculpture by George Scharf

In the mid-nineteenth century British and French discoveries in Assyria caused a sensation in Europe. This talk will look very briefly at one aspect of their dissemination – illustrated lectures – through a sketch preserved in the British Museum‘s Department of Prints and Drawings. The drawing shows George Scharf addressing the Governesses‘ College on Harley Street in 1852, and offers a glimpse into a less familiar aspect of the widespread Victorian interest in Assyria.

Colin Wallace, Liverpool University, What Can We Learn From Sir Walter Scott‘s Ownership of the Torrs Chamfrein‘?

The writer and collector Walter Scott (1771-1832) was alive to the excesses of the Celtic vs. Gothic national origins debate, part of the complications of the late C18 Scottish revival where interest in Gaelicism did not really feed into nationalist ideology, but a lowland Teutonist identity did. Meanwhile, Scott as an archaeologist can be fruitfully assessed in a study of the Iron Age decorative art collected in late C18/early C19 Scotland – what he had (the singular Torrs ’chamfrein‘) and why he would not have called it ’Celtic‘. Often such finds disappeared from view after the original discovery, or were only noticed much later, so remaining essentially unknown to contemporaries. Around the time of the finding of the Torrs pony-cap and for some years after, it was considered to be Medieval. Meanwhile to Scott and others, ’Celtic‘ very often equalled Highland, contemporary and convivial (cf the Celtic Society of Edinburgh and its role in the Royal Visit of 1822). A linguistic definition of ’Celtic‘ was only slowly ceding ground to one that also incorporated earlier-dated, material evidence; at the time I am concerned with, ’Celtic‘ was coming to be shorthand for what would eventually be called ’prehistoric‘, by archaeologists.

Session Two: Cementing the Past or Creating Canons

Jennifer Bracewell, McGill University, The Infertile Crescent‘ Revisited: Considering the History of Archaeology in the Canadian Shield

The Canadian Shield remains one of the least studied areas in the world archaeologically. Covering over half of Canada, it has remained largely undocumented because of the huge logistical challenges of bringing in people and equipment, identifying sites, or even gaining access to anywhere more than a few kilometres from highway or coast. This has shaped the history of both archaeological practice and interpretation in the area.

In the 1970s, the imminent flooding of vast areas for hydroelectric dam construction, the protests of the Cree and Inuit communities affected, and the resulting James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement led to a sudden rush of archaeological survey and investigation. Since then development has continued to drive salvage archaeology, but it is only within the last fifteen years that archaeologists and First Nations alike have been able to stop and consider this influx of ―raw‖ data from a more theoretical perspective, and it has become clear that the assumptions held prior to 1970 have little to do with the picture we are now considering.

This paper considers the historical circumstances which contributed to and framed anthropological thought about the Canadian Shield in general and Eastern James Bay in particular, prior to this paradigmatic shift. Although the focus has been on excavating before sites disappear, these earlier assumptions have constrained the practices which generated so much material so fast, and need to be considered as the future of archaeology in the area is negotiated.

Nathan Schlanger, Institut national de recherches archeologiques preventives, Numismatics and Palaeolithics—A Forgotten Link

Session Three: Histories of Archaeological Methods

Ian Hanson, Bournemouth University, Darwin‘s Archaeology: His 1881 ‘Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms, With Observations on Their Habits’

Darwin is well known for having carried out experiments in Downe, Kent, into the movement of objects in soil and wrote about this for the Geological Society in 1837 and 1840 and in his last book Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms, With Observations on Their Habits in 1881. He had a lifelong interest in the effects of earthworms on soil formation and archaeology, and observed archaeological excavations and monuments, drawing detailed sections to record them. He also undertook experiments in the gardens and fields of his own home Down House, to test his hypotheses as to the reasons for objects moving due to earthworm action.

Interests in his findings continued, and were reviewed by Keith in 1941 and Jewell in 1958, partly because Darwin made no detailed plans of his experimental areas. Reviews of the earthworm population described by Darwin has been undertaken by Butt and Lowe between in 2004 and 2006 (Darwin’s references to earthworms do not define species, though they can be suggested from behavioural description), and a study of the work by Darwin, Keith and Jewell has been undertaken by Hanson since 2003. These further studies both confirmed and raised points from the historical and published literature, and made observations in direct relation to Darwin’s documented work.

This has implications for the archaeological dating of horizons and deposits by artefact. Research areas continuing the experimental themes begun by Darwin are in place to review his findings by experiment.

Gabriel Moshenska, University College London, Mortimer Wheeler, Maiden Castle and the Theatre of the Past

Mortimer Wheeler is a colossal figure in twentieth century archaeology, a pioneer of field methods, Romano-British archaeology, Indian archaeology, education and heritage protection in wartime. Despite his significance there has been surprisingly little scholarly interest in Wheeler‘s legacy. This paper addresses one neglected area of Wheeler‘s work: his pioneering efforts to bring the archaeological process to the public, and vice versa. By focusing on Maiden Castle, one of Wheeler‘s best known excavations, I will attempt to demonstrate the different elements of public archaeology that he developed. These include skilful use of the media including film; innovative site tours and public access; and the sale of literature, images and souvenirs. I will also examine the development of these trends in Wheeler‘s earlier work, as well as their legacy in the growth of modern public archaeology. The research forms part of a wider attempt to reinvigorate Wheeler studies in the history of archaeology.

Jodi Reeves Flores, University of Exeter, Histories of (Replicative) Experimentation in Archaeology

Replicative experiments have played an important role in how we study past human behavior and archaeological remains. Commonly referred to as experimental archaeology, the use of replicative experimentation in archaeological research has a long and varied history. This paper summarizes my research into the history of the methodology, and presents a case study of one of the first known ‘replicative’ experiments conducted with the goal of answering questions about archaeological artefacts. This represents the use of replicative experiments before the establishment of an archaeological research tradition that validated their use, and reveals the variables that led to the methods application.

Session Four: Normalizing the Past: Issues of Politics

Ana Cristina Martins, IICT – Tropical Research Institute, Portugal, Mendes Corrêa (1888-1960), Manuel Heleno (1894-1970), Archaeology and Portuguese Nationalism

Breaking with the ex oriente lux, the work of Salomon Reinach (1858-1932) – Le mirage oriental (1983) –, supported the words of Francisco Martins Sarmento (1833-1899) echoing the perspective of a stern Occidentalism, in relation to Celticism, stressing the particularities of the material culture of the region between Galicia and Serra da Estrela, where Viriathus was born, one of the strongest adversaries of Roman conquest. This approach defined National Archaeological discourse, gathering form at different moments and aspects, although denuded of the tone assumed in Spain, where there was an attempt to incorporate it into Nationalistic narratives.

Since the inception of Liberalism, that the origins of Portugal aroused new literary and aesthetic interests. During the 20th century, this issue grained a new relevance, considering the Estado Novo agenda. This belief was recovered, partially, in the writings of Mendes Corrêa (1888-1960) and Manuel Heleno (1894-1970), in contradiction to the position of certain Historians regarding the existence of Portugal solely since the 12th century AD, based on a purely political assumption. In opposition, they both defended the anthropological existence of a Portuguese Nation previous to the foundation of the State.

Leading Portuguese Archaeology, conducted in Portugal during an important phase of the mandate of the political regime known as Estado Novo, Mendes Corrêa, in Porto, and Manuel Heleno, in Lisbon, based their archaeological programmes in the presupposed Prehistoric ancestry of Portuguese Culture. They evidenced, however, some disagreements, explained here, in an attempt to understand them in the light of determining factors and personal interests.

Pamela Jane Smith, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge University: Archaeology became a sensation‘ Sir David Attenborough referring to archaeology and the BBC during the 1950s, 12th of October 2009

Under the broad rubric, ‘Normalising the Past’, Pamela will discuss her recent research at the BBC Written archives in Reading. Over the last 6 months, she has read all of Sir David Attenborough’s, Paul Johnstone’s, Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s and Glyn Daniel’s early BBC correspondence (1937-1960). These letters reveal that Mary Adams, the first Head of the first public broadcasting system in the world (the BBC), felt that archaeology was essentially a media business and that it must be a key programming component for the future of television. Adams’s choice will be discussed. Pamela will also review Ann Stoler’s (2009) new book, “Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense”. In this book, Stoler interrogates the political nature of written documentation, examining what is saved or lost, what is used or forgotten.

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