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May 25, 2017


Raffaella Da Vela, Leipzig University

University of Leipzig, Department of Archaeology

I studied Etruscology, Italic Archaeology and Classics at the University of Florence (Italy) between 1996 and 2004.
In the following years (2004-2011) I worked as a field archaeologist in Central Italy.
My PhD-Thesis on the Cultural Transmission from South of Italy to Northern Etruria in Hellenistic Time has been written at the Universities of Florence and Bonn as an international agreement.
I am now substitute assistant at the University of Leipzig at the Department of Archaeology of the Ancient World.
I am interested in the History of Archaeological Research and of Archaeological Studies, in Reception of Classics as well as in Migrations, Cultural Identities and Social networks in Antiquity.

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

Call for Papers: HARN International Conference 2017

May 24, 2017

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


  HARN (Histories of Archaeology Research Network) Conference 2017

3 November 2017

UCLan Campus

Preston, UK

 HARN 2017

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  Not only are archives rich in unpublished sources that undoubtedly add new angles to our scholarship, but they also produce a number of curious topics that simply do not fit within the scope of our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

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

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

IoA History of Archaeology Seminar Series

May 23, 2017

Amara has been in touch to say:

Discovering archaeology sources at UCL

Colin Penman & Robert Winckworth (UCL Special Collections, Archives and Records)

6 June 2016, 6-7 pm

Room 612, UCL Institute of Archaeology

UCL Library Services holds a wealth of rare and archival material surrounding archaeology.  As well as records of the teaching of archaeology and Egyptology at UCL, we look after collections documenting some very significant excavations around the world, and the personal papers of archaeologists such as Gordon Childe and Margaret Murray.  We will discuss the nature of archives, what they have to offer, and how to negotiate your way around them.

We are also in the process of developing a new website, which is a directory of events, projects, and archives relating to the history of archaeology.  The link is here:
The Events page will have short notices of Network events, as well as any other public events we can find relating to the history of archaeology – e. g. exhibitions, films, talks.  We’ll be updating this as we can, so do check in regularly to see what events might be on near you. The events listed are keyword searchable. If you have any notices of events happening in your area to do with the history of archaeology do get in touch, but please note this is for events open to the public only, we won’t be including academic conferences.
Our Projects and Archives pages are meant to provide a keyword searchable list of history of archaeology related projects and archives in the UK (for the moment). We will be adding to these with the help of archivists and curators as we can.

Context Sheets

May 22, 2017

Alice Stevenson asked on Twitter ‘Archaeologists! When was the 1st ‘context sheet’? used them 1908, re-structured by 1910. Reisner used tombcards earlier-any photos?’

Any suggestions?

Best Laid Schemes etc

May 19, 2017

Because I am easily distracted, I’m now wondering what possible schemes mice might have and once again pondering the word ‘agley’ – has anyone ever actually said this in conversation do you suppose? Or did Burns just make it up? Which leads to memories of the The Writers Museum in Edinburgh, I’m sure it’s now a well worth a visit but back in the 80s it was the worst museum I’d ever visited and seemed to consist of items such as ‘a pen very like the one Scott used to write Waverley‘ and ‘a chair similar to the one Burns sat in to write his poetry’ – oh look, they’ve got one of Stevenson’s boots and ‘Stevenson’s wardrobe made by the infamous Deacon Brodie whose double life may have inspired the novel The strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.’ Maybe it hasn’t changed that much!

Anyway, while I’m sure we could have a fine time discussing the worst museum displays we’ve seen – do add a comment – I’ve actually called in to say I don’t have a post for you this week, the sick has revisited us so I’m trying to entertain a not well 5 year old. I had plans for posts, I might even have reviewed Men from the Ministry – no, not really, but I did have plans. Instead, I’ve spent a lot of time building train tracks 20170519_084848

I suggested we replicate the light railway used at the Caerleon excavations,

but both of my children are resistant to replicating excavations in Duplo or Lego – can’t think why. Although we did have a fine tomb robbery/excavation



Note the crocodiles, snakes and other snares for the unwary tomb robber. Yes, we had spent too much time watching the Indiana Jones films.

I could have a complain about how no-one warned me that having children meant there was no point in making plans because they always come unstuck, but if you have children you know this and if you don’t you will assume that you will be different and organised and I’m happy for you to keep that delusion. I will say that in all our adoption discussions it was the big issues we focused on rather than the minutiae of parenting, we were warned about many things but no-one ever said ‘abandon any attempts to get anything done, evah’.

Anyway, I’m off to rescue a stuck train and build a station for the poor duplo passengers who are currently cowering in the railway tunnel hiding from the giant non-duplo cat who is trying to catch the train – I would show you the video but I can’t upload it, sadly, it is hilarious and, while I think this indicates I really, really need to get out more, is more than making up for all my plans going to ratshit.

Have a wonderful and productive weekend, see you next week when the sick will hopefully be but a distant memory,


João Zilhão lecture

May 15, 2017

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Review – The Stonehenge Letters, Harry Karlinsky

May 12, 2017

Published by The Friday Project, 2014

What? Don’t look at me like that, I didn’t say that the next book I reviewed would be Men from the Ministry. I may have implied that it would be, but I didn’t promise anything (I’m carefully not providing a link just in case I did say this!) Anyway, don’t judge me, we’ve all been ill and when we recovered it was time for the dreaded SATs,  I – literally – didn’t have the stomach for serious reading, I needed entertainment. Martyn recommended this to me a while back and having a look on AbeBooks I found a cheap second-hand copy almost immediately. This availability made me wonder if perhaps it was going to be a waste of my hard-earned pennies (as I say, it was cheap) but it turns out that Martyn was right and it was whole pence very well spent.

The premise of the novel is that in the Nobel Archives in Stockholm is a file containing all the unsolicited (largely self-)nominations for the various Nobel prizes. While searching through the archive a psychiatrist, who is trying to determine why his hero, Freud, was never awarded a prize, comes across this ‘Crackpot’ file. Within the file are a series of letters from various laureates pertaining to Stonehenge and, finding these more interesting than his original enquiry, the psychiatrist begins to unravel the mystery of their presence.

And, that’s about it. Of itself this doesn’t sound very interesting or amusing. But, it gives Harry Karlansky the excuse to write short pastiches in the style of Rudyard Kipling, Ivan Pavlov, Teddy Roosevelt and Marie Curie while introducing various theories about the origin of Stonehenge and to play around with ideas about archives, history and biography. And, parts of it are very funny, my favourite is Appendix II Acute Radiation Poisoning – Psychosmatic Variant, Rick’s favourite parts were the Teddy Roosevelt and Marie Curie letters. It’s not A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, the playfulness is limited, but to anyone dealing with archives/history/biography (and I imagine that’s all of us) it is familiar territory given a humorous twist.


Alfred Nobel Copyright Getty Images

Inevitably, there’s a lot about Alfred Nobel and his life – not a subject I knew anything about and quite possibly still don’t given this is a work of fiction despite the inclusion of letters, photographs and extracts from various books – as Karlansky points out in the afterword he has gleefully taken words from one author and ascribed them to someone completely different. He plays with Nobel’s alleged susceptibility to pretty, intelligent women, the idea being that it was his meeting with (and attraction to) Lady Florence Antrobus that led to his decision to award a prize to anyone who could best explain the mysteries of Stonehenge

Oh look, you can read her A Sentimental and Practical Guide to Stonehenge and Amesbury here.

Having decided on this addition to his prizes Nobel died before adding the codicil to his will – and there’s a whole subsection about Nobel’s fear of being buried alive and his attempts to prevent this – but his executors resolved to honour his intentions. Under an oath of secrecy (so as not to demean the more mainstream Nobel awards) laureates allocated prizes between 1901 and 1910 were to be invited to submit explanations for Stonehenge, with the idea that a monetary prize would be awarded in 1911. Very few laureates took up the offer and, inevitably given the ‘Crackpot’ file, there were unsolicited letters. This gives Karlinsky the chance to go through various Stonehenge theories proposing dates and/or function as well as playing fast and loose with historical figures and events. Montelius makes an appearance as a judge of the proposals’ worth, as does Einstein and presumably Nobel’s executors are real people even if imagined for Karlinsky’s purpose. Hmm, I probably should have looked that up and checked fact against fiction, rather than just happily reading away and enjoying the characterisation.

So, The Stonehenge Letters is a jolly read. I felt slightly short-changed at the end, not because there is no resolution – how could there be? we still don’t really understand Stonehenge – but because Karlinsky felt the need to include an Epilogue explaining where the different theories supposedly proposed by the laureates really originated. This is the part I enjoyed least, Rick pointed out not everyone will know this and otherwise it might be confusing, but I know very little about Freud or Nobel and even if what I’m reading is invention this isn’t a long term problem, I have access to libraries and the internet*. This section jarred, but maybe that’s just me, maybe as a historian of British archaeology I already know too much about the modern history of Stonehenge so I can see the joins and the reliance on Stonehenge Complete?

On the whole I would recommend it, in fact I’d go so far as to say that if you want to read it let me know and I’ll post you my copy. We’re still trying to de-clutter HARN Towers.


*Which reminds me, I have to go and look up Alfred’s father Immanuel Nobel (he invented plywood – who knew?) and the underwater exploding mines and Saul Bellow and the Orgasmatron.