Saturday, 14 July 2007

national archaeology week 14 - 22 july 2007

this week is national archaeology week, a topic close to my heart. perhaps its a tribute to the time team effect that the past has never seemed so sexy - a week hardly goes by without a documentary examining ancient bodies, exploring our ancesters through the magic of genetics and DNA, or following a celebrity historian on a journey across various ancient wonders of the world, not to mention the huge success of sex and blood soaked swords and sandals soap-dramas running on the BBC. as we are evidently in the grip of heritage fever, this week of events and activities offers a timely opportunity to get involved in the practices and processes of day to day archaeology.

at one time i would have been found waist high in a prehistoric ditch, trowel or pick axe in hand, covered in mud or peat. its the stereotypical view of archaeology and what archaeologists do, much promoted by the time team format, and if you can get to a dig this week, then there's honestly no more satisfying way to spend your time. or there is usually a museum, stately home or heritage centre to visit which will supply more than enough hands-on activities to keep anyone happy. but what if you crave actual field work or the visceral thrill of discovering something forgotten and neglected for the first time? how can the average urbanite be an archaeologist?

in real life an archaeologist possibly spends more time at their desk than in the field and excavation is only one part of the archaeological process. the lack of a dig site is no bar to the archaeological imagination. being an archaeologist is in reality a state of mind, a way of looking and of seeing the world, and in this there are obvious parallels to the artistic process or the photographer's practice. with this in mind my aim is to take part in national archaeology week by examining and exploring the familiar surroundings of the city with an archaeological eye, noticing and recording the impact and collisions of the past and the present in the ever changing urban environment. i hope to happen upon the archaeology of now and the recent past and notice how we utilise, adapt and relate to our material surroundings.

to get me in the mood i'm straight off to the splendid manchester museum, a treasure trove of objects and artefacts that at first viewing might seem rather stuffy and traditional, but which on closer inspection offers masses of inspiration for the budding archaeologist of the imagination...i'll report back later.

however you decide to spend it, enjoy archaeology week and try reading britarch online to get you started. hopefully we will bump into one another at a site, at the museum or lurking about some of the seedier stretches of town, fellow archaeologists of the ordinary...

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