Call For Papers! Archaeology Today: Challenges, Ethics, Approaches

Hey folks, this is the easiest way I know to send a reminder about a symposium I am helping to organise. It’s being held here in NL so might not be relevant to many of you, but here goes…


Archaeology Today:

Challenges, Approaches, Ethics

Archaeology & Theory Symposium

Date: 22nd of April 2014 (deadline abstract submission: February 28th)

Venue: Rijksdienst Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE), Amersfoort

Sponsored by ARCHON and the RCE


Stichting Archaeological Dialogues invites you to participate in a one-day forum aiming at highlighting the changing position(s) of archaeology, both in academia and in the private sector, within the contemporary socio-political context. The challenges we are facing are multifaceted and complex, with impact on archaeology as a discipline but also archaeology as a practice – including of course its practitioners! These challenges concern our relationship with the state apparatuses, with society but also with our own attitudes and responses to inescapable ethical dilemmas of practicing archaeology in rapidly-changing socio-political circumstances. How are we poised to address these challenges and where do we aim to be in the next few decades?

The present symposium aims to provide a forum for debating ideas and solutions on issues that most of us feel directly irrespective of disciplinary subdivision or field of practice. Potential contributors are asked to submit an abstract of ca. 250 words by February 28th 2014, indicating also with which theme their proposed topic is connected. We invite contributions on the following themes:

Archaeology and policy: challenges, responses, future outlook

Overhauls in public policies concerning the funding of excavations, archaeological research, teaching at universities as well as the dissemination of research (e.g. open-access publishing) affect us directly. Often this has severe repercussions, creating an environment of (professional) uncertainty and of shrinking importance of the discipline within universities. Policy-makers can have an impact on the paths that research takes. Should there be a concerted attempt to highlight, from an archaeologist’s point of view, potential disadvantages if such can be demonstrated? How can open access affect the quality of publishing? Are there ethical issues associated with broadening access to (raw) data? How can research be affected if the required outlet of publishing is in open access, when there are often significant associated costs?

Engaging the public: responsibilities, responses to problems, approaches

How should we aim to engage society with archaeology, as a source of valuable experience and powerful knowledge? Perhaps ‘catching’ the attention of the public should not be our responsibility? Nowadays it is becoming increasingly evident that ‘popular science’ magazines, websites and television have gained impetus among the wider public, casting aside more legitimate sources of learning about the past. Is it possible for professional archaeology to engage with and ‘compete’ for public attention with science fiction/highly popularized accounts of the past offered by non-archaeologists? Community archaeology would provide the affirmative answer, it would seem. What are the ethical dilemmas, however, in delegating the excavation of sites to amateur archaeologists (pensioners and schoolchildren) when many professional archaeologists are frequently unemployed or are forced to choose a different career?

Ethics in the practice of archaeology

In an era where so much of our emphasis has been on building a sound theoretical framework and codes of good practice, often geared on ‘decolonizing archaeology’, how can there be such an overt discordance between practice and theory? This is an issue often seen in situations of armed conflict. Within the past decade we have been thrust into situations that are ethically, politically and legally complex. As a professional body, we archaeologists appear to be lacking the means to address these dilemmas. How can the broader archaeological community be engaged in an open dialogue? Should we be envisaging an all-encompassing ethical code of praxis or should such decisions rest with the conscience of individuals?


  • Date: 22nd of April 2014
  • Venue: Kinderdijkzaal, Rijksdienst Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE), Smallepad 5 in Amersfoort
  • Deadline for abstract submission: 28th of February
  • Conference fee: € 15,- (the fees of attending ARCHON student members will be paid by ARCHON)

Registration for the event will open once the program has been determined. We will keep you informed. Please email if you have any questions or comments.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Blogging Archaeology: My Best and Worst

I missed the boat with January’s question from Doug, but I am going to answer it quickly anyway, because it made me think.

What are your best (or if you want your worst) post(s) and why? Compare and contrast your different bests/worsts.

My ‘best’ post in terms of pageviews is this one: which is related to my only brush with the media frenzy, and is also the first and only time I have worked under a press embargo. When I was finally allowed to tell everyone what I had been up to, my blog was linked by the discovery channel, which generated a lot of hits very fast, and no single post has beaten that one.

My ‘best’ in terms of comments is this one: which isn’t surprising because it was my clumsy attempt at voicing an opinion on a temporarily hot topic. My blog doesn’t really generate a lot of comments, which is fine, it’s not why I write.

My favourite posts are these two:

because my writing here is about different things than my day job, it’s a space to explore this more woolly stuff. The responses I got to the post about books and places were helpful to me in understanding my own position, but they certainly aren’t my ‘best’ blogs by the usual metrics. I am proud of them though, of my writing, of the chance to talk in the first person for a change and to explore my standpoint and worldview a bit. I think this is still sadly missing from mainstream academic practice, something I also wrote about here:

My ‘worst’ blogs? Well there are plenty that have no comments, plenty that have no, or not many views. But like I said, I don’t blog for the metrics. I write as a way of writing myself, and to share personal and professional news and thoughts with friends and colleagues. My ‘worst’ blogs are ones like the one I am putting off writing at the moment, where I feel I have to apologise for hiding from things for a while so me and my brain can figure some stuff out. So, I’ve been hiding since New Year, and should have written this at least 2 weeks ago (sorry Doug!) but I’ve been focused on getting to work, and working out what happens next with my life (still don’t have a clue, sorry Mum!) once the post-doc ends…. For those reasons I am probably not going to manage to answer the February ‘question’, but I hope to be firing on all cylinders again by the time March comes around.

Blogging Archaeology: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Yet again I am sneaking in just before the end of the month with my response to the December questions raised by Doug for the Blogging Archaeology carnival leading up to the SAA meeting next year. Here is Doug’s prompt for the month:

The Good- what has been good about blogging. I know some people in their ‘why blogging’ posts mentioned creating networks and getting asked to talk on a subject. But take this to the next level, anything and everything positive about blogging, share your stories. You could even share what you hope blogging will do for you in the future.

The Bad- lots of people mention it feels like talking to brick wall sometimes when you blog. No one comments on posts or very few people do. What are your disappointments with blogging? What are your frustrations? What do you hate about blogging? What would you like to see changed about blogging?

The Ugly- I know Chris at RAS will mention the time he got fired for blogging about archaeology. It is your worst experiences with blogging- trolls, getting fired, etc.

My reply:

The Good: This is a hard one to answer. This blog doesn’t generate a lot of comments or discussion, and it hasn’t ever led to a speaking gig or being asked to participate in something. It does give me a non-academic space to play with some ideas, a little corner to rant into when I feel like I am hitting a brick wall, and somewhere I can show off all my cool fieldwork pictures. Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to do that? I think the best moments for me have been when I have posted something personal or hard to articulate and got even just one reply that agrees with me, or encourages me. It helps knowing there are internet denizens out there who share my love of prehistory who also see links to their childhood reading, or who get how frustrating it can be to be pigeonholed as a methods or hard science person that doesn’t have anything useful to say about people in the past… I think as well that I wouldn’t tweet if I didn’t blog, and that twitter is by and large a wonderful place, where I get support, encouragement and random technical assistance from people all over the world that I wouldn’t otherwise ‘know’.

The Bad: Knowing where to draw the lines. This has always been a much more personal space than a professional one, but I am increasingly aware that prospective employers might look at it when considering me for roles. I’ve thought that perhaps it just should quietly disappear someday… I never know how much of myself I feel safe putting here. I’ve alluded in the past that I struggle a bit with mental health stuff at times, and that the blog tends to go quiet at those times because all I want to do is pour out all of the stuff… but that wouldn’t really be OK. I also struggle a bit with expressing my ideas here in a wider sense. I sometimes come back from conferences both elated and inspired but also deeply concerned with the future of what it is that we, as a discipline, do. But I’m early in my career (if indeed I ever develop one!) and I don’t want to put anyone’s nose out of joint. I wish I could be my bolshy 15 year old self at times, and demand that the world takes me as is, but at some point I got nervous about that.

The Ugly: Blogging can be a difficult place for archaeologists – horror stories about loony commenters with axes to grind, ancient aliens nuts, druids…. thankfully I’ve never had to deal with that, perhaps because I don’t seek to have any sort of ‘authoritative’ voice on here. I’ve also largely avoided the problems a lot of women seem to encounter… the only ugly moments have been realising when posting about feminism, that some of my friends are less than enlightened, which is a painful truth. Work seem blissfully ignorant of social media in general, which I actually think is a pity – I’ve tried to drum up interest for things like the Day of Archaeology, or using blogs as teaching tools, to be largely met with bemused looks. I know my students have found this by googling me, and that’s kinda cool, even if it contributes to the feeling of the need for self-editing mentioned above. So I think I get off pretty damned lucky on this front.


Blogging Archaeology: why on earth?

First of all, updatelet: I headed off to Italy in mid-September and was there until the start of November, and then I went to the UK for 2 weeks to have a bit of a rest. At some point soon there will be a huge #project52 update with fieldwork photos and stories. But for now, I need to write a short post if I am going to manage to join in an archaeology blogging carnival that Doug over at Doug’s Archaeology is organising ahead of the SAA meeting this year. Now there is no way I can get to SAA, but I can contribute to the session on blogging in archaeology by joining in here.

First up: as usual, a disclaimer. I’m not sure this is an archaeology blog. I didn’t set out to do that; it’s more that this is my blog, and that archaeology is a big part of me.

So! On with the November questions, before December arrives.

Why blogging? – Why did you, or if it was a group- the group, start a blog? 

I’ve rambled at length on here about why I got into archaeology, but not really in detail about how and why the blog got started. I did my MSc in Computing and Archaeology at Southampton, alongside my good friend and avid blogger Cas. At the time, she was a very active blogger and had a rich community of people hanging about on her site, talking about all sorts of things. I went to Italy at the end of my Masters to work on my first ever commercial geophysics project, and started using Flickr to share pictures with friends and family while I was gone. At the time, I used email to stay in touch and send out links to the pictures, but realised that a blog would be a much better place to do that. I think this is why this has never felt like an ‘academic’ blog. I mean, there have been times when I’ve commented on a current issue or talked a bit more in depth about my work, but essentially this is just me rambling at the universe, with mostly my Mum listening.

I think my tweets (especially when on fieldwork) and my flickr page are a bit more archaeology focused than the blog.

Why are you still blogging?

Looking back in the archives (eyes right people), I’ve been doing this since about this time in 2006. Ironically, I’d just arrived back from almost 2 months in Italy then too! I think my reasons remain the same: to have a place to dump my thoughts, to share what I am up to with friends and family, to reach out and talk to people I studied with or was taught by. When I started I was about to spend 3 years doing a PhD in a different city, living away during the week. Almost 3 years ago I moved to the Netherlands for a post doc, for at least 3 years, and the blog became even more important. I go through phases of writing almost compulsively, and phases where I don’t feel like I have anything much to stay, but I think one way or another the blog is going to keep going. I’m hoping that taking part in the carnival will give me some topics to focus in on, and to be more confident about writing about archaeology, especially when it comes to explaining my own ideas.

Planning for EAA2013: Pilsen

So, one reason for coming out from the woodwork is to try to organise a tweetup for this year’s EAA meeting next week, in Pilsen.

I expect a lot of people are arriving on the Wednesday, like me, and as we’re driving from the Netherlands I can’t guarantee what time I’ll be there, so after chatting with @LornaRichardson, we figure Thursday, after the sessions (including the big Public Archaeology session) but before the drinks party.

We aren’t aiming for anything super formal – just a chance to put faces to twitter handles and say hi in person. So, I’ll be the (very) blonde person with the idiot grin and a sign, outside the entrance to building 1 from about 18:45 (to allow for sessions running over), on the Thursday! Come up and say hi- I assure you it’s not possible to be any more socially awkward than I am 🙂

I’m going to have a really busy conference- all three members of the main project I work on have a paper, on all three days, and on top of that we are co-running a round table with Andy Bevan about Rural sites & methodology. So I plan to tweet, but perhaps not proper ‘live tweeting’ like I attempted from ISAP and CAANLDE- I also need to concentrate on taking notes and getting into the discussions, especially in the round-table.

If you are at EAA please come to the round table (Far from the Madding Crowd A15, Friday afternoon) if it sounds like you sort of thing! We have a great panel with representatives from loads of different geographical regions and periods, all looking at the methodological issues affecting the interpretation of small rural sites. We think the discussion is going to be quite fruitful, in terms of agreeing priorities for research, and learning from other specialisms.

In addition, Martijn is talking in the session on lithics & landscapes (A27) on Thursday morning, Wieke is talking in the session on non-invasive methods on Saturday morning (B10), and I’m just after lunch in the session on geophysics and later prehistory on saturday afternoon (A20). I’m looking forward to seeing colleagues, exploring a new city and country, and getting to go and listen to papers about all the stuff I don’t get to do much of any more: bodies, gender and cold war stuff!

(non-archaeology folks- you might want to mute me from Thursday to Saturday next week!)

Escape to the country

#project52 Week 28

Categorically a good idea 🙂 #freshair #sunshine #nature #workgettingdone

Originally uploaded by girlwithtrowel.

Took myself off to a lake near the city today. I was a good plan- I only took work with me, so besides listen to nature that was the only thing to do. I edited something that’s been looming over me and made a huge plan for what I’m going to do from now until the middle of September. I also got a chunk of reading done, and sunburn. Yep, that’s right. It barely cracked 20 degrees today and I have crispy shoulders…

There is no try… the #ISAPafterparty and beyond

One of the things I said I needed to do regarding the #yearofyoda was to start being more proactive in my research career and putting my ideas and professional stance across more strongly and confidently. Boy, is it terrifying. If you follow my twitter feed you’ve probably seen an extended conversation that started at the ISAP biannual conference in Vienna last week, about a lot of serious (and not so serious) aspects of and issues in archaeological geophysics at the moment.

One of the things I agreed to do was post up a series of open documents laying out my ideas in a more expansive forum than twitter’s 140 characters, to try to keep the impetus generated at the conference going. I’ve just posted them up on an openly shared google docs folder that you can find here. I welcome any feedback and I’ll try to keep them updated with what everyone adds, keeping my own opinions clearly demarcated. It’s a little bit scary, all of this. In some ways, I don’t feel like I have the experience or the authority to set an agenda in this way. I’m hoping people I perceive to have more ‘gravitas’ will join in and I can at least act as a collecting point, a facilitator!

In other news, me and my brain have had a bit of an interesting time. Vienna was a good distraction from all that, and getting back in touch with other people working in geophysics was really good for some of the confidence issues I have been experiencing. Various things have gone a bit ‘wrong’ since getting back from Italy and I am determined this week to get back on track, to eat healthily, sleep properly and focus hard at work and on making plans for next year. This week’s photo is a little taste of life in the Netherlands. Here in Groningen we have ‘city sheep’ that belong to the city council and keep the verges and canal-sides trimmed. I was walking home from the shops yesterday to find them all penned in the park behind my house, getting their annual haircut!

#project52 week 23 City Sheep!

#project52 week 23 City Sheep!