Like Lazarus? Big changes and a potential resurrection for the blog..

Just when I was thinking I had probably said goodbye to the blog, life changed in a good way.

I’ve just accepted a two-year Post Doctoral Research post.

At Durham.

This obviously means some big changes. Not least of which will be me moving long distance, again. For the start of November. But this time, M might come with me (but not to start off with). So we might totally decamp from Southampton, where we have lived since 1999. It’s odd, in all my recent wanderings I have somehow felt safer because there was always that home to come back to. So though this time I won’t be changing countries, it feels just as scary as moving abroad.

But also not: I was born in Middlesbrough and lived there ’till I was 8, so in some ways I will be going home. I am so excited about being able to share that landscape with M: he’s only visited twice before when we have gone up to see family there. He doesn’t know the Dales, or the Moors… but he soon will.

The project is really exciting, it’s a Leverhulme funded investigation of the landscape archaeology of the Great Depression in North East England. It has everything I love: innovative use of GIS, social archaeology and landscapes, politics and identity. I really feel like it is a return to my roots, to the work I was so proud of doing at Greenham and a chance to really find my voice again. The PI is an academic that blogs, Dr David Petts. He also tweets, and there is going to be a ‘public’ side to the project, though the exact shape of things is yet to be determined.

So unlike Crete and my more recent commercial activities, I will be doing things I can and probably should talk about here! I am so excited, and I already have a reading list a mile long, especially for the public archaeology side of things as that’s an area I know I need to catch up on in terms of recent thinking and practice.

So more soon, in my now long established blend of personal, geekery and academic(ish) ramblings…  In the meantime expect a lot of #packingdread type tweets… and lots of househunting and moving information requests…

All Change!

I said at the end of last year that I wasn’t all too sure where the blog was going, and I hinted that I was having some real-life issues that were making it hard to write. Still working on that bit…

A big part of all of that was not knowing what was going to happen at the end of my contract here in Groningen, and now I do know: I’ll be moving to Crete in July, for a one year Post-Doc with FORTH at the IMS working on the impact of the Byzantine periods on the settlement dynamics of the island. I am so excited by the chance to work with some role models of mine, and at the same time a bit freaked out to be moving so far away from home, linguistically and culturally as well as physically.

I don’t know how much time I am going to have to write for the next few months as I finish up work on the current two projects and also pack up my stuff and work out what to take to Crete and what goes to the UK. But I am sure that once I arrive I’ll have loads to share and will be much more ‘present’ in this online space!

In the meantime, I’m going to lurk, post when the whim takes me, but try not to feel obligated to do so.

Oh: the hair changed a lot too, so I have updated the blog  header to commemorate the blue pigtails 🙂

farewell to zany hair...

farewell to zany hair…

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.

Reflecting on 2013

I said this time last year that this was a scary year, and that I was determined to meet it head on. That worked pretty well until the summer, when a combination of things (but mostly looming end of contract nerves) sent me into a bit of a downspiral, where, true to form, I stopped writing and posting pictures and mostly hid under a rock.

I am doing something about it all though. I’m just not going to talk about it too much here. But I do want to show you some of the awesome things that the second half of 2013 held for me, because it wasn’t all bad, not by a very long way.

My last #project52 post was week 35, where I talked a bit about the deep funk I was in, and about failing joyously. So that leaves me 17 weeks to find pictures for, if I have them…


Week 36: I went to EAA in Pilsen. Tried to organise a tweet-up and mostly failed, but got to go to some wonderful sessions, tweeted a lot, and had brilliant wide ranging discussions over a number of great dinners with colleagues. I also got to go on a whistle-stop tour of Prague, which was brilliant and I want to go back.

Week 36 - Gargoyles at Prague Castle

Week 36 – Gargoyles at Prague


In week 37 my brother came to visit on his way to the UK. We kept a pact made earlier in the year and got matching tattoos…

You Can Never Go Home

Week 37a You Can Never Go Home

You Can Never Go Home

Week 37b You Can Never Go Home

It is both an irreverent reference to Grosse Pointe Blank and to our odd status as nomads…

In Week 38 me and the wonderful Esther mouse-proofed my kitchen so that they didn’t take over and build an empire while I was away on fieldwork:

week 38: None shall pass!

week 38: None shall pass!

Then I ran away on fieldwork, for almost two months. The first week (week 39) we were there I was ill (some sort of Georgian plague from my brother) and did a lot of preparation work and some EM surveys. On the ‘rest day’ we went hiking on the Timpa Cassano:

Week 39: Timpa San Lorenzo from the Timpa Cassano

Week 39: Timpa San Lorenzo from the Timpa Cassano

Week 40 saw a lot of caesium magnetometry in some very ploughed fields:


Week 40- ploughed fields and moody skies

Week 40- ploughed fields and moody skies

Week 41 saw colleagues from the BSR arrive to employ some techniques and expertise I don’t have myself!

Week 41: ERT with the BSR to investigate archaeology in lynchets

Week 41: ERT with the BSR to investigate archaeology in lynchets

By week 42 they had departed for another project on Sicily and me and my colleagues carried on with data collection in the foothills… some ceramic surveys, some geophysics and a trip to Matera!

Week 42: Matera, Sassi in the foreground, neolithic caves on the other side of the gorge

Week 42: Matera, Sassi in the foreground, neolithic caves on the other side of the gorge


In week 43 the whole team moved up into the mountains to continue our work. Matt celebrated his birthday without me in the UK, while I climbed a mountain on our ‘rest day’

Week 43: Top of the Falconara

Week 43: Top of the Falconara

 The tail end of week 44 saw me head to Rome to guest-lecture at the KNIR, a real privilege, and a lot of fun. I also got to go and visit the Via Appia, a first for me! I then headed back to the Netherlands.

Week 44: yours truly on the Via Appia, looking oddly foreshortened

Week 44: yours truly on the Via Appia, looking oddly foreshortened

Week 45 was a lot of frantic prep at work before heading to the UK in week 46, but I did find time to go and listen to cool music with Esther & Arno 🙂

Week 45: Folk music with Esther and Arno

Week 45: Folk music with Esther and Arno

Week 46 involved a trip to the UK, and my usual November weekend in a Castle playing silly games. This (of course) meant the hair needed to be rendered ‘interesting’ again, now fieldwork was over for the year:

Week 47: a return to winter plumage

Week 46: a return to winter plumage


Week 47 saw me still in the UK. Amongst other things, Matt and I went to Leavsden studios to see the Harry Potter exhibition. I would highly recommend it!

Week 47: Tig and Lola have a potions lesson

Week 47: Tig and Lola have a potions lesson

Week 48 involved a lot of running around, including a trip to Amsterdam, where I indulged my apple pie addiction:

Week 48: PIE!

Week 48: PIE!

Weeks 49 and 50 sadly don’t have pictures. It was too dark, cold and nasty to feel like doing much. In week 51, my beloved M arrived and so I got the Christmas tree ready:

Christmas tree with baleful dragon (scarf)

Christmas tree with baleful dragon (scarf)

Since then we have been mostly hanging out, baking, playing board games and making all of our new lego. There are still a couple of days to go before the end of week 52, so I’ll leave it there for now. I might try to have a hunt for pictures from weeks 49 and 50 – there might be some lurking that I have forgotten about.

So, be excellent to each other & have a great New Year.

Writing this post has made me realise I’ve not uploaded any of the autumn fieldwork pictures to Flickr yet, so I am off to set that going while Matt and I play board games x x



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.