Great inspirational pictures of archaeologists-who-happen-to-be-mothers well worth a look

Colleen Morgan

Kathryn Killackey, archaeological illustrator.Kathryn Killackey, archaeological illustrator. Photo by Andrew Roddick.

Professor Nicky Milner, directing excavations at Star Carr. Professor Nicky Milner, directing excavations at Star Carr.

Dr. Karen Holmberg, visiting scholar at NYU & volcano fetishist. Dr. Karen Holmberg, visiting scholar at NYU & volcano fetishist.

Dr. Burcu Tung, directing excavations at Çatalhöyük. Dr. Burcu Tung, directing excavations at Çatalhöyük. Photo by Scott Haddow.

Dr. Rebecca Wragg Sykes, honorary fellow at Université de Bordeaux, Laboratoire PACEA, Dr. Rebecca Wragg Sykes, honorary fellow at Université de Bordeaux, Laboratoire PACEA

I initially started this photo essay with a long, considered discussion of motherhood in archaeology, how hard it is to fight against the structural forces that inhibit fieldwork and childcare, and how I have benefitted from incredible friends and colleagues who have acted as role-models and mentors. But in the end I deleted it. You don’t need me wittering on–just look at these archaeologists-who-happen-to-be-mothers.

Many of them hesitated to send photos, as it is an incredibly revealing act to expose what is perceived as a major hinderance to women’s careers. Even so, several of them also stated that they did so because they thought it was important…

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Mental Health in Archaeology

Mental Health in Archaeology is a subject close to my heart and is now beginning to get the recognition it deserves. Over the last few years there have been several project that have brought together archaeologists and mental health experts to use archaeology as a therapeutic tool. This is a short post and the purpose of which is to highlight those project and provide links as a starting off point for my own research and that of others wishing to learn more about what is going on in this interesting and emerging field. Please feel free to comment with more links if I’ve missed any!

I also just wanted to highlight the up and coming session at TAG on ‘Mental Health in Archaeology‘ which I hope to be attending this year.

Operation Nightingale – probably the most well known project which utilised archaeology as a therapeutic tool to aid in the rehabilitation of soldiers returning home from Afghanistan. The Defence Archaeology Group formed from this initiative. Current projects include ‘Waterloo Uncovered‘.

Past in Mind – this project brought together archaeological experts and those who had accessed mental health resources in Herefordshire. The project has an official blog ‘Blog From The Bog’. There is also a short post about it on the Herefordshire Mind website that can be accessed here.

Restoration Trust – is a group which supports culture therapy for people with mental health conditions. They support a range of groups based in cultural centres including archaeological excavation.

Williams Rathouse at Mind Aberystwyth also organised for Mind Aberystwyth members to attend archaeological digs the notes on which can be found here.

Big Heritage – is an social enterprise that connects schools, museums and communities with the past and are currently running a project related to mental health and archaeology. More details can be found on their web pages.

Digability – is a three year project which provided opportunities for marginalised groups to participate in archaeology including adults with learning and physical difficulties, minority ethnic communities as well as mental health service users.

The last 5%

Great blog piece about that last 5% of the work!

The Thesis Whisperer

Long time readers may have noticed that for the first time in 5 years the Thesis Whisperer did not publish a post first thing on Wednesday morning.

I just… well – I forgot.

I felt terrible about this until @deblsda just pointed out on Twitter, a habit interrupted is not a habit broken. Five years is a long time to keep something like a blog going, believe me. There’s no small amount of effort involved and I have a busy academic life with lots of responsibilities. But it’s ironic that I forgot to set the blog up to publish on this particular Wednesday because this week’s post was meant to be about my habit of being a 95-percenter. Typically I had it ‘mostly written’ in my blog queue for months – it just needed the last 5% done.

That last 5% always kicks my ass.

I am great at…

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6th Experimental Archaeology Conference 2011

The 6th experimental archaeology conference was held on the 6th and 7th January at York University, Kings Manor campus. The conference was a two day event and consisted of a series of papers, workshops and discussions. One of the main topics, which were hotly debated by delegates, was the role of the experimental archaeologist as a means of bringing together the two realms of archaeology and science in an ever competitive world of multidisciplinary research. In the spirit of this an excellent key note speech was given by Matthew Collins setting the tone for the conference. Papers were also given by a number of York students including Cynthianne Debono Spiteri and a very well revived paper on replica Egyptian shields by William Stonborough.
The second day of the conference included two lively workshops; on butchery practices, by Krish Seetah, and ceramics, by Graham Taylor. Both workshops were intended to be a ‘hands on’ opportunities for delegates to gain experience as practitioners of experimental archaeology. The delegates therefore had the opportunity both to butcher small mammals and produce pottery from coarse ware clay, similar to what would have been available in the Neolithic.

 Delegates engaging in experimental pottery production

Delegates engaging in experimental pottery production

There was also a multitude of posters at the conference coving a wide range of experimental topics. These were complimented by a gallery of photographs constructed by Rowena Banerjea which depicted the formation of the archaeological record through pictures, focusing on the role of experimental archaeology in enlightening our knowledge of formation processes. The gallery included photographs from the experimental earthwork project at Overton Down, experimental earthworks at Butser and the excavation of reconstructed roundhouses at both Butser and St Fagans.

Photograph gallery produced by Rowena

Photograph gallery produced by Rowena

Delegates enjoying the poster presentation and photograph gallery

Delegates enjoying the poster presentation and photograph gallery

I would like to take the opportunity to thank my fellow committee members, Eva Fairnall and Lisa-Marie Shillito, for all of the hard work and dedication which went into organising the 6th Experimental Archaeology Conference. I would also like to say a special thank you to Alizon Holland for her tireless effort in helping with the financial and catering organisation. Last but not least I would like to thank those who volunteered to help out on the day which contributed significantly to the smooth running of both days of the conference!!! We are hoping to publish a special journal issue from the conference and will keep you all posted on progress.

Teaching Soils!

One of our responsibilities as soil specialists and also one of the great joys is to pass on our knowledge to others. I was given just such opportunity when I was asked to be a guest lecturer in the forensic archaeology adult learning class. My remit – teach them about soils and burials! So the gauntlet thrown I raced head long into working out what my learning outcome and teaching goals for the lesson should be!

The class was a mixture of adult learners who just wanted to know more about the forensic side of archaeological science and those wanting to be get accredited for the module. We started off by getting the class to think about what a soil actually was and what sort of information it might be able to give us about burials by producing a word cloud. Then straight into the main presentation, the class were a very quiet group but after some chatting we managed to get them interacting and talking about the different aspects of soil formation processes and taphonomy. The highlight of the lesson was a great little soil description exercise where I asked all of the students to bring in soil from their homes (I also brought a selection). This let the class get to grips with the techniques used in both soil science and forensic archaeology. It was a great activity and the class really enjoyed it!

We then went on to talk briefly about the soil chemistry, although I think in future I may need to find a more user friendly way to present this information! And then spent the last part of the lecture looking at examples of the use of soils in criminal investigations using Petraco, N., Kubic, T.A., Petraco, N.D.K., 2008. Case studies in forensic soil examinations, Forensic Science International 178, e23-e27.


Students getting to grips with soil!


Students deciding which soil looks the most interesting!