Next up in our series taking a brief peek into the minds of archaelogical personalities is Professor Martin Carver, current editor of Antiquity magazine. Many thanks to Martin for his responses.
Professor Martin Carver was an army officer for 15 years, a free-lance archaeologist for 13 years and has been an academic for 20 years.
He was elected as the first secretary of the newly formed Institute of Field Archaeologists in 1982 and Vice President of the Society of Antiquaries in 2002. He was appointed professor of archaeology at York in 1986 and was Head of Department from 1986 to 1996.
He has an international reputation for his excavations at Sutton Hoo, on behalf of the British Museum and the Society of Antiquaries and at the Pictish monastery at Portmahomack Tarbat, Easter Ross, Scotland. He has undertaken archaeological research in England, Scotland, France, Italy and Algeria.
Martin Carver’s current principal activity is Editor of Antiquity. He was appointed Professor Emeritus in 2008.
The 10 Questions
What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?
A love of early Celtic poetry got me interested in researching the Dark Ages while I was in the army. I have never been much interested in heritage protection.
How did you get started?
By reading Antiquity (which I now edit) in the 1960s. I left the army in 1972 and volunteered at Winchester and Chalton, before spending my gratuity on a course on Anglo-Saxon studies at Durham.
Who has most influenced your career?
My close friends, particularly Madeleine Hummler, Sue Hirst, Cecily Spall and Catherine Hills, and now my children, three of whom are archaeologists.
Which has been your most exciting project to date?
Research and excavation at Sutton Hoo, resulting in numerous publications, a TV series and an onsite museum.
What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?
Portmahomack, Easter Ross. This is the site of the first excavated Pictish monastery and church of St Colman (now a museum). It lies a long way from the main road on the Dornoch Firth in NE Scotland with a beautiful beach and view.
What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?
That students who learn to love archaeology together at university are split into different sectors (academic, government, commercial) by our system of procurement.
If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?
The object of the legislation should be to maximise new knowledge, not to record endangered deposits.
If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?
The purpose of archaeology is to find out about the past. Our product is new knowledge. University research, government and local government conservation, commercial mitigation and museums are part of a single project and should be supported and enabled by a single ministry (not three).
If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?
I would be a retired field marshall, or an impoverished novelist.
Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?
Play golf, play the flute, party.
Thanks once again to Martin for his responses.