Our next ‘victim’ for our ‘Inside the Mind’ series comes courtesy of David Jacques, Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute and Project Director at Blick Mead, near Stonehenge, which is featured in the May/June 2015 issue of British Archaeology magazine..

Brief Bio

David was educated at Middlesex University and Wolfson College, Cambridge. He has been a 6th Form College teacher, and combined that role with working for the Open University between 2001-2013. Since then he has been a Senior Research fellow for the University of Buckingham.

David Jacquesitmp

David’s field of research explores the use of the Stonehenge landscape in the Mesolithic period (8500BC-4000BC). Since 2005 he has been the Project Director of Blick Mead, a nationally siignificant Mesolithic site, about 2 km from Stonehenge. His team has discovered the oldest settlement in the Stonehenge area, the longest continually used Mesolithic site in the United Kingdom, as well as the communities which built the first monuments at Stonehenge. These discoveries have started to contribute to a new understanding of the initial settlement patterns and practices in the Stonehenge landscape, and to a broader understanding of the sense of place, ritual and memory such hunter-gatherer societies had more generally.

As a Fulbright alumnus, David worked extensively to improve the education system of the Republic of Georgia, setting up and running a charity which stimulated an investment of $12 million into the Georgian education system between 2005-08. In 2011, he was chosen as one of two ‘Outstanding’ British Fulbright Teacher Program alumni of the past 60 years by the US Embassy in London.

The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

I can’t remember when I wasn’t fascinated by objects by the past and their stories. I loved ‘Time team’ and the way they were brave enough to show there were lots of different interpretations. Over the years my interests have broadened and deepened and I feel really privileged to have been able to follow my enthusiasms through into a career in such a fascinating area. It has taken a long time, but it is all so worth it.

How did you get started?

Getting involved on a slave plantation site in America when I was on a teaching scholarship supposedly studying varieties of African American English! After I returned to the UK I applied to do an Archaeology Masters at Cambridge directly as a result and then started to get my hands dirty.

Who has most influenced your career?

Ian Hodder, for the way his ultra close engagement and care when thinking about artefacts from the past has helped establish more detailed ‘biographical’ social histories of individuals and communities. Tom Phillips and Tom Lyons; brilliant field archaeologists, project partners and friends.  Tony Legge’s interest in our bone assemblage at Blick Mead, plus his support of us and what we were trying to do as a team, really helped put the site on the map.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

Blick Mead. Not only is it exciting to be involved in a potentially paradigm shifting excavation, but it has been great seeing the way the project has engaged people in the town of Amesbury in such a genuinely meaningful way. A museum/History Centre has come out of this interest, I’m told the Amesbury downtown has re-generated partly as a result, and people’s sense of themselves and their town has been lifted. This is most evident when large numbers of people from the town process to the site just before Christmas by torch light. It really shows what archaeology can do. Many of our most knowledgeable volunteers come from the town and long may it remain so!

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

Mule in the Isle of Man. This Neolithic chambered tomb was excavated just after the war by a German prisoner of war. It is located in an absolutely stunning position which overlooks Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. It is also the only point on Man where you can see right across it. This site, like the Isle of Man itself, is a sleeping archaeological giant in the Irish Sea. It was clearly an enormously important, but now largely ‘lost’ place in the British Neolithic.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

1) That archaeology barely took off as a subject at school and is now already on the decline. It could not be more of an important – it should be a national curriculum subject. There are huge benefits for people’s individual and collective sense of identity.

2) That sometimes new ideas can be given a rough time because people don’t like change. The new needs friends. There’s a need for outsiders in most walks of life.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

That full assessments of sites and landscapes (including hydrogeology) always need be done before plans are drawn up. The Stonehenge tunnel policy is a case in point. It is based on a pretty limited assessment of a limited area in that landscape (only the WHS has been assessed) and would have benefited from broader assessment criteria and broader assessment full stop.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

There are enormous public benefits which come from understanding the historic environment we all live and work in and I think the earlier we can get to excite people about it and get them involved the better. Speaking as someone who has been a teacher, I think that archaeology, including hands-on excavation, should be an integral part of the school curriculum. It really is a subject for all – we have disabled people, the young, the old, people from all different walks of life on site at Blick Mead. What we have found is that people find discovering things and being part of a non hierarchical team enabling and empowering (learning about team skills and the different ways that teams can be structured would be another learning opportunity). I am sure that archaeology in school would vitalise children’s enthusiasm for learning in a way that nothing else can match. It is the ultimate mixed ability subject and it suits and empowers different mentalities. We see it on site all the time. It can also connect well with other disciplines.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

I would be working in teaching, or for a charity I should think. I am truly lucky to be working as an archaeological researcher and say that to myself most days!

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

I’ve got a lovely 7 year old, who’s stimulating in a way that is ultimately relaxing. I love reading a bit of fiction when I get the time. I can really recommend ‘” target=”_blank”>Skippy Dies’ by Paul Murray, If anyone is looking for something to read at the moment (it is better than it sounds!).

We’d like to express our thanks to David for taking part during what has been a busy few months for him.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.