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We have written in the past about ways to enhance your field trip visits and what equipment to take with you. But what if you don’t want to be lumbered with all that clutter? Could a simple smartphone come to your rescue?

With the plethora of apps available these days, the answer is invariably ‘yes’. But of course, safety must always be a major consideration on any trip, so standard caveats apply: we would always recommend keeping a good paper map (and other ‘survival aids’ as appropriate) to hand when travelling across open country. Despite the government’s best intentions, signal availability in remote areas is not always optimal, so when looking at available apps, offline working must always be a consideration. Battery power is also important. Most smartphones are notorious for ‘poor’ (8–10 hours at best, much shorter if hunting for a signal) battery performance, so a fully-charged back-up battery pack is a must when considering a phone-based trip.

So, with the above in mind, which apps will be useful for your field trip? Here are some of our recommendations, most of which are available for both iOS and Android:

Planning, information and reference

It’s always useful to be able to find out information about prospective sites, and so most preparation will be done at home, prior to departure. But there are always occasions when plans change and more ‘on the spot’ information is needed. Of course, in these situations a signal is usually essential. There are myriad apps that provide information about various heritage sites but in our experience these are usually quite limited in scope: for instance the National Trust, English Heritage  and CADW all have apps, for Gardens, Stately Homes etc. but the content tends to be quite selective or limited in such apps. We have previously reviewed the Heritage app from Little Polar (IOS only), which appears to be going from strength to strength. Another app which has recently come to our notice is TiCL, which whilst not strictly heritage-related looks quite promising (check out the Trails functionality). Sadly Wikihood, an app which displayed Wikipedia items based upon your location, is no longer available.

Maps and Route Tracking

When it comes to mapping and route recording, the options are quite staggering. But to our minds, the king of the hill is Viewranger. Plan trips, calculate distances, and view elevation profiles. Use maps offline – Premium topographic maps (can get expensive for larger areas!!) and free global maps are available. Use ViewRanger to record your track as you go and create a mapped trace of your trip, complete with stats and photos. There’s also an active community with downloadable routes to try out, and support (when I’ve needed it) has always been first-class.

Photography and Video

Most smartphones come with photo software that ís more than adequate, and will do for most shots, including panoramas once you’re at the site.

For more technical (surveying) images, Theodolite or TheodoliteHD (IOS only) are useful. Theodolite is a multi-function augmented reality app that combines a compass, GPS, map, photo/movie camera, rangefinder, and two-axis inclinometer into one indispensable app. Theodolite overlays real time information about position, altitude, bearing, range, and inclination on the iPhone’s live camera image, like an electronic viewfinder. A possible alternative for Android users is ThÈodolite Droid, but I have no personal experience of this app.

For image editing, SnapSeed is quite useful, and comes in both iOS and Android flavours. But image editing is a very personal thing, so you may have your own favourites. Please let us know in the comments if this is the case.

For video, we’d recommend Horizon. There’s nothing more embarrassing than finding that viewers have to tilt their heads to see your carefully framed (portrait) shot, and Horizon takes care of this for you by automatically keeping the shot horizontal regardless of the orientation of the phone itself.

If 360 degree panoramas are your thing, PhotoSphere from Google for iOS and Android is quite useful, and hooks into Google Maps for sharing the resulting views.

And don’t forget to set your device to backup up your photographs automatically to the cloud (once in signal range)!

Finds Recording

For those lucky enough to stumble upon any interesting finds, the Find Plotter app (iOS only?) may be helpful. The developer’s web site appears to be no longer available, but the iPhone app is still available in the Apple Store. Although aimed mainly at detectorists, it could prove useful for the casual fieldworkers among us to record basic details to pass onto the PAS.

For wider data collection, the Edina Field Trip GB app will be a much better option. This allows collection of data by a group using customised forms (designed via the web), can track GPS points, collect photos and fieldnotes. Data is saved to a DropBox account.

Damage Reporting

As we’ve reported previously, there is a serious gap in the market for an app which would allow for discovery of heritage crime to be reported to the appropriate authorities. We’d still be happy to share our ideas for such an app with any budding developers out there, and if anyone is willing to provide funding (CBA, Rescue, University Research Depts?) for such a project, please contact us!

Field Notes

For writing up your trip after the event, again the choice is almost limitless. Select your favourite text editor, and away you go! But in terms of organisation, ease of searching, syncing across devices, inclusion of photos etc, Evernote is pretty hard to beat.

That finishes our brief roundup of possible apps that could be used before, during and after a field trip. Have we missed out anything crucial, or a better alternative to one of our choices? Let us know in the comments.

Once again, the Day of Archaeology is being held next month. This year, it falls on the 24th July.

doa-noyear

If you’ve ever wondered what archaeologists around the world get up to on a ‘normal’ working day, then the Day of Archaeology was designed just for you! All around the world on the designated day, people working, studying or volunteering in archaeology are invited to submit photographs, videos and written blog posts covering the work they’ve been involved in during the day. The various submissions are then added to the Day of Archaeology web site, producing a varied record of the vast range of work being undertaken across the world in all fields of archaeology.

The project was founded by Matt Law and Lorna Richardson in March 2011, and has been held every year since, although the specific date varies from year to year. Run entirely by volunteers, participation in the project is completely free and past entries have encompassed the full gamut of archaeological activities. The whole Day of Archaeology relies on goodwill and a passion for public engagement, and contributions, no matter how large or small are always welcomed. The idea behind the project is to raise public awareness of the archaeological profession and it’s relevance and importance to societies around the globe.

If you are involved in an archaeological project in any capacity – working, studying or volunteering – please consider taking part this year and help make the project a success. It’s simple to register as a participant and contributions can be as long or as short as you want.

If you’re not involved in archaeology, think it’s just about the digging, but are intrigued to know what else goes on during an archaeologist’s ‘typical’ day, why not expand your horizons by keeping an eye on the project web site and Twitter feed? You might just learn something interesting!

Ok, so this one has snuck up on us as it passed under our radar, but this coming weekend 13th June, the Institute of Archaeology are holding their ‘World Festival of Archaeology: Passport to the Past’ event as a precursor to the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of British Archaeology to be held in July (of which more later).

The festival will involve lots of activities taking place in Gordon Square, London and in the Institute of Archaeology building for families and all members of the public, on Saturday 13 June from 12pm-5pm.

Passport_Logoraterizedflat

Tours of the Institute’s world-renowned collections and object handling-sessions will be available while archaeologically-related activities for adults and children alike will also be on offer as well as displays of experimental archaeological techniques.

All activities are drop-in, there is no need to book (but see below re tours) and all are welcome!

Activities in Gordon Square Gardens should include:

  • Sandpit Archaeology: Learn how to excavate and unearth the past
  • From Skin to Leather: See how animal hides are transformed into leather
  • Meat: the Ancestors: see how our ancestors processed meat
  • Make it in Stone: See how to work flint into tools (flint knapping)
  • Conservator for a day: Be a conservator for the day: take part in aspects of conservation
  • Pace Yourself: Learn some basic archaeological surveying techniques
  • Tinder and Steel: Making fire in the Middle Ages
  • Fragmented Frescoes: Create a wall painting and help create a story from the past
  • Lighting up the Past: make a lamp: Make a working Roman/Greek lamp just like they did 2,000 years ago
  • Lets do the Time Warp: Learn an ancient weaving technique
  • Cave creations: Try making paints and see what kind of cave art you can create. Help make an art work for the Institute
  • Connect four stratigraphy: Connect the layers of time and race the other team
  • Meet the Alchemist: Turn your copper into gold
  • Fish mummification: Make your own mummified fish just like the Egyptians did
  • Underwater Archaeology-DSI-Deep Sea Investigation: Dive into the world of ancient shipwrecks
  • Whose Poo: Find out what people in the past had to eat by dissecting their poo

Indoor activities will include:

  • Conservation Laboratory – piecing together the past: See what’s involved in conserving objects for display in museums. Find out what we discover during conservation
  • When Bad Things Happen to Good Books: Come and see how damage and decay affect our books. Learn book mending and basic conservation techniques
  • Egyptian Rituals: Make your own servant to work for you in the Egyptian afterlife. Wax modelling and painting of Shabtis
  • Maya you have a Happy Birthday: Discover the Maya calendar and your birthday secrets
  • Scenes from the Past: Be inspired by archaeologists’ travels. Make your own greetings cards inspired by your archaeological expedition at the Institute
  • Sherds through Time: Create a timeline using Ancient Egyptian material from the Institute’s collections
  • What’s my Stuff: Use the Institute’s X-ray flourescent equipment to find out what your jewellery is made of
  • Petrie Museum: Try making your own pot inspired by the Petrie Museum’s collections
  • Film screening: View archival films from the archaeological record

In addition there will be tours and children’s trails throughout the afternoon – some booking may be required as tour spaces are limited.

For full details, see the Institute’s web page.

Another instalment of our ‘Inside the Mind‘ series brings responses to our now familiar questions from Steve Hartgroves.

Brief Bio

After an initially unsuccessful time at college, followed by a short career with British European Airways (BEA) operating their fledgling computerised reservations system, Steve set off for the almost obligatory ‘trip to India’, which was abandoned before completion due to various conflicts causing a change of plans en route. After a variety of jobs on his return, in 1976 at the age of 27, he discovered archaeology, volunteering for a dig on a Roman villa site in Bradford on Avon, being conducted by Roy Canham of the Wiltshire County Archaeological Service.

Based upon his computer experience with BEA, Roy then employed him to computerise the Wiltshire SMR – a radical idea in 1976 – and he also got involved in all the other routine work of the Archaeological Service. Having decided that this was his vocation Steve applied to Cardiff and studied for a degree in Archaeology (under Professors Richard Atkinson and Mike Jarret). 

After obtaining his degree in Archaeology at Cardiff in 1979-82, Steve had various archaeological jobs,  including excavations at  a glassworks at Nailsea South of Bristol, which had been demolished with explosives. Interesting stratigraphy!

He was appointed Sites and Monuments Officer for Cornwall Archaeological Unit in 1983 and worked with this organisation until his early retirement in 2012. His main claim to fame must be the Cornwall Aerial Survey Project (CASP) which he inaugurated in 1984 with funding from the RCHM, then, following their merger, from EH. The funding continued every year after that and altogether he did 100 flights (which works out at almost four flights a year). This resulted in an important archive of 7,348 B/W prints and 5,711 colour slides and, from 2004, 5,995 digital images – a grand total of  almost 20,000 aerial images of every aspect of the historic landscape of Cornwall and Scilly.

He was also involved in four or five episodes of Time Team, mostly head-down in a trench, not usually a speaking part. His ‘big break’ came when they did the programme about  a multi-period settlement he had photographed as cropmarks at Lellizzick on the Camel estuary near Padstow (“From Constantinople to Cornwall”), but unfortunately he was struck down with laryngitis and after the initial setting of the scene at the start of day one, was completely unable to speak for the rest of the weekend.

SHblues

The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

As a teenager, I read a book called Patterns of the Past by Guy Underwood and was impressed with his account of dowsing the energy patterns of prehistoric sites. I also liked Alfred Watkins’ The Old Straight Track. When I lived in Plymouth I would go up to Dartmoor and cut a hazel or willow wand and dowse the stone rows and so on. I decided that I needed to know more about the people that made these sites but it wasn’t until several years later that I was able to follow this up.

How did you get started?

It’s a long story….I had a checkered academic career and after leaving college with little sense of vocation, I passed an aptitude test and was employed by BEA (remember them) operating the online seat reservations computer in West London; this was in the late 60’s, when there were very few commercial computers in use, and ‘my one’ had a console like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and occupied a site the size of several tennis courts. This lasted a few years, then, like many of my generation, I dropped everything and headed off overland to India – I learned more in those 6 months than I had learned in all my time in school. I tried lots of jobs after that – landscape gardener, portrait photographer, builder, astrologer, etc, etc, but none seemed to suit me. Then one day I read in my local paper about an excavation on a Roman bathouse discovered beneath the turf of the playing field of the local school – just a few fields from where I was living in Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire. I went along and volunteered; it was the summer of 1976, every day was hot and sunny and the site was impressively well preserved and full of finds. Chatting during a coffee break with the site director, Roy Canham (Wiltshire’s County Archaeologist) I learned that he was looking for someone with computer experience to help digitise the county Sites and Monuments Record…

Who has most influenced your career?

Roy Canham (see above), my first archaeological employer, my mentor and role model. I worked for Roy on various projects over the next few years; excavating, fieldwalking and surveying. I also infiltrated his aerial survey project, first by offering to develop and print the films from his flights overnight, so that he had the results the following day (the alternative being to send the films off to get developed and printed and returned a week or two later), then I sat in as navigator when no-one else was available, then I finally got my hands on the cameras.

When I realised that an archaeologist could get paid to play with computers, walk over fields picking up interesting stuff, and flying around taking photos I sensed that I had found my vocation at last. With Roy’s encouragement, I signed up to do a degree in Archaeology at Cardiff.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

Undoubtedly the Cornwall Aerial Survey Project, which I inaugurated in 1984 when I got the job as Sites and Monuments Officer with Cornwalll Archaeological Unit in Truro. One hundred flights (from 1984-2010) produced 7,348 B/W prints, 5,711 colour slides and, latterly, 5,995 digital images – a grand total of almost 20,000 aerial images of every aspect of the historic landscape of Cornwall and Scilly.

Possibly more significant in archaeological terms though, and no less exciting, was my work computerising the Cornwall and Scilly Sites and Monuments Record, and overseeing its transformation, via GIS, into the Historic Environment Record, thereby linking the sites database, with a few clicks of the mouse, to historic maps of various dates, modern maps at various scales, ground and air photos, project reports (Grey Literature), digital terrain models, and much much more.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

I would rather not let on because I don’t want to encourage anyone else to go there – I like to be quiet and enjoy it alone. Suffice to say it’s a stone circle.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

I would have liked to work abroad – in the Middle East and Africa, but I struggled, as a humble archaeologist on low pay, just to find the rent and provide for my family.

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

The current system seems pretty good and is a huge improvement on how things were when I first started out. However, I’d like to see it properly enforced by people who understand what the point of it all is.

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

I don’t think that I would have much to say to them; I don’t think that they have as much influence over events as they seem to think they have. They don’t seem to understand what’s important and what’s trivial. Overpopulation and climate change need to be addressed urgently; compared to these threats archaeology can take a back seat.

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

I have absolutely no idea – I’d have liked to have been an astronaut.

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

I like gardening and building dry stone walls – that is, Cornish Hedges; I like cycling (I have renovated my father’s racing bike – a Raleigh Record Ace from 1936), and I still take lots of photos.

As always, we’d like to express our thanks to Steve for his participation.

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.

We continue our, now long-running, ‘Inside the Mind‘ series with a peek into the head of author and historian Craig Weatherhill.

Brief Bio

Craig is an author, historian, novelist, artist, and an authority on the Cornish language. He worked for many years as a planning officer for West Penwith and has undertaken a number of surveys for the Cornwall Archaeology Unit amongst others. He lives near St Just and plays an active part in many activities celebrating the Celtic revival of Cornwall and its people.

Craig

The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

When I was “discovering” prehistoric monuments on the West Penwith Moors at the age of eight, and finding that my school couldn’t tell me anything about them.  I was the sort of kid who had to know, so I set out to find out.  I never stopped!

How did you get started?

In 1971, the late Vivien Russell produced a catalogue list of known archaeological sites in the Land’s End peninsula (which is stuffed full of them).  I realised that few of these sites had ever been recorded by means of accurate measured and drawn surveys, so I tasked myself with doing that.  I surveyed over 300 sites, from large to small before professional archaeologists were ever appointed in Cornwall to do that.  And they were paid to do what I was doing for nothing.

Who has most influenced your career?

The late Vivien Russell that I’ve mentioned, and the late Peter (P.A.S.) Pool, both outstanding local archaeologists and historians and who became close friends.  I still feel very sad at losing them both in the 1990s.  Peter was also a champion of conservation in West Cornwall, using his legal training to take on the mighty and win.  Also, the work of Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, who I met for the first time recently.  What a thoroughly nice man he is, too!

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

My survey of all (then) known Late Iron Age courtyard house sites, which are confined to the Land’s End peninsula, with a single example on Scilly.  It had been called for in the 1930s and no one had done it.  This sort of work was a spare-time pursuit, so it took me 4 years.  Sadly, it was never published, but a copy can be found in the Cornish Studies Library in Redruth.  It would now need updating and adding to.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

It sounds rather parochial of me, but it’s the courtyard house settlement of Bosullow Trehyllys, north-east of Chun Castle.  It’s an amazing site, with such an atmosphere of peace which is so hard to find in the modern world.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

Never having been able to make archaeology a professional career.  I couldn’t open doors: no letters after my name, you see.  And I’d upset “English” Heritage.  Several times.  I was the old Penwith Council’s Conservation Officer from 1988-98, in charge of listed buildings and conservation areas, but that wasn’t the same.

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

I’d abolish the national quango “English” Heritage which, in Cornwall, has been an ongoing disaster.  It cares only for the “honeypot” sites it manages and for nothing else.  It suspended all new scheduling in West Penwith in 1987, lied about that for years, and has never resumed to this day.  In any case, there’s no call for a financially irresponsible two-tiers of administration in the heritage field.  I would devolve all its responsibilities and funding to existing county and regional heritage agencies, on the grounds that you can’t do better than local knowledge and the deep love and respect for the sites and monuments that results.  I feel exactly the same about the natural environment quango, Natural “England” which, like EH, has caused great damage to local landscapes and habitats in recent years – and to archaeology too.  NE’s activities in West Penwith damaged the scheduled Tregeseal stone circle no less than 13 times in 5 years, with neither of the quangoes appearing to care.

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

Exactly the same as I’ve said in my previous answer.

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

I’ve gloriously retired a year early from freelance architecture, but I never really had an archaeology/heritage career.  So, I do what I’ve always done:  research and write.

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

My favourite relaxations include reading and playing music on a mellotron, that legendary, haunting keyboard instrument from the 60s and 70s, and made famous by bands like the Moody Blues. I finally managed to acquire one 3 years ago after decades of wanting one.  They’re quite rare and difficult to play effectively.  I’ve even played it on three songs recorded by others.  The most rewarding relaxation I have comes from my lifelong love of horses and riding them on the moors and cliffs of West Cornwall.  My current steed, Shogun, is a fabulous guy, a gentle giant who stands at 17.3 hands high and is truly amazing to ride and work with.

We’d like to express our thanks to Craig for being so forthright and passionate with his answers.

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.

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.

After a short hiatus, we’re pleased to be able to continue our ‘Inside the Mind‘ series, with the co-operation of Professor David Breeze OBE, FSA, FRSE, Hon FSA Scot, Hon MIFA.

Brief Bio

David Breeze was educated at Blackpool Grammar School and University College, Durham. After graduating in modern history he carried out research on the junior officers of the Roman army, being awarded his doctorate in 1970. He was formerly Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland and has written books on both the Antonine Wall and Hadrian’s Wall as well as Roman Scotland, Roman frontiers generally and the Roman army. David prepared the bid for World Heritage Site status for the Antonine Wall, which was successfully achieved in 2008. He retired in 2009 but continues to write about Roman frontiers and the Roman army. David is an honorary professor at the universities of Durham, Edinburgh and Newcastle, and is chairman of the International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, on which subject he presented at the recent Current Archaeology Live! conference in London.

DavidBreeze

The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

I have always liked history. My longest running research project started when I was 10, which is studying my family tree. So I went to university to read history and happened to have Eric Birley as my first tutor. He sparked an interest in archaeology. After my PhD, I was appointed an inspector of ancient monuments in Scotland and therefore a cultural resource manager, which I found that I enjoyed!

How did you get started?

see above

Who has most influenced your career?

In Durham in the 1960s, each student had a tutor and Eric Birley, Professor of Archaeology and a specialist in the Roman army, was my first tutor. He encouraged me to attend the university excavation and I was hooked. Eric asked Brian Dobson to supervise my undergraduate dissertation and Brian went on to supervise my PhD. I learnt a lot from his approach to archaeology and teaching.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

I would like to offer two. In 1971, I excavated a complete Roman fortlet, Barburgh Mill in Dumfriesshire, and this became a type site. Then, from 1973 until 1982 I investigated the fort at Bearsden on the Antonine Wall. This has been the largest excavation project on the Antonine Wall since before the second World War, and led to the developer gifting the land on which the bath-house sat to the State and I was able to completely excavate it and lay it out for public inspection. We found the sewage which had drained from the latrine into the fort ditch and this showed what the soldiers ate, and, most interestingly, that the diet was mainly plant based.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

Hadrian’s Wall! This is marvellous monument, sitting in a wonderful landscape, with centuries of study behind it but at the same time with many secrets to reveal. I have written 5 books and guide-books on the Wall yet I continue to learn more about it year on year.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

Missing the opportunity to visit archaeological sites in those parts of the world which are now off limits. This is, of course, a personal regret, but there are wider issues. For a proper understanding of an archaeological site, it is important to visit and seek to appreciate it in its setting: this is now denied to a whole generation of students. Over and above that, we are witnessing the terrible destruction of elements of our world heritage: this is a catastrophe for us all and diminishes us all.

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

One problem with our legislation is that it is still site-based and I should welcome an approach which focused more on the landscape in which these sites sat.

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

What is important to all of us is a sense of place. This permeates so much of our life, not only the streets we walk along and the buildings we admire, but our attitudes and prejudices. Our sense of place is deep seated and extends well into the past. There is a reason that the treaty establishing the EU was signed in Rome, but we also want to understand Stonehenge and the people who lived in Skara Brae. This desire to understand where we came from and how we have related to our neighbours in the past is so important to helping us understand our position in the world today.

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

Teaching in a school (I have 10 teachers in my family).

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

I have 3 grandchildren who I am lucky enough to see regularly, and I have a project to take each of them abroad – so far my grandson has been to Rome twice and this year my elder granddaughter goes to Paris for the first time. I also have a garden, and I enjoy walking and reading.

We’d like to express our thanks to David for his thoughtful and thought-provoking responses.

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.

conservation.

1. English Heritage (or whatever they’ll be calling themselves this year):
“At Stonehenge we’ll be more of a statutory heritage champion and less of a Tory election agent”.

2 and 3. National Trust:
“At Stonehenge, we’ll do what we say is our mission, not what someone in Whitehall says they’d like us to do”.
“We’ll finally admit that letting people brandalise or sloganise monuments is always a bad idea”.

4 and 5. Portable Antiquities Scheme:
“We’ll simply tell the truth to artefact hunters, farmers and the public”.
“We’ll lobby the Government to make this spiffing update the last.”

6 and 7. Landowners:
Like with sheep and spuds, we’ll let nothing off our farms without us seeing it (and knowing its value).
We’ll keep in mind every archaeological find needs reporting (whatever any non-archaeologist says).”

8. Academics and the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage:
“We’ll finally admit that not telling a landowner about a significant find (and therefore being unable to report it) DOES conform to our definition of “heritage crime” and is just as damaging as nighthawking”.

9. Shropshire Council:
At Oswestry, we’ll  listen to informed opinion and ask ourselves every morning “who benefits from ignoring it?”

10 and 11. Cadw:
1. “We will try to be consistent, unbiased and professional.”
2. “We will try much harder to protect archaeology.”

12. Archaeologists:
“We’ll fret less about community archaeology and more about the community’s archaeology”

Here are the details of the latest teacher training days for teaching prehistory in primary schools from the admirable “Big Heritage”:

big heritage

It’s been a while, but Sue Brooke has once again managed to get a response from one of the prinicpals on the Caerau dig. In a departure from our usual email response format, Sue actually managed to sit down with Niall Sharples for a chat at Caerau. Here’s her report…

Over the last 8 days I’ve been popping up to the CAER Heritage Project excavations. I’ve seen lots of exciting things in the ground, held some beautiful items, learned a lot and generally have thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve met Professor Niall Sharples quite a few times before and he has always stopped to chat. I emailed him to ask him to do a little ‘Inside the Mind of…’ article but really had got nowhere fast. Fair enough though, he has been quite busy during the digging season. However, having seen him a few times up on the hill I decided to ask if he would sit and answer my list of 10 questions. ‘Yes, of course, tomorrow’, he would say. Tomorrow would come and I would bump into him just as he was leaving and I was arriving or, just as I was leaving and he was arriving. Still, undeterred I kept my list of questions tightly tucked into my bag. On day 8 I arrived on site and yes, he was there. Unfortunately so were the BBC, following him around with their television cameras. In the distance I could see him being filmed on the edge of a trench, arms waving as he did his press relations thing. Ah well, I thought, not today.

Since this is a community dig that involves lots of visitors there were a group of local young people attending. Some were digging, some were sieving and others were helping to clean the finds. Some young people were making pots out of clay, learning how these were made and the skill that it took. I wandered around the site to see how things had progressed in the trenches and eventually sat to watch some pot making, keeping well out of the way of the telly cameras.

After a while Professor Sharples appeared and asked if I wanted to ask my 10 questions. Oh yes, right! We found a couple of chairs quite near and sat in the sun. I’m not sure how I thought this would work. I had questions, I had paper and a pen (well 3 – just in case) so I just asked the questions and made notes about the answers. We chatted about some things that came up, discussed things I hadn’t thought of and generally made our way through the questions. It was all rather laid back but, for me, very interesting.

NiallSharples

What sparked your interest in archaeology? was the first question on my little list of ten. Well, apparently it was women – ‘there was a better class of women involved in the archaeology course’. Although this was said, kind of tongue in cheek, I got an inkling that there may be just a little grain of truth in that comment! Niall did however go on to talk about how, when he was younger, he had an interest in what he described as the ‘weird mysteries’ to be found in books such as those written by Erich Von Daniken. Inside my head I could hear a nice little sigh of relief. Having spent quite a few days up at the dig I had chatted to the Cardiff University students who gave me the impression that Professor Sharples was ‘fierce’ and that he ‘knew everything.’ So here I am, sat with the fierce guy, in the corner of a Welsh hillfort, who ‘knows everything’. When he mentioned Von Daniken I was delighted as I had read him too. I knew what he was on about! That felt like a good start.

Niall described how he had initially started at Glasgow University studying archaeology, maths and Scottish history. He didn’t actually learn geography but had an interest in it. Niall described how archaeology was a really interesting subject and one that allowed him to combine history and the geography that he enjoyed. He dropped maths after a couple of months. Niall felt that history was something that ‘could actually be open to interpretation and although an academic subject is not actually based on anything scientific’. Archaeology, in his view however, “…has to have an evidential base. Links between research and the actual archaeological evidence is clearer and therefore provides a far better connection to the past”.

So, how did he get properly started as a ‘real’ archaeologist rather than just a class based student? It was after he had gained student experience on the Glasgow University digs led by Leslie Alcock. Niall worked and learned on digs such as that led by Alcock during the later part of the 1970’s at Dundurn in Perthshire. Niall described one of his own early but exciting finds. It became clear as we chatted that Leslie Alcock really stimulated Niall’s original interest in archaeology. We spoke briefly of the digs Alcock had directed locally to Caerau at Dinas Powys and of course, at Cadbury Castle. He also talked about working on digs alongside David Clarke, now of the National Museum of Scotland. Niall found David to be what he described as an ‘interesting guy’ and together they worked on such sites as that at the very well known Neolithic site at Skara Brae. Niall credited Leslie Alcock as ‘probably the person who has most influenced my career’.

Niall has been recently found working on Ham Hill in Somerset so, excluding that site I asked which other site had he thought of as his most interesting project. Niall talked about Bornish, in the Outer Hebrides, a Iron Age and Norse settlement. I was a little surprised at his very obvious enthusiasm for the Vikings but Niall explained that the site there ‘…integrated different categories of evidence. There were structures, ditches, stratification, all giving up lots of chronological evidence and providing a very complicated story’. It is this kind of complication that clearly holds Nialls attention. I got the impression that he would find absolutely no fun at all in going onto a site, digging it and finding archaeology that all fitted nicely into a neat story. A little bit like his ‘weird’ Von Daniken mysteries – there clearly has to be that little bit of an extra challenge, to stretch him just that little bit more.

We talked about what Niall felt was his favourite British site, at which point he threw up quite a few names. Maiden Castle, on which of course Niall famously worked, and Mousa an Iron Age coastal Broch in the Shetlands, which was a site not familiar to me at all. Finally, Avebury a placename recognizable to most. When I asked him to explain why he simply stated that they were ‘spectacular’.

My next question was about what Niall felt was his biggest archaeological or heritage regret. He described his feeling that archaeology had gone downhill. He spoke with passion about the lack of available resources, the way museums were no longer being valued and what he described as the ‘quality of the experts’ available. He accepted that everyone, with experience properly gained, can become an expert but stated that today’s archaeologists are valued more and more for their ‘ability as good administrators’. Archaeology had become privatized and ‘heritage is not now being looked after as it should be’. The opinion now tends to be more that private companies will pay. There is a real sense of over commercialism. Such emphasis was placed by Niall on this subject that I struggled to keep up with writing my notes.

Moving on I asked if you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation then what would it be. He answered quite simply that “Archaeology should be returned to the care of the government and they should be investing more in their heritage”. My next question was if you could address Parliament for 30 seconds what would you say – referring to his answer from the previous question he stated, and I can quote, “It would be that!”

Grateful that my next question changed the subject I then asked Niall if he hadn’t made it in his archaeology career then what did he think he would be doing now. He gave it a little bit of thought and said he quite fancied being a film producer or director. I commented along the line of this being rather different to what he did now but he disagreed. He made the comparison with the dig up at Caerau saying there were lots of people there to organize and that, at the end of the dig, they were hoping to be able to tell a story. Just like making a film. He quickly pointed out that he had no ambition to be a film star, which I could understand since we were chatting immediately after he had been filmed over and over for a news item.

The questions were almost done. My last question was, away from his day job what did he do to relax. He talked about how he likes to simply watch TV and films. He still likes his mystery books only now preferring crime novels and murder mysteries by authors such as Ian Rankin and Denise Mina. He pointed out though that he does read ‘literature’ too, particularly admiring the work of Gabriel Marquez on South America.

Once the questions were out of the way we chatted a little bit more about the finds up at Caerau and I thanked him for answering the questions for me. As we got up to leave a young person who had been washing some finds came up with a wet pebble. Niall took it from her and said, “Ah yes, that could be a games piece. Although it’s a pebble it’s water worn and shouldn’t be up here. Where did it come from? Was it the river? Was it used to play games with?” The young lady took back her discovery and just stood looking at it. I just loved it!

Many thanks to Niall (and to Sue). 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.

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