You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Education and entertainment’ category.

Welcome to a new series, ‘Tarot Tuesday’.

Most people know of the Tarot as a system of divination using a special deck of cards. What is less well known is that the Tarot is based on a pack of playing cards, used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play games such as Italian tarocchini and French tarot. In the late 18th century, it began to be used for divination in the form of tarotology and cartomancy – see Wikipedia for more details.

There are two main sections to the Tarot as used in divination, known the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, with which we shall concern ourselves in this brief series.

Many interpretations have been placed upon the cards, dependent upon which divination system you follow, and many designs have been created over the years, covering just about any subject you care to name. Possibly the most well known of the decks available today is the Rider-Waite Tarot, the Major Arcana designs of which are based on the Tarot de Marseilles.

 

What we shall be doing in this series of posts over the coming weeks is attempting to link the Major Arcana cards to archaeological heritage sites in our own inimitable way, using the generally accepted divinatory meanings for each card as our guide. Hopefully, this will become self-explanatory as the series continues. Whilst illustrations will largely be taken from Rider-Waite, other deck images may be used from time to time, and will be acknowledged as required.

The cards will not be drawn in sequence, but on a random basis, so that no-one, not even me, will know in advance what the subject of the next card in the series will be. Of course, all interpretations are subjective, so please feel free to comment as to which monument comes to mind for you as we explore each card. Those familiar with the Tarot may draw their own conclusions as to the order in which the cards appear.

Alice Farnsworth is back, to answer another reader’s archaeological query. Don’t forget to send in your questions, and you may be lucky enough to get your own answer from Alice!

 

 

 


Q. As the old adage goes: ‘Take only photographs, leave only footprints‘, but don’t footprints cause erosion to delicate sites? How can I minimise my interactions with our ancient sites, given that I feel visiting a site in person is the only way for me to truly experience it?

A. Ha! Yes, it’s true that footfall is a major cause of erosion at our ancient sites, especially at the more popular sites. For instance, the banks at Avebury have often been fenced off to allow the soil to recover from visitors.

There is no simple answer to this question. one way to minimise impact would be to only view sites from a distance (as enforced at Stonehenge), but I can see that this is unsatisfactory in many ways. Limiting your visits to sites that are much less popular with tourists would allow you to gain the interaction you seek. But remember that many of the lesser known sites are on private land where permission may be needed to visit them, or may be off the beaten track with the safety issues that that implies.

Ensuring that you only visit in periods of suitable weather will also reduce the impact of your visit, as fragile sub-surface archaeology can be unwittingly damaged when the ground is sodden. But beware if the weather has been too dry, as the ground underfoot may then crumble and erode, and again, archaeological evidence could be destroyed.

Of course, when visiting any ancient or historical site, you should always attempt to remove any rubbish left behind by others less considerate than yourself, and of course, ensure you do not leave any detritus of your own.

In short, enjoy your visit, and leave the site as you would hope to find it – in its natural state.


Now that Spring is finally putting in an appearance, and we move toward Summer, it’s time to start planning activities, and ways to get involved in our archaeological heritage.

To this end, the current issue of Current Archaeology magazine includes a five-page listing of digs to get involved in. Many are free, whilst others require a payment – up to 4-figures in some cases! Some are suitable for beginners, others allow students to gain academic credit toward a degree, so all tastes and needs are catered for. There is a fuller listing available on their website.

For those that are less active or unable to get out and about, our friends at Dig Ventures have created a six-week online course, tailored for absolute beginners. the course covers:

  • What happens before excavation
    • how to locate and identify archaeological sites
    • the different stages of an archaeological project
    • what happens in pre-excavation planning and research
    • what should be included in an archaeological Project Design
  • What happens during excavation
    • how to set up a trench
    • which tools to use, and what techniques are best practice
    • how to identify and record what you find
    • how to recover artefacts and take environmental samples
  • What happens after the digging is finished
    • analysis of the data and archaeological materials
    • interpretation of the site
    • making the archaeological record accessible
    • what to do with an archaeological archive

The course costs £49, is endorsed by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) and starts on Tuesday May 1st, so get in quick and register now.

Dare we say, for the cost of a couple of decent hammies, many metal detectorists would do well to follow this course, and learn how to do things correctly, for the good of all!

Something a bit different for the Heritage Journal today: a music review!

Our attention has been drawn to a recent album by Greg Hancock, an archaeologist turned musician.

 

His guitar playing has developed from roots in the new folk styles of the 70s and 80s, with influences from players like Nic Jones, Martin Simpson and Joni Mitchell, to become a unique, intricate style through which many different moods can be expressed, and different genres explored.

His songs deal with a wide range of topics – from love-gone-wrong and personal emotions to topical issues and current affairs but all share an unusual, slightly skewed view of the world and everything in it.

His album, entitled “A303” has received good reviews from people much better qualified to comment on the musical content than we are:

  • Fatea“Greg has a wonderful lightness of touch and tone, which is complimented perfectly by the talented group of musicians that support him throughout the album. Lyrics, vocals and melodies are all near perfect, and the intricate guitar work is at times truly breath-taking.”
  • Folkwords“‘A303’ is a collection of narrative-driven songs to make you think. Hancock moves through sadness and sorrow, sarcasm and sensitivity, reminiscences and recollections with his stories, each one a tiny cameo that takes the listener into his world.”
  • Blues and Roots Radio“A303 is the finest folk album I have had the pleasure of listening to in years, and it was impossible to write a review impartially because the impact of it, causing smiles, tears and happy memories to come flooding back”

The lyrics of the title track will be particularly evocative to readers of the Heritage Journal, recalling Greg’s days as an archaeologist working in the trenches:

Deep up to my elbows in Victorian shit
Trying to remember why I got involved with this
Then finding my first Roman coin at the bottom of a pit
And getting into trouble for going home with it
Weeks and months spent learning
How to tell the tell-tale signs
Of hand-flaked flint from Neolithic mines
And hours spent marking out medieval boundary lines

When you’re driving on the A303
I wonder if you’ve ever had the same thoughts as me
Fascination mixed with irony
Taking pictures with my mobile phone
Of piles of ancient stone

Greg can be seen performing live on his current Spring Tour throughout March in the south of England, with outlying gigs in Milton Keynes, London and Epping, and the full album is available for streaming or purchase from his web site.

Today we welcome new team member Alice Farnsworth, who will be available and pop in from time to time to provide answers to your archaeological problems. So without further ado, let’s get on with today’s query.


Q. How can I tell if ‘lumps and bumps’ seen in a local field are archaeologically significant? The landowner won’t let me onto his land to investigate closely.

A. Obviously, without the landowner’s permission, any access would technically be trespass unless you’re lucky enough to have a public right of way across the land which passes close to the ‘lumps and bumps’. However, there are online resources that can be used to determine whether anything is already known about the area. The three main map-based resources are: for England, the DEFRA ‘MAGIC‘ map, for Wales, COFLEIN, and for Scotland, CANMORE. All three of these allow browsing on OS-based maps, and provide access to the Heritage Environment Record entries for known features.

If no entry is found, then  satellite imagery from Google Maps or Bing Maps may provide some additional clues, and are always worth checking out. Another excellent map resource is held by the National Library of Scotland, where OS maps back to the 1840s can be examined, along with many other map series. One word of caution when using these old maps: interpretation of sites can change over the years. e.g. what may be described as a ‘stone circle’ on an older map may consequently be interpreted as a ‘hut circle’ or ‘enclosure’. Despite this, old maps may also show features which have subsequently been considered insignificant or lost, and can therefore be useful in providing clues for reinterpretation.

So why not take these tips, do some research, and let us know what you find?


If you’ve got an archaeology related question or problem for Alice to answer, let us know in the comments below, and watch for further Answers from Alice…


Did you know that the Boskednan Nine Maidens circle in Cornwall is the subject of an opera, written early in the 20th century? The opera is “Iernin”, the tragic story of a woman of the Small People. The opera in three acts is set against the backdrop of a soon-to-be occupied Cornwall and the struggle of its leader and people to retain their independence from the Saxon overlords. Read the rest of this entry »

We continue our occasional series, ‘Inside the Mind‘ with responses from Mike Parker Pearson, Professor of British Later Prehistory at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.

BRIEF BIO

Beginning his archaeological career in 1972 working on archaeological excvations in southern England, he has since worked on archaeological sites around the world in Denmark, Germany, Greece, Syria, the United States, Madagascar, Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and the Outer Hebrides.

After gaining a BA in European Archaeology at the University of Southampton in 1979, he was awarded a PhD at the University of Cambridge in 1985. He worked as an Inspector of Ancient Monuments for English Heritage until 1990 and then as lecturer in the Department of Archaeology & Prehistory at Sheffield University. In 2010 he was voted the UK’s The Archaeologist of the Year by the readers of Current Archaeology magazine.

Best known for his work at Stonehenge in the ongoing and evolving projects; Stonehenge Riverside Project, Feeding Stonehenge and the Stones of Stonehenge, his most recent research has been focussed on West Wales, where Stonehenge’s bluestones were quarried.

mpp_mugshot

THE TEN QUESTIONS

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

At 4 years old I discovered fossils in a heap of gravel and learned that the past was mysterious and fascinating. I had a good teacher at junior school and, years later, my geography teacher even drove me on the day I left school to an excavation and to begin my full-time life as an archaeologist.

How did you get started?

As a 15 year old I saw a poster in a public library advertising a rescue excavation of a Roman site on the line of the M5. It was the first of a series of summer excavations on Roman settlements (yes, I was going to become a Romanist!)

Who has most influenced your career?

There’s no one person – I was lucky to be taught and inspired by a generation of archaeologists at the top of their game – both practical and theoretical, field and lab, and humanities and science-based.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

I always think the thing that I’m doing now is the most exciting – right now, I’m focused on the sources of the bluestones in Wales, which might just give us an insight into the origins of Stonehenge. I did enjoy the years digging in the Outer Hebrides – great archaeology (not properly appreciated), great colleagues and a wonderful place to work without all the bureaucratic difficulties we had to cope with in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

It’s a toss up between Cladh Hallan in South Uist (an unusually well-preserved Bronze Age to Iron Age settlement in the Outer Hebrides with skeletons under the floors that turned out to have once been mummified) and Durrington Walls, with its houses, middens, unsuspected avenue and giant post circle.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

When I was Inspector of Ancient Monuments at English Heritage in the 1980s we had to allow the Bedford Bypass road scheme to preserve in situ some Neolithic cursus monuments underneath a road embankment. They are probably buried under that road forever – inaccessible to any archaeological investigation – and I now wish that they had been excavated. I’ve become rather more sceptical about ‘preserving in situ’ underneath modern development where the remains are inaccessible for the long term.

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

Contracts for archaeology in advance of development shouldn’t go to the lowest bidder but to the best bid – it shouldn’t be the developer choosing the contractor on the basis of who is cheapest but the planners choosing on the basis of the best research design (as has been the rule in Sweden for years).

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

Right now, it’s the A303 at Stonehenge. The proposed tunnel is way too short and would damage the WHS irretrievably. There’s a second option that avoids the WHS and is cheaper, too.

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

At school, my careers teacher tried to get me to drop my interest in archaeology, which he was certain would not result in employment, and tried to get me into law and business management. Glad that didn’t happen. I think I would be good at doing bacon sandwiches at a greasy spoon or running a cattery.

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

Watching TV with the cat while eating bacon sandwiches.

As always, we’d like to express our sincere thanks to Mike for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.

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 and willing subject, please contact us.

Last week saw a new commemorative stamp issue from the Royal Mail in the UK, this time celebrating our ancient past.

The eight special stamps feature iconic sites and exceptional artefacts. The lineup is as follows:

* 1st Class – Skara Brae and the Battersea shield.
* £1.05 – Maiden Castle and the Star Carr headdress.
* £1.33 – Avebury and the Drumbest horns.
* £1.52 – Grimes Graves and the Mold cape.

prehistoric-stamps
The stamps are all enhanced with illustrations that reveal how our ancient forebears lived and worked. I plumped for the First Day Cover (postmarked Avebury) and the Presentation Pack. A useful and informative sheet gives details about each of the subjects. More information and ordering details can be found on the Royal Mail website.

Have you got yours yet?

As the calendar changes, we’ve looked back and reviewed the past 12 months. Now it’s time for another beginning, looking forward and making plans for the coming year.

new-year-resolutions

Our suggestions for resolutions back in 2013 still stand as admirable targets to strive for and we would commend them all to anyone interested in our past heritage. Here they are again:

  1. Visit new sites
  2. Join a local Archaeological Society
  3. Take a course
  4. Attend a conference
  5. Involve the family
  6. Contribute to the Heritage Journal

But this year, forgive me for speaking from an entirely personal viewpoint when looking forward…

A long held dream of moving to, and living in, West Cornwall looks to be coming to fruition for me in the following 12 months, and with it early (semi-)retirement! My hope is that this will allow me time to get more involved on a day-to-day basis in helping to preserve and understand our ancient heritage.

Once settled, and health allowing, I intend to volunteer for the CASPN clear-up days when I can, and will see if/how I can help the Cornwall Heritage Trust in their work too. I hope to be attending more walks and talks with both CASPN and the Cornwall Archaeological Society. And of course, writing! I have plenty of ideas for articles for the Heritage Journal, and possibly even a book or two, but these require a large commitment of time for research which I just don’t have at the moment.

So what will you be doing to preserve and understand our ancient heritage in 2017? Please let us know in the comments below.

Archives

May 2018
S M T W T F S
« Apr    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,907 other followers

%d bloggers like this: