Books still play a large part in my life, and still need shelves, bless them. Archaeology is amazing too. The course I am on is a real eye opener. So books on archaeology do move more to the front. The course is with a good and well run institution, but they have a media officer and insist on vetting any material made public using their name. I am in no position to disagree with their request so choose to avoid the issue altogether as I dislike censorship (specially when it comes to my opinions). Aside from the course (wonderful, truly) I have visited and become interested in Archaeology in general. Have I bought a hat and a whip? I did hear jokes last year on hat wearing class and advanced swinging over pits…. but no, no Indiana Jones stuff. The real stuff is better in the long run.
In my own personal readings I have become amazed with the amount of opinions and the number of people who seem to make a living from developing popular/saleable ideas. I like the idea that it is a science and thus should be based on evidence. It should include all evidence on any subject broached and not just the convenient stuff that fits the theory. The grey area is something of a lack of standards in work. There is little regulation or supervision. Its up to people to do their best and then tough it out with their findings against any who for whatever reason, disagree with them.
Grouching over. So what is it all worth. Quoting the late Mike Aston, from the program Time Team, “people like to find things”. It can’t be helped or avoided, nor should it. It is the easier of two halves of Archaeology. Figuring out what happened in the past through tests and analyses (and then bashing theories together) is quite a bit more difficult sometimes. Take the Staffordshire Hoard, figuratively speaking. Its a mass of beautifully made golden, jewel encrusted sword hilts, pommels, armour cheek pieces, etc., recently found in, well, Staffordshire in 2009. A large sum was paid by Museums, and now people want to look at all of it. It has in part been bee put on display. when I say part, it covers more than one museum at a time, given all of the contents. That’s not the good bit though. Imagine being part of a group of people who get to change/correct/enhance history by finding out its story. Jones isn’t Jones as a likeable character because he steals cool stuff, its because he knows about it. The soil the hoard was in will be examined. The hoard will be dated. The area will be looked at to see what the landscape was like at that time and after (after because the hoard may have been in use for some time before it was disposed of) . The items will be examined to see if it all came from the same place and time. Makers or owner marks will be looked for. Bright people will be gathered to make their own cluedo board with scraps of evidence to piece together. Scientists, anthropologists and archaeologists (archaeology is still mainly taught as an Art) will be gathered to think of new ways of wrestling some more clues from the finds. Some of this has already been done.
Being part of a group of people who can add to history and say something like –
“Its part of the legendary King Johns crown jewels”, or “Its a hoard of Viking plunder from as far as Samarkand and Kiev”, or “Robin Hood really did exist but he kept some for himself”, or ……… Imagine getting paid every day to do that.
What have I found? Part of a hengiform post and ditch structure in a high status trivalate circular enclosure. A chance to dig this week on a possible Neolithic house (approx. 4000 BC to 2600 BC). Shiny stuff is ok, but being part of figuring out the past (and getting paid for it) is great.
I will be looking more at books and their home again in the near future.
Thank you for reading.