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Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

I’ve spent the last couple of days in Aarhus, enjoying some fabulous (though eye-wateringly expensive) beer and giving a lecture to students on ‘Who Owns Classics?’ The answer to that is of course some combination of ‘everyone’ and ‘no one’; the following forty-three minutes was taken up with the exploration of why nevertheless some people feel they have a special claim on classical culture and others may feel excluded or even unworthy (heroically avoiding any mention of one B. Johnson as the epitome of an entitled, proprietorial attitude towards antiquity – until someone else raised it in the questions afterwards). (more…)

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One does have to admire, in a teeth-gritting sort of way, the unscrupulous ingenuity of university press offices: selling a story about the discovery of a rabbit leg bone* at Fishbourne villa dated to the first century CE** by linking it to the Easter Bunny, despite the fact that the earliest mention of the Osterhase comes in an early modern German text and no one has ever suggested either that it was a Roman custom or that it originated in Britain. All credit to Esther Addley in the Grauniad for dutifully summarising all the quotes from the academics, including “this very early rabbit is already revealing new insights into the history of the Easter traditions we are all enjoying this week” from the project leader, Naomi Sykes, and then adding a note of scepticism at the end. (more…)

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I’ve just published a piece in Epoiesen, the fantastic online journal for creative engagements with history and archaeology, on the Melian Dilemma game and some of the thinking behind it. I’ve been meaning to get round to this for ages – and I’ve been given extra reason to regret not getting my act together sooner, as my fate now is to be completely overshadowed by Assemblage Theory, the brilliant contribution by Andrew Reinhard, published a few days earlier, on his latest musical experiments: exploring different conceptions of the idea of ‘assemblage’ by producing new songs using ‘found sounds’. Go read, go listen. If this piece doesn’t single-handedly exemplify why a journal of wacky historical creativity is an absolute necessity, you are beyond saving. (more…)

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It is perfectly possible that I spend too much time on the Internet, and on social media. But there is so much amazing stuff out there – insightful, informative, passionate, provocative, brilliantly written stuff, produced not for profit but for the sake of the ideas and the wish to communicate with others – and if it wasn’t for the Twitter I wouldn’t know a thing about most of it. My ‘best of’ list seems to get longer every year, perhaps because I’ve got into the habit of making notes as soon as I’ve read something, rather than relying on my ever more erratic memory to recall things from earlier in the year – and this is as much about reminding myself and revisiting things as it as about recommending that you should read them too… (more…)

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I’ve joked before that I gravitated towards economic and social history because I have a terrible memory for dates. That’s not entirely true – it’s rather the case that I think that, most of the time, longer-term structural factors are more important than short-term l’histoire événementielle in shaping human life, and of course that applies to politics as well – but I *do* have a terrible memory for dates, and hence tend to get defensive on the subject, given that a lot of people assume that history is basically about dates so this must be what I do.

Given this proclivity, you might expect my reaction to this week’s news story about a Pompeian graffito that potentially changes our view of the date of the eruption of Vesuvius would be basically negative: whoop-di-doo, as I once remarked of the fuss over the discovery of Richard III’s bones. Not at all! (more…)

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Once again, I’ve remembered to keep track of the blogs I’ve especially enjoyed over the last year (with the curious exception of April – I don’t know, at this remove, whether I was too busy to read anything, or not much was published, or I was feeling hyper-sniffy at the time so didn’t think there was anything worth recommending. Very happy to get suggestions in the comments of great things that I’ve missed). This doesn’t claim to be a definitive list, just the stuff I came across – often via the Twitter, which continues to be a great way of keeping up with what’s going on in different regions and fields, despite all the management’s efforts to ruin it and drive everyone away – that deserves a more than ephemeral readership… (more…)

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Tom Holland has been doing the Twitter equivalent of prodding me with a pointed stick, loudly advertising the fact that he, Vic Reeves and Tanni Grey-Thompson were going to be discussing late Roman economic policy on ITV this evening, purely to annoy me. He must have a new book to plug, and wants to provoke a bit of controversy-related publicity. I determined, therefore, not only to watch the programme but to like it; after all, it’s great that there is still a bit of archaeology on television, at prime time no less, and it emphasises the possibility of constructive co-existence between professionals and enthusiastic (and often very knowledgeable) amateurs, and shows a wide range of fascinating objects with interesting back stories, and the celebrity presenters (including our Tom) do the necessary job of refusing to take academic equivocation for an answer from the various experts, without drowning out their caveats altogether. Interesting to note that the unifying theme of the programme was something to the effect that in this ever-changing world in which we live in, some things remain the same, rather than emphasising the equally plausible but perhaps less comforting idea that the past may in many ways be another country. Shades of heritage and Our Island Story…

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