Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A beginning

Every blog has a start and a story. They all begin inside someone's head, somewhere. This one brewed inside my brain for a long time before I dragged it out and put it on t'internet. I wanted to write about my work as an archaeologist, the daily happenings of nosing in and out of the lives of people long dead. I also wanted a space to share things that weren't necessarily archaeologically related, but that were important. That's how the title of this blog came about. I noticed that lots of the blogs I love to read (have a look on the sidebar if you're keen) were either about working practice or lifestyle/interiors/whatever. I wanted to write a blog that presents ideas from the archaeological world, alongside the things that make the present world I live in beautiful.

So, here it is. The four words of the title, which I will use to label each post, form the four foundations of this blog. 

Pots are the containers of our lives. They keep us fed and watered, they hold our toothbrushes in the morning and our pens on the desk. When I first began to study archaeology, pots symbolised all that was potentially boring about the discipline. I was an idiot. There is nothing boring about an object that is used so much, turned to so often, that it becomes forgettable. Pot posts on the blog will be for important things that are often forgotten, daily life things that get hidden away beneath the (ahem) glamour of academic life, thinking deep thoughts, and all that nonsense.

Places are wild and tame, soft and harsh, safe and dangerous. There is a whole pile of literature which tries to pin down exactly what transforms space into place (I'll get into it another day). Places we know, places we don't know, places we want to know- they are all-encompassing, all around us, defined by our inhabitation and presence (or lack of). A big assumption that I regularly fall into is thinking that places in the past were as important as places in the present- and personally, they are incredibly important. Place posts here will be focused on ideas about place and landscape, or explorations of single places, whether archaeological sites or modern cities.

Stones seem hard. They make your feet ache when you walk on them barefoot, they gather together in gravel or rear out of the earth as a single mass of rock. You can use stones to make beautiful things: sculptures, handaxes, or just a pile of river-worn pebbles piled in a garden corner. Stones can be eroded easily away by the movement of water or the sea, or can stand unchanged by centuries. They are tough as granite, or fall away at the touch of your fingers like sandstone. Stone posts will be about realities and necessities of archaeological life and practice that are not comfortable at first sight. They will also be about theoretical ideas and philosophies. Some improve on reflection, and provide a tool or a new way to think. Some do not. That's just the way stones are.

Bones are the final part of this set of four. Bones are literally the stuff of life. They are what are holding the flesh on my fingers together as I write this. When I excavate bones, whether animal (most of the time) or human (pretty infrequently), I am always struck by the way they continue to exude life, long after the animating flesh has gone. Dry and fragile, honeycomb insides showing where they have been snapped by roots or a rough life in the soil, bones survive as memories of a thing that was once alive. Bones posts will be about people from the past- giving my thoughts on archaeological discoveries (big and small), media representation (silly and serious) and my own practice.

I'll try and blog as often as it feels right. I hope you enjoy what you read, and what you find.

(P.S. When I get a minute, I'll tart this blog up a bit more. In the meantime, the words are the most important thing, right?)


The Lion Gate at Mycenae- a place for beginnings and a lovely example of what you can do with stone when you try.

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