Thursday, 3 December 2009
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Image is a box of Greek pottery from the island of Lesbos, marked with the logical label. Hopefully that made you laugh, because it once entertained me for three weeks. Us archaeologists are a weird lot.
Monday, 30 November 2009
- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
Images are a mostly reconstructed amphora I drew in Egypt, and pottery everywhere at the Nile Delta site of Buto. I can't currently use my photos of Indian pottery, but will put some up at some point!
There are some things that are a pretty necessary part of your kit (the first 3), some others that will come in handy, and a few that will make you that extra step more prepared. It can be quite intimidating for most freshers on their inaugural dig. Hopefully this list of things to take with you will help a little.
1. A trowel
It's really important that you have your own, because you will have to go and dig on your own at some point, and no one wants to be the annoying person who keeps borrowing (and losing) other people's trowels...sorry! Some people scratch/burn their initials onto the handles as well, but they're more hardcore than I am. I should point out that this is not an ordinary garden trowel, and you should make sure it's a proper archaeological one. It'll have a flat blade, pointy at the end and on either side. Later on you may start using something called a leaf trowel, which is smaller and used for delicate work, but you certainly don't need to buy one.
2. Proper boots
3. Proper clothes
Shorts are good if it's quite hot, but if there's a lot of walking through thorny underbrush (which can happen often) they're very unpleasant. Lightweight quick-drying trousers, with many pockets, are what I prefer right now, usually combined attractively with an oversized grubby T-shirt. Shirts with pockets and long sleeves are also a good plan. Don't wear anything too nice, although I'd recommend taking one or two outfits that are nicer in case you go out in the evenings.
4. A tape measure
5. Hats and sunscreen
6. Laundry detergent/powder
In a little box or bottle. You will often end up washing a lot of your stuff in sinks and showers, so take a supply of laundry detergent. An extra sink plug often comes in handy for sinks that don't have them, but improvise with a thick sock if you don't have one. Yes, this works for a little while, but don't use a muddy one!
8. Chocolate and snacks
Wet wipes are a nice treat when you've got an inch of mud on you, but most archaeologists I know don't bother with washing their hands between digging and eating. You can be the exception. I'm warning you though, you can develop a cast-iron digestive system after a lifetime of being dirty. Personally, I only use them on my face.
Or mini pruning shears. Some plant roots go very deep, and you'll find them quite far down. They can be fairly thick and difficult to trowel around. Some form of gardening trimmer to chop through them quickly is great. You won't need these everywhere, but if you're going to be digging in an area of heavy vegetation they can save you a lot of time.
Remember, digs are really a 'work hard, play harder' situation. You form friendships that last for years, and the nights out with your trench mates (yes, we call them that) after a hard day's work are pretty amazing. Take a camera, and expect hundreds of photos and as many funny stories that you'll tell for ages after, reminiscing about 'that time so-and-so did [insert utterly bizarre and random activity] when we were in [insert exotic locale]'.
For tools and trowels, try
If you're looking for an excavation, there are plenty of field schools that will take freshers or untrained archaeologists and give you some training in exchange for the cheap/free labour. Try flipping through British Archaeology magazine, or surfing
Alternatively, google archaeological fieldschools. These aren't very common in India, but if you'd like to travel abroad and learn about being an archaeologist, they're ideal. They're based all over the place, so yes you can go to really exciting areas like Peru!
The exhibition began in the 18th century, post- the Great Mughals, after Aurangzeb had died and the dynasty and empire had begun to decay. The Marathas and Sikhs were establishing their presence, and the power of the European East India companies was growing. It explores their role in society, their rajadharma and the many duties that were expected of them. On display are their weapons, palanquins, howdahs for elephant-riding and other royal paraphernalia, along with giant gem covered turban pins and necklaces commissioned from Cartier. It carries on until the 20th century, where it ends, with the role of the Maharajas under the British. In a way it really was quite sad; they were forced to appear as European stereotypes of 'exotic' Indian rulers, puppets under the Raj. Post-Independence in 1947, they were guaranteed their privileges by the new Constitution of India. In 1971, then-PM Indira Gandhi took these away.
The Maharaja exhibition is on display in London until the 17th of January 2010. Tickets are £11 on the door and £6 for students. Click on the link below to have a look.
Q1. What is archaeology?
A. The study of human past through material remains. This gives archaeology a scope far beyond history, into, you know, prehistory. As it were. Material remains can be human made or worked things, called artefacts, or environmental remains such as seeds, called ecofacts, as well as architecture, skeletons, rubbish heaps etc.
Q2. Do you dig dinosaurs?
A. No, no, a thousand times no. That's paleontologists. And for the record, we don't all study rocks either.
Q3. Do you actually dig?
A. Yes. Archaeology students usually buy (and embarrassingly name) their own trowels, which they carry everywhere. On digs, we wear dirty old t-shirts and trousers with many pockets full of nails and string and spirit levels, and get down our knees and dig for glory. However, in countries like Egypt and India, people often hire labourers who do the bulk of the digging.
Q4. Can you keep the things you dig up?
A. Nope. Archaeologists dig things up for the information we get from them, not because they're pretty to look at it. I usually only find old bits of pot, which are not pretty to look at, but are very Important. The things you dig up belong to the project you're working for, which will properly analyse them. India doesn't allow many objects out, so legally they have to be stored or displayed in the country. I have to emphasise, keeping things is a big no-no professionally. Hand it all over to be tagged and bagged!
Q5. What's it really like?
A. Surprisingly Indiana Jones, if you multiply the times he spends in his office or classroom by a thousand. You get to travel the world and find wonderful and amazing things, and understand the lives of people who haven't been alive for 4000 years. That's the exotic side. Once you get home, there is a whole lot of careful analysis using worrying things like statistics. Once a site is dug, everything needs to be recorded (photographed, weighed, drawn etc) and written up in a giant thing called a site report. You have to do a lot of reading, and you spend A LOT of time in front of your computer working it all out and writing papers for journals and books. That's the academic side.
A blog seemed like a good solution. I could go on about archaeology as much as I wanted, answer the questions people always seem to have, and hopefully reveal the sites and monuments that are hidden gems in the cities and states we live in. Growing up in Delhi, I passed them every day. It's an incredibly old city, with an incredibly rich history, and most of us who live there don't know about it - much like India. It kills me when we lose more of our heritage every day, in the rush to modernise and construct. This blog won't be Delhi-centric, and it certainly won't be disturbingly academic and indecipherable, but it will hopefully be informative, eye-opening, and above all, interesting. I'll talk about the things archaeologists do, and the things that made me want to be an archaeologist, and hopefully you'll love them as much as I do.