New Connections

I’ve just been updating the links page on Prehistories, so I thought I should give a proper mention to some of the blogs I’ve been following recently.

First up is the excellent Urban Prehistorian site. This site charts the fate of prehistoric monuments on wasteland, housing estates and roundabouts. A thought-provoking blog, with an excellent range of postcards.

Greetings from Auchterarder

Reading The Urban Prehistorian has lead me into the vast world of psychogeography online.

These sites include The Fife Psychogeographical Collective and Landscapism.

Cover photo

For the more hauntalogically-minded among you, head over to A Year in the Country, where you can discover the chilling truth about Brown Bakelite Boxes, read about Nigel Kneale and discover more about Delia Derbyshire, as well as admiring the site design and photography. There is even an online Artifacts Shop.

Image O4-A Year In The Country

Meanwhile, looking ahead to a series of innovative events, Public Archaeology 2015 gives us a breakdown of projects to look forward to in the coming year.

Public archMy most recent discovery is the Museum of Marco Polo. Illustrated by the wonderful Isabel Greenberg, this is a blog about museums – what they are, might and could be.

Isabel Museum by Moonlight


Dr H

Ask an Archaeologist: Emilie Sibbesson

Prehistories caught up with Emilie Sibbesson, Lecturer in Archaeology at Canterbury Christ Church University.


Ask an Archaeologist: Emilie Sibbesson

Emilie Avebury

What is your specialism?

I’m a prehistorian, trained in ceramic analysis, and interested in food remains and food technologies.

 Emilie's mug

My mug at the 2012 An Doirlinn dig


Why did you become an archaeologist?

Who knows! My dad is interested in history and when we visited a historic site, he’d say ‘imagine what it would have been like…’. I think he said it more to himself than to us, but it must have sparked something. I also read a lot of historical fiction as a teenager – Swedish authors like Olov Svedelid, Vibeke Olsson, and Jan Fridegård. I’m still more interested in the human scale than the grand narratives.

Emilie Books

At university, I had intended to focus on Classical studies but then I was exposed to prehistory and that was that. I stayed in archaeology after the degree because it is so diverse. It’s got a bad reputation as a narrow subject, but it isn’t. I love that I can combine elements of, for example, chemistry, philosophy, and politics almost daily in my research and teaching.


Which archaeologist (past or present) would you invite onto an excavation?

I have a soft spot for Gordon Childe, so I’d invite him. We’d have tea and biscuits and he’d tell us about the Skara Brae dig. I’d put Indiana Jones to work on finds washing and flotation. I’d have pints with Sally Binford in the evenings.

 File:Gordon Childe.jpg

Choose one of the following: trowel; museum; archive; library; landscape; laptop.

I’d have them all, but if I must choose I’d say museum because there is interpretive mileage in the material gathering dust in museum stores.


What is your dream find?

Pottery on securely dated Mesolithic site in Britain would be brilliant, or an Early Neolithic site with the same level of organic preservation as at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire – the bowl with in situ nettle stew and wooden utensils from that site were fantastic.


Time travel, yes or no? (Give reasons)

Absolutely! But it shouldn’t be involuntary and arbitrary like in Slaughterhouse 5. I’d go to the early 4th millennium BC and write an eye-witness account of the Neolithic transition, although I wouldn’t want to prepare the risk assessment.


If you had to relocate to the past, which era would you move to?

Victorian England perhaps, if I could be a woman of independent means. I’d love to have seen the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace in 1851. Food-wise, I’d find it hard to stomach certain Roman or Renaissance ‘delicacies’, but the Iron Age seems tasty. Beer, bread, meat, and herbs – I could live with that.

 File:Crystal Palace.PNG

Is there a work of art (e.g. novel, painting, music, film, etc) that has influenced you as an archaeologist?

Bach’s St Matthew Passion helped me finish my thesis, although I’d call that first aid rather than influence. Also, the opposite is true: being an archaeologist influences the way I look at a painting or craft item. I have been archaeologically conditioned into seeing the choices and stages of the manufacturing process, which is as fascinating as the finished product, if not more so.


What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on bringing food studies and archaeology closer together. Food is an excellent vehicle for historical understanding, both as something that shapes and changes society and on the smaller, experiential scale. Teaching is also taking up a lot of my time at the moment. Why pretend that it doesn’t? I’m developing a theory course this year – it’s hard work but it has reminded me that I love theory. I wouldn’t be an archaeologist today if I couldn’t do theory.



Thanks Emilie!

You can read more Ask an Archaeologist features here…

Comics at YAC!

Yesterday I was invited to spend the morning with a group of dedicated archaeologists (aged 7-17), at the North Wiltshire Young Archaeologists’s Club(part of the YAC network).

Our goal was to make some comics about archaeology.

We made a few warm up drawings (the grown-ups joined in too)


P1080737Then we looked at a range of replica artefacts.

After a short break,


We made our comics.











Many thanks to Katy Whitaker and the YAC group organisers for inviting me, and to the young archaeologists for their interest, enthusiasm, and excellent cartooning!

Dr H



Bath walks within the walls: Walk 2

Bath walks within the walls 9

Walk 2 of Peter Smithson’s Bath Walks within the Walls (Bath University Press) starts just across the river from Bath Spa staion and leads up hill and down vale (then up hill again) in a pleasant loop around the outskirts of Bath.

Photos all taken by Dr A. Quotes from Peter Smithson are written in orange.

DSC_0013 DSC_0014Fire Insurance Wall Plaque on house on Southcot Place


Pause at the junction with Rosemont Lane. From now on the walk is real rus in urbe for behind the present walls and hedges are the mounds and terraces of previous occupancy now in transition.




At the time of writing in 1966 this building was empty a House-shell inhabited by school-girls, their singing hanging in the damp air.


That rabbit should really watch out for this fox.



We encountered a lot of signs.


Though we weren’t expecting this one.


The track peters out under an arch of a disused railway in a steep field, terraced and bumpy. What can have once been here?



We followed the springs.


The raised pavement or access deck of the extraordinarily nice Widcombe Terrace.



Widcombe Crescent. Paired doors with the centre window over them false (it is over the party wall). Bizarre really, but gentle and unassuming.

In spite of breaking the no-talking rule, Bath had certainly induced its reverie in the walkers. That and hot feet. We headed home.

Only four more walks to go…

Dr H

Bath: Walks Within the Walls

Bath walks within the walls cover

About a month ago, I stumbled across a copy of Peter Smithson’s “Bath: Walks within the the Walls“. Peter Smithson and his wife Alison Smithson were key figures in the debate over shifting architecture in the 1950s. The uncompromising concrete style of New Brutalism championed by the Smithsons can be seen in their buildings at the University of Bath.

It’s therefore surprising to discover that Peter Smithson found so much to admire in the Georgian architecture of Bath – to the extent that he created this book of 5 walks around Bath in order to show architects, students and anyone willing to listen, the lessons that Bath has to teach us about architecture and landscape.

Dr A and I have been discussion the possibilities of Bath as a city highly suitable for flaneuring, ever since getting pleasantly lost somewhere between Sion Hill and the Circus sometime last summer. Also, Dr A’s research into prehistoric art has led to a new fascination with materials and marks of making. So with Smithson’s guide in hand we set out to hit the streets.


Smithson has some pretty strict rules about how you should undertake these walks, a key requirement being that you should follow them “alone or with one other person, and that one should not talk.” This is because: “the reverie that Bath can induce is an important part of the lesson“.

Bath walks within the walls 2

Apologies to Smithson, but it was simply not possible for us to keep quiet for so long. Plus, I could not resist reading out Smithson’s forceful and often entertaining comments about the buildings and views we were encountering.

We had intended to follow the walks in order, but in the end we started with Walk 2, as it took us into areas of Bath we have so far failed to explore.

Over the next few months we hope to complete the rest of Smithson’s walks and post our findings on the blog.

Walk 2 will be posted tomorrow.

Dr H