Sunday, 19 May 2013

An archaeologist needs a car

The sad truth is that an archaeologist without a car is like a cyclist without a bicycle. I was reminded by this fact by the break-down of my own car and the resulting whizzing around with public transport and taxis. Of course, this happens during the week when I am truly travelling up and down the middle England and juggling teaching and other appointments between Leicester, Cambridge and Nottingham.

A fieldworker is better off with a car, unless one is working as a digger or supervisor who gets a vehicle the unit has hired or can have a lift provided by the unit. Most sites are not conveniently by the bus routes or near train stations, but can be in the middle of the vastest countryside. Even reaching and visiting a nearby country park with archaeological features could take miles of walking on a Sunday.

Even if you can only get the detailed physical knowledge of landscape when walking over ground – even if one is not doing sensory or phenomenological archaeology in the way Christopher Tilley has advocated – actually reaching that landscape is normally succeeded most conveniently and safely by driving there. Not to mention carrying the equipment around.

The good part of this enforced use of public transport is that I had not to think about where to park in Cambridge – a city with a notoriously large area with streets that require residential permit for workday daytime parking. I will also get a closer idea of the physicality of Nottingham, even if I will be hiking through the northern suburbs in a hurry.

The drawback is the cost of taxis when reaching Madingley Hall where I was videoing messages for the advertised Googling the Earth course. This was best to be done in the premises, where I could operate a proper video camera with lights and professional voice recording system. The member of staff checked the result on the spot so now all messages are safely stored, so all material for the course is now prepared. But it would have been so much easier to drive there than drag all my luggage from a taxi to taxi after a couple of days in the city.

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