Sunday, 28 December 2014

More archaeology in 2015

I am on my annual leave and the only archaeological thoughts over the celebrations have dealt with the recent air photo interpretation of the Bradgate Park landscape and the apparently coming University of Leicester field school there. That will be highly interesting. Nevertheless, we have been enjoying Bradgate Park as it is - as a deer park for all Leicester towners and Charnwood people. Do enjoy your holidays while sharing a photo of snowy Old John tower. That shot is the last photo before the battery of my mobile phone went flat. Thus, I did not get the marvelous shot of all Leicester in different degrees of white below.

Happy New Year and more exciting archaeological events in 2015! I have eye-witnessed some unbelievably interesting things in 2014 and only wonder what will be around the corner next year...

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Reconstructing a conference, REF and other fragments

This week has seen me not going to the Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference at Manchester. This was an interesting experience, since luckily a colleague seem to have been constantly tweeting and now afterwards blogging about the experience. I have reconstructed my own conference from Facebook postings, scrolling through the tweets with #TAG2014 hashtag on Wednesday, getting comments via e-mail from colleagues who were there and help me with peer reviewing and now reading the blogs. As with my comments in my other, more personal blog, this does not replace the physical experience of actually being there (as Skype does not replace hugs at the bed time). Nevertheless, all this belated virtual attendance means that I managed to work on organising peer reviews for a book, dealing with peer reviewing abstract for a conference session, working in the libraries at Cambridge and looking for digital data instead of being 'tired and emotional' after the TAG party and travelling on trains just before Christmas. On the minus side, I could not hear much of the MesoNeo session, since people dealing with Medieval or Roman archaeology seldom follow such things.

NOT this year

The other matter to follow through Twitter and different online media is the REF results that were announced on Thursday. I did forget about the thing until the end of the day, but managed to scroll through #REF2014. All Universities tried to find something positive to announce, even if the results may have been a disappointment. Oxford came out of the exercise as the leading university and Cambridge has to give place to UCL. In archaeology, the analysis of the results is made more difficult by the fact that archaeology is place together with geography and environmental sciences and only the separate figures are given to a selection of different universities on the results page. These mainly include the so-called leading universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Durham, but there is also Chester with its own archaeology figures. Comparing different figures the REF pages give, one can gather that archaeology at Oxford has amazing impact figures, but Cambridge, Oxford, Reading, Sheffield, Leicester and Durham among others have very high numbers of 4* and 3* papers and UCL leads in Environment with Cambridge and Oxford slightly farther behind. As an itinerant postdoc, I do not have to worry about making part of such comparisons, but it is interesting to know what one has to take into account if one worked at a university. The truth is that in the age of diminishing research funds, the future will bring the concentration of research funding to Oxford, Cambridge and UCL. It will be revealing to see if the amazing departments at the universitites that do not hit the highest figures, continue to get funding for their archaeology...

Then, I out my inner grumpy middle-aged person again. Could all conference organisers, please, start to plan the deadlines with a calendar in hand? Organising a full automated online abstract review from start to finish during the two mid-weeks in December? When there is a conference season in UK and Italy and the people in the Nordic countries start concentrate on organising family functions at the start of the annual leave? We made it but only by ignoring a missing peer review and not having time to fathom the finesses of the rules or the interface...

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Stonehenge Apocalypse

I have made a conscious choice (and actually cannot escape statutory childcare and school run duties when at home) not to go to the TAG this year, since I do need a break from serious conferencing - no matter how much I would have liked to have my annual curry dinner with friends and go and chat about work with certain parties that seem to be there according to the long and comprehensive program. Now, I actually have to do work. Write up things, go to the library, peer review and seek peer reviewers. There is also more stuff for the MASF editorial board coming for approval, so it is better to party less, let my Antiquity free subscription to be passed to the new happy owner and leave all the theoretical novelties to the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference 2015. Which will bring about an interesting balancing act happening during the same weekend as my son's birthday. Thus the last postings of the year will take a slightly lighter topics than the end of the universe as we know it (a.k.a. the potential, now-not-happening closure of the Swedish Mediterranean Institutes), island archaeology and Stonehenge landscape.

Which actually are exactly the topics I am going to talk about in more general, although lighter terms. My husband's annual 'cult movie night' exposed us this year to Stonehenge Apocalypse, the movie so laughable that you are literally speechless for a moment after it. It is from 2011 - with all the production values and CGI and VFX of the late 1980s. The main actors and actresses are famous for those American scifi series. Certain elements even apply some of the production choices of that famous Bonekickers British tv series. I am not sure, if the same special archaeology consultant was used here - but I hope not. The trailer brings in mind all those exploitation movies from the late 20th century - and the movie is a rip-off of any 2012 or Mayan apocalypse storyline.

Since this blog is ultimately about landscapes, I just point out a few of the most intriguing facts about the movie. No, I am not going to dwell on how they found Egyptian remains somewhere in the central states in the US or that Teotihuacan, the Pyramids and Stonehenge are mysteriously connected in volcanic action or the stones of Stonehenge move around. No, I was looking at Stonehenge itself and its landscape.

Before seeing this movie, I was totally unaware of the fir trees lining the horizon in the Stonehenge landscape. I was also totally unaware of the plastic texture of Stonehenge and the very-thin-indeed lintel stones. The dark coniferous forest and the flat lands could have been in southwestern Finland, but my guess is that more common destination of the American movie makers - Canada. This could also explain the unexpected vision of a basketball hall in an assumed British school. Plus all cars driving on the right side of the road and the steering wheel locating in a similar manner on the left-hand side in all 'British' army vehicles in the movie. Maybe I will not comment too much the underlining darker details seeing the African-American main archaeologist baddie siding with the generally 'Middle-eastern' crime organisation baddies... Truly speaking, a gobsmacking fail on all fronts.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Metal detector men, Nazi barracks and other ethical issues in community from Turku

November truly and utterly flattened me and I ate more conference food and hang around at the air ports, train and coach stations and ferry ports longer than I want to recognize. It was inspiring, fascinating, mesmerising and delightful – and meeting new interesting people and seeing old friends after a long while is always lovely. Not that it has ended: late January sees me juggernauting again, the list of the work to be done is just longer and longer and the standard 24 hours per day seem laughably inadequate. Nevertheless, let’s go back to November and the marvellous Archaeologist Days of the Archaeological Society of Finland at the University of Turku on the last Thursday and Friday of November. No better topic to write about on the Finnish Independence Day on December 6!

University buildings in Turku

These Days used to be in April and the fieldwork presentations in November, but the fieldworkers who were increasingly working into October and later wanted to have a break and a chance of actually preparing the presentations. Thus, the conferences were swapped and November date is much more suitable for me. Around Easter I am more likely to be in the CAA or home for the holidays than anything else. The First Advent is also a good time to visit family and buy Christmas presents, so the benefits are not only intellectual but also practical and emotional.

The Days have always two themes and this year these were Archaeological Ethics and Community Archaeology. Especially the first did not appeal to me very much beforehand, since some of the discussions are predictable and there is a huge chance of politically correct mild polite time filling in between lunch and coffee. I must admit I was totally wrong and the discussions were not only thought-provoking but also heated. It became very apparent which person will not be the contact worker for the metal detectors, for example! The advice might be stern and compassion lacking with astute directives given, peppered with more figurative speech than people are used to from public service.

Many papers given were involved with historical archaeology or the 20th century, so it was not only the themes that were very 'now' but also the problems and potential threats to war graves, especially in Lapland, and such matters. This type of discussions continued to the second day as well. Part of the discussion on the first day was devoted to the suggested Finnish ethical code for archaeology and which organisation should give advice, guidance and notify, if some research activities are unethical. The Archaeological Society of Finland is not the Institute for Archaeologists, but more a learnt, although professional, society. One could take an example from the Council for Mass Media in Finland that is a joint independent organ of media practitioners with lay members, as was suggested by Petri Halinen who was presenting the code. However, no matter which model one selects, the small pool of members in any panel will become a problem.

Maria Lahtinen’s presentation underlined the interesting situations, which arise when the Finnish and British practices collide and people who are considered in Britain archaeologists through their experience are not such a thing in Finland were the degree in archaeology has traditionally been a mark of a professional archaeologist who customarily can get research permits. Not to mention the ethical questions in sampling human bones that will be destroyed to a degree in the process and the feeling among the scientific archaeologists, shared in many different countries, that other archaeologists are happy to have their results but do not integrate them in the process, especially in the sampling stage in the field. However the main ‘beef’ of the day was the relations with the metal detectorists.

Metal detecting is governed by the Finnish law according to which the known archaeological sites cannot be touched without a research permit. The metal detectorists have to keep away from the inside of the defined preservation areas. The whole hobby has expanded exponentionally in the 2010s and many detectorists either are unaware of the law or some more serious cases are ignorant of it or do not follow it. However, most archaeologists recognize that in some areas the emptying of the fields from any metal objects is happening with an increased speed, and the professionals have to understand where the finds are made. Thus, the Museum in Espoo, as Anna Wessman told us, has tried to involve them in local history projects and has managed to get new Iron Age finds from the areas they were earlier unknown. Päivi Maaranen from the National Board of Antiquities presented their e-mail service where the finds are discussed and information collected. Both had made some surveys of the detector hobbyists and they could confirm that these were mostly men, who liked to walk in the countryside either alone or in pairs. They want online information sheets, get their metal items identified, even if only modern, and, if a treasure find, most often get their monies – even if they do not do it for financial gain. They are less interested in courses, but most of them work, so the events during the working hours of the professionals were unsuccessful.

Päivi Maaranen presents

Riku Kauhanen’s excellent presentation on conflict archaeology and the dangerous balancing acts in the modern conflict areas. He also touched upon the problems of getting information of historic 18th-century structures and finds that traditionally have not been of interest to archaeologist or historians. These discussions could be seen as relevant for the metal detector discussion or later during the Community Archaeology day. Here I use it as a vehicle to move from the first to the second day.

The second day started with Suzie Thomas’ overview of the field in Britain with an early reference to her activities at the University of Helsinki. Finland is lucky to have a professional with all the right English Heritage and Council of British Archaeology contacts. The day continued with specific projects. Kreetta Lesell presented the late Aino Nissinaho’s successful Adopt an Monument initiative for organisations and communities, Janne Ikäheimo presented the site of the last hanging in Finland and Eeva Raike discussed the fact that the rock hackings that are alive tradition with new designs and names added annually are not a suitable site for preservation under the Ancient Monument law: they could not be touched or added to any more.

Leena Koivisto’s talk raised the Finnish question of why the people like to attend the community archaeology excavations away from their own village – the situation almost the opposite to that in Britain. The talk touched upon the question of social media being even too quick, when the excavation directors at the site were not aware of the happenings some metres away that had been beamed to Facebook with the help of mobile phones. There were moments when the boss from the museum had seen all online when the directors still had to check what had been found at site. She also wondered aloud, if it begins to be too easy to ‘Like’ a dig online – and people do not bother joining the activities.

Now we get to the Nazis. The 1940s are now a big thing in Finnish archaeology with a large grant being devoted to the mapping of the archaeological remains from the Lapland war, the German barracks and other visible defence and attack structures being the easiest target. Elsewhere, as Jan Fast told in his presention, his new project in Hanko where he has started to map the derelict German barracks with a community project before they will disappear with a new development being planned. He also discussed the first public large excavations organised by the Heureka science centre in the 1990s and some other community archaeology work, but one has to admit that the Hanko project took the limelight from the Jokiniemi or Kemiö projects.

The Days also reminded us about the passage of time. The young generation does not apparently sit until early hours in the bar and look for a disco bar after the first bar closed and the Bar in Hamburger Börs (people in Finland know the fame) was all dark. No, they seem to be teetotallers and/or take their dogs out for a walk after the conference dinner. We seniors are becoming definitely wiser, though: we were quite grey in the first row the morning after, but we were there for the first presentation – and we were only tired, not emotional!

Sadly, I cannot promise to be there next year, but the discussions are likely to be as fervent, since one of the topics is likely to be ‘what is an archaeological remain and which of them are worth be preserved by law’. Mikko Härö touched upon this topic when talking about the future hand book of Finnish archaeological monuments and remains that will be compiled on a wiki platform. He hinted at the future changes in the law protecting the ancient monuments, so the topic will again be very ‘NOW’.

The sparse attendance of the younger generation in the evening do may have something to do with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the student archaeology society magazine Varelia the previous evening. Apparently, 'important' phone calls were made at 3.50am in a happy atmosphere to a dismayed archaeologist with a job...

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Cyprian on a Greek career

A review of last week's Archaeologist Days by the Archaeological Society of Finland will follow next weekend when I actually will have time to write a blog entry. Today: running around the campus in order to use sticky tape to fix receipts on A4s for archiving, and trying to recover my e-mail address (success!), so it will not happen until next week. Now I will upload my opinionated description of Cyprian Broodbank's Personal Histories event instead: something I made earlier.

The president of the Field Club opens the event

The Archaeological Field Club, the Cambridge society of undergraduate archaeology students, organised together with the Personal Histories project an event on November 12 where Cyprian Broodbank, the new Disney professor in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge gave a monologue of his career so far. It was interesting from many different angles - personal and general. First of all, I have to admit that before the event I had seen him twice: once giving a paper in the Italian Prehistory Day and the second time briefly first sitting down and then leaving the Anthony Snodgrass’s birthday conference. I still have not exchanged a word with him. Secondly, Joan Oates had said that he continued archaeology only because he went to the excavations at Tell Brak in Syria. Thirdly, I hoped to hear what he plans to do as the Disney professor (project-wise).

Cyprian took up an admirable theme in his talk. He emphasised how his career has not always been plain sailing. However, even when relatively speaking not shining out and dropping out, in those relative Halcyon days he managed to bag fellowships here and had in the beginning ended up in the British School at Athens. He also moved between Oxford and Cambridge and then got a job from UCL from 1995. Even during the dry patches his career seemed to be somewhat removed from – let’s say – likely next steps of a drop out from a PhD programme at the University of Central Lancashire [no offence – Central Lancashire has some top people]. Nevertheless, it was nice to hear that not all had been completely on an upward curve. On a sadder note, the maths to count how many years older he was than me made me despair, though. The traditional long, free continental humanistic degree before the Bologna process clearly had its downsides... I did graduate in nine years and I was a spot-on average at the time, but that is no consolation now!

Cyprian’s stays in different universities seem to have coincided with particularly dynamic periods at different departments. The periods at Oxford and Bristol seem to have been less remarkable, but his stay at Cambridge coincided with the turbulent times at the Department of Archaeology with postprocessual archaeology making its mark. The Faculty of Classics with Anthony Snodgrass was a settled place to observe the fervent discourses. Already at Bristol Cyprian had started noticing how island archaeology with surveys and John Cherry started to make their mark. When Cyprian moved to London Peter Ucho and Stephen Shennan offered an active Instititute giving a transforming experience with discussions about the politics of archaeology and World Archaeology Congress (WAC). It can be seen, if similar dynamic period is now ahead at Cambridge.

The most important projects during his career have been the Kythera project and the recent book The Making of the Middle Sea that tracks the Mediterranean prehistory during the last 10,000 years. The latter project was dreamt up when it became clear that the study of the material from Kythera would take a considerable time. The field stage came to an end in 2004 and apparently, the study seasons came to an end year ago, but the project has not been published, yet. The book from its sister project, the Antikythera project (Bevan and Conolly), did come out last year and I myself wrote a book review to the Antiquity. The Kythera projects also had considerable historic, ethnographic and modern elements, so they are predecessors of Tom Gallant’s works on two sides of Greece at the moment.

Cyprian did refer to his coming large worldwide project. He will continue studying islands, but this time it will be at a new scale. Undoubtedly, the symposium at the end of the same week at Cambridge was related to those plans. Anyway, Cyprian’s message to the young archaeologists is to think big, believe in one’s theories and have large study areas.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Pompeii in Stockholm

The scale of the Swedish Pompeii exhibition in the Millesgården museum, statue park and art gallery on Lidingö is much smaller than that of the large Pompeii exhibition in the British Museum two years ago. However, many of the elements and – if my memory does not completely fail me – at least one of the exhibits are shared. Both exhibitions started from a door and a street space and presented a house layout and the bust of Caecilius Iucundus. However, whereas the British Museum presented a section of Roman life and a general ‘everyhouse’, the Stockholm exhibition presents one specific house, that of Caecilius Iucundus, from the Insula V,1, a block of houses that was studied by the Swedish Pompeii Project.

The visit to the exhibition was organised by the discipline of Classical Studies from the Stockholm University and it was a joint outing for the Universities of Stockholm and Uppsala. The director of the original project had been Anna-Marie Leander Touati, currently at the Lund University, who was unable to come to guide us. We were guided by Professor Arja Karivieri who had been the assistant director at the Swedish Institute at Rome and one of the field directors of the Swedish Pompeii Project. Thus, we also heard how the project came about after the Soprintendente Guzzo had invited foreign institutes and universities to excavate, record and publish blocks in Pompeii in the late 1990s. The block in question was selected through the expertise of Margareta Staub-Gierow who after her collaborations with the German excavations suggested this block due to its interesting wall painting chronology and content. The excavations started in 2000 from the northern side of the block from the Greek Epigrapher’s House and proceded the Banker’s House (of Caecilius Iucundus) and finished in the House of Bronze Bull.

The exhibition was not the largest and especially the garden part felt a little bit cramped with a bonsai and some Mediterranean herbs in pots representing the central courtyard garden and some lemon trees growing elsewhere in their large pots bringing Mediterranean vegetation in the gallery. The original items were not very many, but the selection was representative. Not all finds were from the Banker’s House but most of them were from the block studied by the Swedish team. The highlights included the bust of the Caecilius Iucundus himself, the bronze bull from the eponymous house, a set of silver bowls, plates and spoons from the same house, framed wall paintings from the Banker’s House and other buildings in the block and the copy of the frieze presenting the 62 AD earthquake from the house shrine. Much of the architectural detail was exhibition constructions and photograph mosaics, but excellent work nevertheless (even if the floor size was not correct).

A corner presenting Pompeii’s effect on the public and private architecture and sculpture in Stockholm was interesting and a TV documentary from 2003 brought the excavations and images from Pompeii to the exhibition space. There was also a brand new video about a new purpose-build laser-scanned 3D stereo reconstruction. Not all furniture, doors or shutters were totally successfully modelled, but the actual scanning and the modelling of the house structure was impressive. Especially the computer-modelled peristyle courtyard garden gave a good idea of the original outlay of these town houses.

The real minus is the lack of a catalogue on sale. This is apparently due to the limited funds available, but this was something I was looking for after myself (an easy Christmas present to an Archaeologist Husband). The entrance fee is considered relatively high (150 Swedish korna), but all the costs have to be covered by the income, since this is a private foundation and no public money has been spent in the exhibition. It is a pity that the funds could not be stretched to the 'publication', since the exhibition is of national importance and was opened by the Crown Princess Victoria. As a curiosity, one can tell that due to this opening, the Director and Assistant Director of the Swedish Institute in Rome could not attend a large event day in Rome on the activities and importance of the foreign institutes, organised by the Italian Government as the EU prime minister country in Palazzo Altemps [the irony, the irony considering the recent events] and they arrived just in time to the opening of the Landscape Archaeology Conference straight from the airport. But then it was important to show loyalty to the Pompeii project and the private foundation, which has already done a laudable job with the exhibition.

Summa summarum, the exhibition is not as impressive as the British Museum exhibition that had a whole painted triclinium with its birds, authentic wooden furniture and plaster casts of the perished people, but as a presentation of a research project and its results with some good museum architecture and original items from actual buildings studied, it was a pleasant experience. Naturally, we got specialist guidance from our professor and free entry that made our visit extra special.

A Finnish friend asked if it is worthwhile for an ancient historian to travel from Helsinki to Stockholm to see the exhibition. We discussed this in the coffee table and the shared answer was "No" - unless really interested in comparing the Finnish and Swedish Pompeii projects. However, the exhibition is open until mid-May, so one could do a late spring cruise with the Sweden/Finland ferry to the Värtan harbour and head to Lidingö, away from the beaten track, and enjoy the whole of the entity of the house museum and statue park as well in a better weather. There is also a castle-like Scandia hotel in the neighbourhood and a restaurant, so it could be a spring cruise holiday with a partner or friends. Then it would be worth it.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Swedish Institutes saved: the celebrations

Archaeologists at Stockholm celebrating

Yesterday, Monday November 17, brought by the eagerly waited news that the new Swedish Government withdrew its budget framework proposal and stated officially that the state funding of the Mediterranean Institutes will continue in 2017 and afterwards. This means that all those almost 14,000 supporters who signed the Save the Mediterranean Institutes petition, did help us to save the Swedish Institutes. And many who did not manage to sign were supporting in principle

Vi fikade

The government published a press release on the Education Ministry's web site around 1pm on Monday and the news spread like a wild fire (thanks our tweeting Ida, the Facebook group and private e-mails; now also in English). The news even reached the Director of the Swedish Institutes in Rome, travelling with students in Sicily. It was not only the social media but the ongoing discussion in the Swedish newspapers and blogs plus the background work of the Rectors of the Swedish Universities, the boards of different Institutes and the friends of different Institutes that did the trick - not to mention all the research, courses, talks, publications, art events, conferences and networking the Institutes do, and the support from the other institutes, foreign and national, universities, researchers and citizens. Now we all can enjoy the Institutes in the future.

The printed out petition lists and articles

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Snodfest: the children of the Classics revolution

How do you define a good professor? I got one answer last weekend in the 80th birthday conference of Anthony Snodgrass. It is clear that he did not only write groundbreaking books and start a revolution within classical archaeology by advocating survey archaeology and not concentrating on vase painting, but also nurtured a legion of students many of whom are nowadays in prominent positions all around the world. They were prepared to (wo)man three separate organising committees – one in Britain, one in Holland and one in America. Then they all flew to Britain and spent one weekend in Cambridge giving first-class papers and seemed to have great fun throughout. I know – I paid for the Saturday dinner and saw how the people in my table seized the moment to chat with their friends they had not seen socially for ages.

James Whitley, Sara Owen and Lisa Nevett present Snoddy with the book

When I heard who were organising this conference, I knew I had to be there in order to witness it, even if I had been at the Department of Archaeology and not the Faculty of Classics at Cambridge. However, I remembered a gentle, kindly spoken man during his last years in the high office at the turn of the millennium – and now all these big names were coming to one place to celebrate him. At that time I did not guess just how much of a warm group hug it all was going to be. The students and colleagues had not only prepared one, but two volumes of papers – one from his students and one from the colleagues – all given to the birthday boy in a preliminary format. An old mountaineering friend had painted a landscape to commemorate the occasion. This was even if his 90-odd years did not allow him to come to the occasion himself. It also turned out that these ‘big names’, such as Susan Alcock and Ian Morris, were good company and I had splendid time in the pub and in the ‘fun table’. I now owe Susan a pint and hope to repay one day, if I ever get to an AIA (American Institute of Archaeology) conference.

The Saturday dinner in the Cripps Court

The conference itself was top notch and all the people had taken care of preparing something special. Instead of carting to the pulpit the same old, same old, all were either presenting new research or drawing long-term conclusions out of their old projects. Thus, we heard John Bintliff to draw together 30 years of the Boeotia survey, peppered with delightful photographs from the 1980s. David Small discussed his new ideas about applying complexity theory to pre-Classical Greece – work so recent that the graphs presented only the results of a preliminary work from the Iron Age Knossos – not that he had remembered to put the titles in the graph (thus, I had an easy question to pop in the lunch table). Rolf Schneider discussed his and his student's reconstruction of the Phrygian sculpture programme of Basilica Aemilia – a piece of research that only have become possible lately when the collection of the marble fragments have been available for the scholars. Alexandra Coucouzeli discussed the potential gods in the shrine at Zagora on Andros. The absolute revelation was Tom Gallant’s project in contemporary or near contemporary archaeology in Greece, combining archaeology of field terraces and mills to the archive study of migrant flows from the Ottoman times to the free Greece. He also explained that his book on a murder on a Greek island will be made as a Hollywood movie. Why study property deeds, when you can look at a cold case straight from the archives!

Bintliff on the Boeotia survey

I also learnt more about the references to archaisms in Hellenistic art, how to study manuring in the Mediterranean and agencies presented in the pre-Classical times by a krater and a pithos. I also managed to behave like a true Oxbridge brat. The constant travelling and a late arrival night before and early departure in the morning had resulted in me being a bit zonked, so I ended up suggesting slightly in a wrong tone of voice (and actually not only slightly, but in a full-on feisty duelling mode) to de Polignac that Mill and Rajala’s ceramiscene actually had already brought the suitable concepts into the interpretation of the hinterland of a polis in Italian archaeology. Even if I tried to pacify him later by saying that I do agree with his interpretations and admire him very much, he did seem to stare me with an icy look the reminder of the time. I feel guilty now, since how much literature in Greek archaeology I have time to read?

Snoddy's postscript

Those two and half days were memorable and provided food for thought for weeks to come. After all the talks Snoddy asked the younger generation to carry the torch and remember that agriculture was during the pre-Classical times 10 times more important than commerce and the painted pottery is 10 times more important to classical archaeologists than for the people in Greece or Etruria. Slowly I have realised that with my survey work, agricultural modelling and archaeological computing, I am a Cambridge girl and actually I am part of the revolution.

Things seem always happen to me. Luckily, nothing truly serious, but again one of those unexpected little irritations and puzzlements of life. When all was over in the Snodfest, I realised that my coat had vanished. Somebody else had used the hanger I had laid my coat on in the morning and in the rack next to mine, there was another beige trench coat. Unfortunately, although it was of a more expensive make, it was a full-length male one and of no use for the shorty me. I can only commiserate the person who apparently was wearing a suit and ran away before lunch to the train station or airport – and only too late noticed that instead of his well-made and beautiful coat, he had grabbed my old £25 Tesco sad-excuse-for-a-coat that was in a desperate need of a good wash and had had half of the buttons replaced by more or less similar kind of buttons of variable colours. Good for making a bad Columbo impression but not for much else. I only still had it for that short month-or-so-long period in Stockholm between summer and winter, when it is not yet cold enough for a woolly winter coat – with no time to spare for coat shopping. Any way, the fancy coat was still in the Cripps building on Tuesday when I was in Cambridge and checked if my coat had come back. If somebody overseas is moaning about grabbing an awful coat, he can contact the porters at the Magdalene college Cambridge!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Migration and the Mediterranean – USI and the Swedish Institute in Rome together

Very demanding two weeks have come to an end. It has been a time of running from one airport to another and crisscross Europe in a couple of days intervals. It has been the most rewarding time with two major conferences – both in their own way magnificient – this week. The week has also seen more exciting events with me joining those people who leave their laptop in a taxi. Luckily, my hotel in Rome had booked the taxi to the airport, so the company they normally use could track down the driver and I got my laptop back in time for my flight. In addition, the already late aircraft was stopped in the runway due to a brief thunderstorm and hale shower. Unfortunately, the aircraft was hit by lightning, so we were forced to return to the terminal for a check-up. An hour or so later we finally made our way to the skies. I arrived home at 11pm – only to leave for a train to Cambridge 7.25am. But I made breakfast to my son before leaving!

Kristian Göransson adresses the conference

I was in Rome in the Migration and the Mediterranean conference, where a multidisciplinary group of scholars discussed the migration across the Mediterranean in the past and present. The event was organised in co-operation by the University of Rome Tre, Lund University, the Swedish Institute in Rome and USI network (Universities and Swedish Institutes). This is an example of the kind of events the Swedish Institutes host these days. Collaborative, international and bridging the past and modern times. Together with the USI network the institutes in Rome, Athens and Istanbul organise MA-level university courses that have a residential part in the Mediterranean and that are frequented by students from all over Sweden. This time – during the week when the Mare Nostrum rescue operation in Italy came to an end and was replaced by the EU border control programme Frontex – much of the attention was concentrated on the North African migration to Europe and asylum situation in relation to the war in Syria. Many of these asylum-seekers try to enter Europe via Tunisia or Libya and Lampedusa is their point of contact with European officials.

Reception in the Swedish Institute for the delegates

Almost a half of the researchers were jurists discussing the migration flows from North Africa, international sea rescue laws and marine principles, the definition of minors in the asylum process and the principle of solidarity and Dublin convention in the European Union. The director of the Swedish Institute in Rome, Kristian Göransson, talked about the early migrations of major civilisations across the Mediterranean and I presented my case study from Nepi discussing Latin colonisation as migration. My argument needs definitely more work and I overrun and had to cut my talk short, since one has to explain more to non-archaeologist audience, but I could give an inkling how a local archaeological study can have implications to regional and even global issues. I also asked people to sign the Save the Mediterranean Institutes petition.

This week saw the Swedish newspaper articles that seem to confirm that the source of the financial cut plans in regard to the Mediterranean Institutes came from the Swedish Treasury. There was also a suggestion that these plans were drawn a significant time ago and were now presented suddenly in the budget framework. Another development is that the Higher Education Minister has been asked to face the Culture committee of the Swedish Parliament in order to answer the questions about the preparations of the budget framework item(s) and if the concerned parties and stakeholders were consulted as required by the Swedish law. Apparently the law states that if the cuts have consequences in the functioning of the organisations in question, these have a right to make their case BEFORE the plans are made public. The hearing will take place on November 18 and it will definitely make interesting hearing and reading. It was confirmed in the papers that the head of the governing body of the Institutes was phoned on October 22 – a day before the plans were made public on October 23. The procedure may have been incorrect. This makes the collection of names to the petition important, since it will show the government the support, contacts and collaborations the Institutes have nationally and internationally.

The most important contribution

The opening panel in the Migration conference saw the current Swedish ambassador in Italy speaking about the ancient civilisations and their migrations and influence in the Mediterranean and over our culture in her talk. The current Italian ambassador in Sweden talked about the urgency of the migration issues in Italy and Europe and the need for co-operation. In their diplomatic and tacit ways they supported the Institute and USI in these unexpectedly turbulent times.

The conference was finished with a panel on the Syrian issue of more grass-root experts ranging from a Syrian refugee, Syrian researcher living in Sweden, Italian journalist based in Beirut and specialising in Syria and advising different public bodies and different NGOs helping Syrian refugees in Turkey and France. They had concrete suggestions how the situation could be eased or even slowly solved, but they saw a few years of war ahead of us. Some of the suggestions were such that one would have hoped that the representatives of Italian government and European Union had been present. It made a lot of sense, but the whole panel reminded everyone in the audience how much Turkey is bearing of the refugee support and how small numbers of refugees are taken officially by different European Union countries. Sweden is there among the two biggest helpers, but sadly my homeland is sticking to its traditional hundreds and my adopted homeland is not pulling its international weight.

Mare Nostrum ensemble on stage

The conference finished with a delightful concert of the Mare Nostrum ensemble, a special event organised by Roma Tre in the honour of the conference. The ensemble played Renaissance and Baroque themes that had travelled Europe-wide and influenced Bach and other great composers in order to bring a pan-European message to Rome. The lovely evening with music and song finished with a Neapoletanean version of Santa Lucia – originally a local boat song. It lightened the atmosphere after the serious discussions on Mare Nostrum, Frontex and Syria. With the openings of potential new lines of co-operations between archaeologists and lawyers, we live exciting times – and not just worrying ones.

The following sentences are left only to keep the historicity of this blog intact: "We will still need all the signatures we can get in order to show that we have support both nationally and internationally. Please, sign and tell your friends to sign too, if you already haven't:
Save the Mediterranean Institutes petition". We won! The Swedish Government has now promised to provide state funding for the Mediterranean Institutes in the foreseeable future.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

A perfect storm – and how to respond

Back at Stockholm all classical archaeologists have been acting against the absurd suggestion in the budget framework that the Mediterranean Institutes in Rome, Athens and Istanbul should lose their funding by 2017 and effectively close. This in effect would also threaten the existence of our subject, Classical Studies, that combines ancient history and classical / Mediterranean archaeology. It may feel for a person who is not into classical studies that it is surprising that this discipline is taught in four universities in Sweden, but there is a good explanation to it. No, I do not mean the tradition with the King Gustav VI excavating in Etruria, but the way all foreign and Italian institutes in collaboration save our common World Heritage.

The Mediterranean studies have a long tradition in ecological investigation, too, so archaeologists and historians are not only revealing the origins of agriculture and metal production in Europe, not to mention Classical art, architecture, Latin and Greek alphabet, law making and drama to list a few things we have still among us today. No, archaeology has been helping in such Europe-wide investigations erosion in the Mediterranean as ARCHEOMEDES and MEDALUS for decades now. One country alone cannot grasp the vast heritage around the Mediterranean or exhaust research questions. The management and protection of this heritage is a huge effort and countries like Greece need joint efforts – especially in these times when conflict and economic misery bring added problems to the Mediterranean. Naturally, we have to care for the people first, but the Mediterranean heritage in its entirety including both the eastern and western and northern and southern traditions deserves us working together.

If there is one person in whole Sweden personifies carrying the flame that is Ida Östenberg, a docent in ancient history at the Gothenburg University. She wrote quickly an opinion on the web page of the Swedish Broadcasting Company (SVT) on Friday October 24 when the whole issue had became apparent to the Mediterranean humanists in the afternoon of the day before, Thursday, October 23. She also spoke in the radio and has been active on Facebook and Twitter and helping to pass different screenshots from the Rädda Medelhavsinstituten Facebook community. In one place one could find the letters written by Elizabeth Fentress on the behalf of the International Association of Classical Archaeology (AIAC), the letter written by Christopher Smith on the behalf of the Union of the International Research Institute in Rome, the images of key tweets, such as that of Mary Beard, and the signatures on the Save the Mediterranean Institutes petition, such as that of Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. Swedes from both sides of the political spectrum have signed and the Swedish and other Nordic signatures are alternated with those from both sides of the Atlantic, bringing together professors, students and people who live around or visit the Mediterranean.

The Humanities have felt threatened for some time when the usefulness of the natural sciences have been emphasised. Nobody seems to remember that in order to sell anything across the globe, one cannot only to go about speaking English and expect everybody thinking similarly and having the same customs. Our economic situation has parallels and one has not to look further than the late antiquity to see stagnation and diminishing living standards. In addition, we humanists and scientists do work together today nowadays, so natural sciences and humanities cannot live totally without each other. Some of us are not without scientific studies, even if we are mainly humanists. To expect to build internationalisation elsewhere while cutting away decades of development and building up that has been carried out in order to allow students and scholars to see the monuments first hand, interact and find the books and series not available in the Nordic countries – or even Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, London or Oxford – would be unimaginable hit to the heart of the Mediterranean studies. By collecting names and my colleagues filling the notice boards with notices at the University, we remind the government what would be lost and could not be rebuilt. And our colleagues are giving their helping hand.

I will post this blog entry already today, since tomorrow I have to write another piece like this, but for a more serious forum and then I will head to Rome to the Migration and the Mediterranean conference, organised partly by the Swedish Institute in Rome. For my talk I have had to think why I am doing this in the Mediterranean, why my work is relevant and what use is my little footnote in the history of Latin colonisation. I have to verbalise it as I had to conceptualise the potential Mediterranean archaeology has this week in a trial lecture – and it has huge potential. I woke up late to the situation and have contributed mainly by sending few e-mails that may or may not have been helped the cause. I do not know what the next week in Rome brings – or if I have woken up anybody so that they will wake up for Kristian’s, Director’s, talk on the coming Wednesday morning – but maybe I can contribute from my tiny part to the preservation of our common heritage.

Nevertheless, hats off for Ida, our shining light. With her kind of people, and such as the journalist Sanna Ryman, whose early column shed light onto the situation, and archaeologists Moa Ekbom, who got the Facebook community and the petition going being the first to sign, Ingrid Berg, who linked the whole budget suggestion text to Facebook with the crucial page 308 on the morning of October 23, and Julia Habetzeder, who collects all blog entries in one place, and with media such as Aftonbladet, which apparently was first to notice this scandal, we can show that we Mediterranean scholars and all humanists and our friends are modern, sassy and sharp, and protect something we could lose so easily.

The following sentences are left only to keep the historicity of this blog intact: "We will need all the signatures we can get in order to show that we are united and value humanities and international collaboration. Please, sign and tell your friends to sign too, if you already haven't:
Save the Mediterranean Institutes petition". We won! The Swedish Government has now promised to provide state funding for the Mediterranean Institutes in the foreseeable future.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

“Taliban politics”, says Carl Bildt

Rarely you are suddenly facing a fact that is so gobsmacking, you have to check the date. No, it was not an April Fools’ Day on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, even if the new Swedish government had suddenly decided to cut all the funding for the Swedish Mediterranean Institutes by 2017 as part of their higher education policy. This decision came totally from behind the woods and came as a total surprise: nobody in their right mind had expected anything like it. The Swedish Mediterranean Institutes include those in Rome, Athens and Istanbul. The commentators in the Svenska Dagbladet and Dagens Nyheter, the major Swedish broadsheets, have been wondering especially the sense of cutting funding from the last one that spearheads the humanistic research into Turkey, the Middle East, Central Asia and Islamic countries. In the current situation in the Mediterranean with the war in Syria and Irak and asylum seekers pouring in to Europe via Lampedusa in Italy we need to understand the region better and have outposts in the Mediterranean.

The Swedish Institute in Rome in the 1940s

I myself have been on a half-term holiday and taking care busily about the family matters and spending time with my son. I only noticed the alarming situation when spotting the mailings from the Antiquitas, the Finnish classical discussion forum in one of my mail boxes when sending e-mails. The check to Facebook and the Swedish classical studies group resulted with getting a link to the petition to save the Swedish Mediterranean Institutes. By the time I signed, 8000 people had done the same. After this I started to read the news coverage from the Swedish broadsheets. What an interesting reading it made!

It seems that the incoming higher education minister had no previous experience from the higher education – and neither did her political secretary. Somebody had decided that this saving of 22 million Swedish krona (about 2 million sterling) would not hurt Sweden’s reputation as a cultural superpower in any way. Somebody had not realized that, even if the institutes are foundations, they have next to none independent funding. There are no huge past will donations or such like, and all work is dependent on public funding. No money means closing down in this context. The new budget framework also came out just when the governing bodies of at least Rome and Athens Institutes had had their board meetings, where this kind of threat was not discussed. On the contrary, the meetings were in Rome and Kavalla respectively and celebrated the cultural heritage and achievement there in the Mediterranean. The Swedish government does not look like being highly competent here (this came just after the ‘traditional Swedish submarine hunt’ as well – coincidently, the cost of the hunt seemed to be the same 22 million Swedish krona).

The situation remains unclear, even if the higher education minister Helene Hellmark Knutsson started backtracking after remaining silent and not answering the enquiries about the matter. Since the funding for the institutes remains in 2015, there is plenty of time according to her to listen and hear criticisms on the the matter before the funding is halved in 2016 and abolished in 2017. This statement was considered cryptic and the matter worth backtracking by Anders Q. Björkman in the Svenska Dagbladet. There have been suggestions that this whole cancelling of funds is related to the building of a particle physics research centre near Lund, but the government has denied this. Ironically, the policy came from a government that tries to be seen as culture friendly - we have clearly a left and right hand situation here.

Personally, I am about to attend the Migration and the Mediterranean conference in Rome in a week’s time, supported and co-organised by the Swedish Institute in Rome. I also organised an international workshop in the Institute just a month ago, so I can say I have contributed to the work of the institute and understand its meaning in the modern world in the Mediterranean networks. In the conference I do speak about ancient matters, but power struggles during different periods are the background to the relevant discussions on asylum systems in Europe, Lampedusa and Syria. An Institute that organizes such a conference is not just some vanity project, but an organisation Sweden needs in the modern world.

The following sentence is left only to keep the historicity of this blog intact: "It is still worth signing the petition as long as the situation is unclear:
Save the Mediterranean Instituts petition". We won! The Swedish Government has now promised to provide state funding for the Mediterranean Institutes in the foreseeable future.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Across the Baltic Arch

This week saw me unexpectedly being a northern expert at Stockholm - thanks to my docentship at the University of Oulu that has resulted me keeping an eye on my colleague's work presented in a closed Facebook group and more widely in Facebook and different archaeological media. Speaking and reading Finnish is sometimes a plus, even if we Finns have to learn more than two languages in order to communicate properly in the modern world. My expertise had its use during the questions of Per H. Ramqvist's interesting talk about the large Recalling the past research programme that tries to shed light to the little known late Iron Age and Medieval period in Norrland, Lappland and elsewhere in the northern Sweden. This area was the meeting point of the Sami, Scandinavians and Finns during this period and very few archaeological monuments related to permanent [Scandinavian] farming communities are known even if there is an understanding that animal fur was one of the high-status exports during the time and there are unique farm stead of Gene (Ramqvist 1983) in Norrland and a few burial mounds and stray metal finds from the coastal area near the modern Finnish border.

A reconstructed house at Gene

Archaeology tends to be a national discipline and the research follows national [and language] boundaries. Thus, in most of the maps in Ramqvist's presentation the colours and symbols restricted to the area within the Swedish national boundaries and Norway and Finland were almost empty. However, this is actually far from the truth and I know that the last two years have revealed a new Late Viking Age inhumation burial ground in Ii in the northern coastal area in Finland. There are also plenty of both Sami monuments in Finnish Lapland (that starts basically where the Swedish finishes - a source of one stilted discussion at the department this week, since mentally I perceive Swedish Lapland as 'Norrland', since Finnish coast line is still technically northern Ostrobottnia, not Lapland) and the same stone settings plentiful on the Swedish side and connected to seal hunting are similarly plentiful also on the Finnish side.

I proceeded to ask if the University of Umeå that is running the research programme does collaborate with the University of Oulu, which has its seminar dig at Ii and has for decades studied northern Iron Age and Medieval period. The answer was delightful 'yes'. It seems that different projects and programmes at Umeå and Oulu discuss with each other and are in some kind of merging process. Thus, we can expect that in the future we will see distribution maps where there are colours and symbpls for example fpr different monument types and Sami placenames from both sides of the border.

Ramqvist, P. H., 1983. Gene. On the origin, function and development af sedentary Iron Age settlement in Northern Sweden (Archaeology and Environment 1). Umeå: Umeå universitet.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Landscape Archaeology Conference 2014 Part 2

A landscape: Stockholm from Skinnarbacken, its highest point

Now that I and my notes are in the same city and land I can write more in detail what I learnt in the LAC 2014. Since this conference was in Italy, many of the important sessions were run by famous Italian scholars. This meant a series of papers on relatively local topics. Not that my own paper presented really material from more than one place – I thus fit the Italian framework well – but it was an occasion to hear more about the research that is going on in different less ‘crowded’ research areas. This does not mean that all papers presented local case studies. The opening keynote lecture was by an earth modeller who is not an archaeologist but an environmentalist who is interested in how much prehistoric humans affected the general vegetation levels and climate. Jed O. Kaplan’s models suggested that most of the Europe was lacking wilderness by the Medieval period and the large scale influence on landscape fragmentation can be assumed for the whole Holocene. He suggested that the deforestation was a factum of most of Europe already by the Early Iron Age (1000 BC). This actually fits well to my own local example where the GIS models suggest that all suitable agricultural land was needed for cereal production by the Archaic period (500 BC).

Running conference in three different institutes meant that one had to spend more time consider the papers one really wanted to hear, since the move from one location to another always required exiting and entering institutes through a public road. However, it was clear from early on that there were generally less people in the Swedish Institute, which meant that it was the place to be at lunchtime. You needed to queue less and there was food left when you reached the table. The poster sessions were cosier and you generally discussed more with people. The queue to the toilet tended to be shorter, but not as short as in the Belgian Institute. Small things are important when you need to catch a paper in another building...

It is always a pity that people cannot come and read their papers and I have been sinner as well, even if I try to avoid the matter now as far as possible. It was interesting to notice that one speaker who had apparently fallen ill (or whose family member had) let read two papers in the conference: one should not have been read by anybody else, since the point was lost when the replacement reader monotonously ploughed through the text and the author was not there to explain the key inscriptions and patterns on maps freely. Contrarily, the latter one was clear presenting an interesting online Republican family name database with well-thought narrative arch and nice maps of individuals from Praeneste moving around the Mediterranean in the past.

I was hoping to hear a lot of GIS papers, but ended up sitting quite a lot in the ancient topography session. It was nice to give definite faces to some people whose work you have read for ages and there was extremely good papers, too. Sadly, not the one about the Sicilian find distributions. Apparently all distributions on the maps were random, but when I looked at them, terracottas and cooking wares definitely peaked in different areas. Did the author mean that the correlations between grids and numbers were not significant, or did he not want to interpret small variations? This way or that way, I hope he does not dismiss the evidence. However, the work at Verucchio was highly interesting, as could be expected, and the other Finnish input, the geophysical survey Jari Pakkanen runs at Naxos was just such an interesting piece of solid research with a mathematical twist in the end.

The conference ran a competition for PhD students, a.k.a. young researchers (when will they have a ‘thank you that you still bother come up with new things, darling’ award for us slightly frustrated golden oldies?), notified some researchers I had noticed in the conference. One of the poster awards went to a female PhD student,Felicity Winkley, who had already flown back in the afternoon, which I communicated to the organisers. She studies metal detector finds and was generally fun to talk to. The runner-up award in the paper competition went to another female PhD student from Glasgow, Francesca Scalezzi, whose hair took the centre stage during the presentation. Do not take me wrongly, her paper on the use and data entry classification of legacy data was excellent, but her hair did need drawing back constantly and even so stayed hovering above her notes most of the time. A true performance on so many different levels!

The great papers I enjoyed and that were relevant to what I do were the discussion of sensitivity analysis by Marieka Brower Burg, the latest on the salt production and transhumance in central Etruria, read very quickly indeed by Franco Cambi and Gijs Tol’s paper on how Groningen projects in the Pontine Region try to incorporate inscriptions in their study. Gijs also spotted important points from our paper and got the very important amphorae observation as an answer. We will need to look at that thing elsewhere, too.

However, this was a conference of meetings of old friends and giving faces to people behind different work. I did meet ‘the poster lady’ in flesh, saw Michael Tiechmann and Thomas Whitley after so many years and shared a taxi with Jari after a decade or 15 years of no see. I discussed a couple of times with Matthew Fitzjohn and heard the latest from Gianna and family and Liverpool. Every meeting, not to mention spending time with my Swedish colleagues from the Swedish Institute, Riksantikvarieämbetet and Uppsala University, made the conference fee worth every euro.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Things are not as they used to be

As my notes of the Landscape Archaeology Conference are in Stockholm, I have to leave the conference reporting to another week. Just when I had needed the notes in order to cover for a quieter week that has seen me to start writing our joint article for our edited volume and finalising a presentation to yet another workshop where I will be one of only three people looking at Mediterranean migration from an ancient viewpoint. The other talks will undoubtedly include words such as 'Lampedusa', 'Syria' and 'boat' and make our contributions look slightly 'lighter' at the face of modern suffering, even if old power politics have relevance in today's world as well.

I will start with a lament of an grumpy middle-aged archaeologist and proceed to the remembrance of those who are not among us any more. I will first do my best J C coffee room impression and then pay attention to those who did their share there [relatively] quietly and make huge contribution and those who did not quite get to make everlasting contribution before the time was up.

My grumpiness is related to the fact that it seems that current students do not take student-run conferences - even if on the postgraduate level - as studenty as they used to. They do not pay attention to normal fieldwork/holiday times and are beginning to show the tendencies of the more 'serious' conferences. In the past seem to be those times when the postgrads were begging for papers long into the spring and all flowers could flower. No, now it seems that it is perfectly OK to announce the call for sessions in August so that most people miss the call when facing their mailbox at some point in September (when it was too late already). The result is that the two sensible sessions with the themes I and many others could contribute to are closed sessions and our suggestions will go directly to the general session - that will be huge on the face of the lack of sessions with general theoretical discussion potential. To keep the form, the deadline for the papers is at the end of October, almost five months before the conference! In any case, it will probably be lovely in the end. At least it is at home so we do not have to go anywhere and we may be able to get a babysitter even if I have to fly to another conference a day after.

After releasing my grumpy old lady, I release another feeling of age: the sadness when your friends disappear from your side. Our common friend lost her battle towards cancer so rare the doctors at the Addenbrooks Hospital were unsure about it. We followed her brave messages on Facebook from the hospital bed and tried to give our cheers, but when the words 'decharge plan' came up, I started to fear the worst (coming from a medical family makes me sensitive to euphemisms). We are lucky that another friend managed to pull it through, but increasingly good friends and those who were at the University with us have succumbed to all kinds of ends. For some, there have been kind obituaries, but some others left before they could finish their studies or PhDs or other major professional merits. However, they do live in our memories.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

A fine day: Italic inscriptions and databases workshop

The web link works! (photo: R. Hedlund)

After two successful TAG sessions in a year – one in the Bournemouth TAG and one in the Stockholm Nordic TAG – I just haven’t managed to get rid of that painful memory of the awkward Lampeter TAG session in 2003. Not only had the organisers moved the session from afternoon to morning AFTER the printing the programme, but this change was only communicated on a handwritten A4 placed above the information desk among the other colourful notes. I apparently should have been shouting the change on the rooftops myself. Instead, I went to the basic Finnish communication mode and concentrated in getting through with it. Result: the only listener was the computer helper on behalf of the organisers – who luckily was quite interested in the philosophy of archaeology. The key speaker informed me on the day he could not come, a few papers were read by me or other participants and as the result the discussion was dismal. After the sessions some friends came to tell me over lunch how much they waited for my session and I had to tell them that it was all over already. For this, I had left fieldwork in India early, only for the small crew to stumble into an unusual find and I should really have been there to record it properly. That memory lingers.

I and Kristian Göransson opening the workshop (photo: R. Hedlund)

This time it was bigger with a grant from the Riksbankens Jubileumfond and people flying from the Nordic countries, but I should not have been worried, since it was all lovely and high quality. Naturally, there were the customarily cancellations and quirks. The Director from Berlin just couldn’t leave his workplace and was replaced by a junior researcher from Rome. One presenter had fallen quite unpleasantly ill, but Harri Kiiskinen read her paper very well indeed. One Mac did not talk to the video projector, one speaker came in late and I had to run out of the room when the evening restaurant called just during a Very Important Paper. As a result, the timetable was thrown out of the window with me explaining the owner of the restaurant that I had already confirmed all the previous week with somebody over phone after talking to her. However, otherwise it went so nicely.

Karin presents (photo: R. Hedlund)

I should not talk about the content too much, since one of the participants has promised to write a piece to the AIAC Newsletter and I am still wondering, if we should do a series of project presentations to the Archeologia e calcolatori. Thus, I do not mention everybody and their contribution. However, I can tell Karin Westin Tikkanen gave a wonderful presentation on the languages in pre-Roman Italy and showed that we have a lot of common interests in the light of potential future projects (I am waiting for all sorts of decisions later this year). Professor Silvia Orlandi from La Sapienza explain the latest, same day news of the EAGLE project and answered enquiries about the project and the future portal to an audience composed mainly of Nordic archaeologists, classicists, epigraphers and historians, but also participants from Italy and Germany. The workshop brought together the researchers from the Finnish and Swedish Pompeii projects to compare their work with the political graffiti in Pompeii and their digital presentations. These people had not really met and discussed their work before. The Skype video link to Florida worked and we got an interesting contribution of using old squeezes digitally.

Professor Orlandi presents (photo: R. Hedlund)

I was very fortunate that Kristian Göransson, the director of the Swedish Institute in Rome, was enthusiastic from the start, gave opening words and was present a considerable part of his working day. We also had a surprise visitor, since I had not quite thought Christopher Smith, the Director of the British School at Rome, would have time to come for a [free] lunch, even if we have common interests and he gave me advice on a failed money application. Having a director from the G8 of the international institutes in Rome (not a term coined by me) gave new kudos to the workshop and kept alive a contact that will be needed for the most important of the scenarios I have for future research. This is what it was basically all about: getting people together, presenting and discussing and starting little by little building a collaborative framework for the research of Italic and pre-Roman identities in Italy. And if nothing that grand comes out of this, I will have to create a research database and place it or parts of it in open access – one day.

Discussion (photo: R. Hedlund)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Landscape Archaeology Conference 2014 Part 1

The initial irritation of the fact that the organisers had mistakenly told us that we have a poster – only for me to find our names in the list of oral presenters AFTER the poster was sent to the printers - disappeared with the sympathetic conference in Rome. This was organised initially remotely from Amsterdam, so you can understand that all came into the place when all people where in the same place. After all, the international institutes in Rome have a long experience in organising multi-institute conferences during the conference season. The organisation was probably not helped by the fact that the conference was very near EAA in Istanbul where 3000 archaeologists met. In Rome we were 300 and some flew directly from Istanbul.

I had to pass Istanbul for time and money issues, but those who had been in Istanbul lauded the quality and pleasantness of LAC2014. Yes, some Italian colleagues did the sending a title in English and then speaking regardless in Italian, but it was nice to see the practitioners of the Italian topographic tradition taking their natural place within the landscape archaeology. There are slight differences in emphases and methods, but in principle, the lines are so similar at least the topographers do not see the difference. This is good, since it is just richness to have plentiful traditions.

The conference was organised in the Dutch and Swedish Institutes with the Belgian Institute and University of Rome “La Sapienza” adding to the spaces where different sessions and key note speeches took place. The conference celebrated the 400 years of official diplomatic relations between the two countries, Sweden and Holland. The institutes are side by side in Valle Giulia and the gardens were joined for the conference dinner and reception.

This blog is about the conference in general. I will next week return to the topics of the conference, slightly depending on how my own workshop on Tuesday will go. If it will be fabulous, I will probably write about it and leave the many details in LAC 2014 for a quieter week. Although the conference was otherwise marvellous, there were two sources of wonder: Why a small portion of posters were place around the corner in the Dutch institute when there was a lot of space in front of the Institute where most of the posters were? You can guess where ours was... And why it took so long for the Belgian and Dutch Institute to put the air condition of their lecture halls on? It was sauna all around.

The funniest moment of the conference was when the Dutch organisers and helpers of the conference found me and my three Swedish colleagues waiting to get in before the final reception. I had had both the two-hour poster session and our joint presentation during the final afternoon and all I needed after that was cold beer. Colleagues could provide a summary of the keynote speech on the novelties of landscape archaeology whereas we had a good discussion on the work practices at the Riksantivarieämbetet on the terrace while rehydrating.

Monday, 8 September 2014

No more Whitechapel speculation?

The recent days have brought about the amazing news that the mystery of Jack the Ripper has finally been solved using the latest forensic DNA technologies. And as the Finnish newspapers have noted, the analyses were all done by a Finn, Dr Jari Louhelainen, a senior lecturer in molecular biology at the Liverpool John Moores University. This work was apparently partly funded – or at least publicized as a world exclusive by that every archaeologist’s favourite read, The Daily Mail. At least there is a book out available on the matter.

Map of Whitechapel (from

Elsewhere in the Independent the naysayers were suggesting that this is all unreliable and there is no guarantee that there was no cross contamination when these new analyses were carried out. The story is quite amazing. A man called Russell Edwards had seen Johnny Depp movie ‘From the Hell’ and started his ‘extensive’ research into the matter. I assume this research was more thorough than mine that happened when ‘Ripper Street’ TV series by the BBC started some years ago and I spent one night reading the Wikipedia on the Whitechapel murders. He made his way to the National Archives and has read original documents in Kew.

However, Russell made an even more far reaching additional step: he bought in an auction in 2007 an old tatty, bloody shawl in Bury St. Edmunds (as you do) that had already featured in a Channel 5 documentary. This had allegedly been taken from a murder scene of Catherine Eddowes by a police man called Amos Simpson and had never been washed by the lucky wife of the police man who had got it as a present. Unwashed and dirty – soaked in what turned out to be blood and semen in the analyses. It was tucked away and a descendant of this policeman, one David Melville-Hayes, wrote a letter and gave his word that this was true and the shawl had been taken with a permission from policeman’s superiors. Melville-Hayes had even given the shawl to the Crime Museum, which had put it into the storage, since the provenance could not have been proven. The shawl was more expensive than an assumed alcoholic prostitute could afford and one had to believe that Jack the Ripper came with a shawl that he did not take with him afterwards. Thus, Melville-Hayes returned and reclaimed his gift back and sold it instead.

Russell managed to find Dr Louhelainen and some descendants of both Catherine Eddowes and the main suspect of all times, Aaron Kosminski, who had been sent to an asylum about the same time as the gruel murders came to an abrupt end. Amazingly, Dr Louhelainen could find DNA of the ancestors of both Eddowes and Kosminski – or their descendants. This is the dubious provenience and provenance that raises the eyebrows together with the quality of the analyses and descendant DNA. The quality of the latter seems to be fine with Eddowes’s three times great-grantdaughter and a female relative of Kosminski’s sister. It seems plausible that the mystery has been solved.

These new breakthroughs of forensic science do have something of a letdown in them. Even if it is exciting that Richard III has been found in a Leicester car park and was not chucked into the river and that Aaron Kosminski was the lunatic who hated women and slashed them, the mystery is disappearing. Undoubtedly, there will be a series of new mysteries and unsolved dilemmas, but nothing seems better than an unsolved murder mystery with out-of-this-world details. Now the endless line of TV series (Ripper Street, Whitechapel etc. etc.) and the cottage industry of home-made sleuths may come to an end. Luckily, something stays: the mental image of a murder landscape along the narrow lanes of Whitechapel. More research is also carried out about the women murdered and it is clear that they may not have been prostitutes, but have had more complicated stories.

As an interesting note, one can see that the Wikipedia entry of the Jack the Ripper has been locked until September 10, 2014 due to an 'editorial dispute'. Russell's book is out on September 9, 2014. It seems some Ripperlogists are not happy... Pseudo-academic publication disputes!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Hidden landscapes

It is the time of the year when archaeology is properly on the menu in the newspapers and the current online papers are no exception. This August had more news from the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project in the Daily Mail. The University of Birmingham team headed by Professor Vince Gaffney together with the Austrian Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology have ‘unearthed’ 15 new monuments using geophysical methods.

Visitors in the late 19th century

Vince with his brother is an old hand not only in geophysics but all prospection and surveying methods. Knowing him, it is a great joy that their project has been successful – considering how volatile the position of archaeology at Birmingham has lately been. Now the study of 6 square kilometres has revealed new henges in addition to the more expected late Neolithic pits, barrows and ditches. However, some of the features are so large and relate to the previously known monuments, such as the Cursus, that they must have had special meanings.

Such is a case with a huge pit, laying at the eastern end of the Cursus, that has been interpreted as relating to the rituals at the Solstice. The 4.5-metre-diameter pit also was laying in the path of the rising sun at the Solstice. This pit forms a triangle with another pit, laying on the path of the sun going down below the horizon, and Stonehenge. Naturally, without an excavation the team cannot say what is there in the pits. Were they fire pits or offering sites? It is known that pits were important for Neolithic practices (see Garrow 2006), so they may just have spent time ritually digging large pits.

Nevertheless, the real story is that geophysics were used to draw a new archaeological map. This is not a novelty: Roman Towns project has been doing it for whole millennium near Rome in places like Falerii Novi (Keay et al. 2000) and Portus (Keay et al. 2005). Here the methods used were magnetometer and ground penetrating radar - the latter technology being successfully used at Volterra as well. The Ludvig Noltzmann web site gives an abridged description how the project was run over five years. However, the catch is that these are interpretations. The validation and verification – crucially with dating - comes only with excavation. In any case, awesome results.

  • Garrow, D. 2006. Pits, settlement and deposition during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age in East Anglia (British Archaeological Reports British Series 414). Oxford: John & Erica Hedges.
  • Keay, S., Millett, M., Poppy, S., Robinson, J., Taylor, J. and Terrenato, N. 2000. Falerii Novi: a New Survey of the Walled Area. Papers of the British School at Rome 68: 1–93.
  • Keay, S., Millett, M., Paroli, L. and Strutt, K., eds. 2005. Portus: an archaeological survey of the port of imperial Rome (Archaeological monographs of the British School at Rome 15). London: British School at Rome.