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.

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