EUROTAST: A few photos from Ghana

A few photos from around Ghana: Elmina castle and Accra. Check out the rest of the set on Flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/colleenmorgan/sets/72157643627864965/

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Digital Ghosts

(a placeholder post, of sorts)

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As digital archaeological workflows become common and increasingly regimented, we must ensure that there is time and space for the playful, creative exploration of the past. In this talk I will (briefly!) discuss the pushing the aesthetics and poetics of digital archaeology through collaborative research projects that emphasize lateral thinking, experimentation and making.

“Wonderful! Wonderful! This death!”

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The Ouse, the river I cross each day as I walk to work, has become sinister. It is impossible not to notice the flat, burbling brown ribbon threading through the center of York. It chokes our traffic over tight bridges and belches over the banks in bad weather. Since I first posted about it, the Ouse has claimed the lives of two young adults, who fell into the river during drunken nights out. I suppose it isn’t all that uncommon, cities with rivers have drowning fatalities, so I’m not sure why these deaths have animated this particular river with menace for me. As apparent from the marble plaque above (located in the Minster), people have been dying in the Ouse for a long time.

I had a startled moment today when I realized that Virginia Woolf committed suicide in the Ouse on this day, the 28th of March…but a different Ouse entirely, down in Sussex. Her suicide note is sweet, deeply sad, and I wished that my stepfather had left something similar. He too committed suicide, last November, up Poudre Canyon in Colorado. The nearest mile marker on the highway was noted on his death certificate–when I came back to England after the funeral I spent a little while looking for the spot on Google Street View, until I realized that I should stop. Godspeed.

The quote in the title is from William Etty, a famous English painter who died watching the sun setting over the River Ouse, his last words: “Wonderful! Wonderful! This death!” I found Etty while I was looking for background for a fantastic project we are starting at York. But it’s all tumbled together in my head now–poetry, death, madness, digital ghosts, cemeteries–all roiling and frothy in the brown waters of a river that never really was all that innocent. The Ouse. The Oooze.

It’s wonderful, it’s wonderful, I dream of you….

New Words Needed for Emerging Social Behaviors

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Automatic? by Gregory P. Smith

That long pause when you expect automation and then realize that you have to manually work the faucet or hand dryer.

When people are clustered together looking at a computer screen and the person at the keyboard has to type a password and everyone looks away to give the person “privacy.”

Asking permission to smoke an e-cigarette inside.

Ambiguity not conveyed by the range within “like.”

Alidades & Archaeology: “It’s the Bloody Steampunks!”

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The Grand Canyon survey of 1902.

I have the great fortune to be next to the room with all of the departmental field kit. This office (apparently once the kitchens of King’s Manor) also hold our lovely tech specialists, and I was chatting with them while admiring the lovely wooden tripod we have in the department.

The esteemed Dr. James Flexner taught me how to use an alidade in the field, and is the author of a great article on Reflexive Map-Making in Archaeological Research. Each survey method requires a slightly different approach to measuring the landscape, whether you are hitting a button on a GPS every once in a while or getting sunburned while squinting down an antique.

Anyway, I’d love to try my hand at the alidade & plane table once again, but I’ve been informed that the prices of them are now astronomical. This has been attributed to fans of the steampunk aesthetic, who are buying old scientific instruments and putting them in their drawing rooms and dismantling them to make costumes. Funny ol’ world.

“Steampunk Girl” by HyperXP.

CFPo: THEN DIG – The Senses and Aesthetics of Archaeological Science

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I’m very excited to be co-editing a new issue of THEN DIG – the Open Access, Open Peer Review archaeology blog with Dr. Andrew Roddick. Here is an excerpt from the Call for Posts:

In this issue of Then Dig we explore encounters with the past in the context of archaeological science. From the abstract expressionist appreciation of ceramic thin sections, to the treasure hunt for phytoliths under a microscope, to the severe precautionary costumes of the Clean Room, we investigate the aesthetic, the multisensorial, and the profound in archaeological science.

After a small hiatus, the blog/journal has been thriving. I’ll be posting the last submission associated with the Zeitgeist theme very soon, and there’s a great line-up that Dr. James Flexner has put together from a conference on Oceania that will also be going up shortly.

I’ve also very much enjoyed the Open Peer Review style. It is non-confrontational, productive, and synergetic. In the very small world of archaeological publishing, most of the authors cannot be anonymous anyway, and the cloak of reviewer anonymity invites a level of nastiness that is counterproductive. I’ve joined John Hawkes in signing all of my reviews anyway. I should probably send samples of my hair as well, so the authors can make a proper doll to stick with pins.

Anyway, consider submitting to the issue! It should be a good one.

Here’s to experimental publication types in archaeology!

Trespassing…for Science

This is of a site in Dorchester by Wessex Archaeology. I'm sure it was legitimately taken and is only used as a demonstration of the technique!

This is of a site in Dorchester by Wessex Archaeology. I’m sure it was legitimately taken and is only used as a demonstration of the technique!

Sometimes you need the shot.

The ladder isn’t high enough, and climbing up on the crane is out of the question. But you need an aerial photo of the site you are working on. So…it’s up to the rooftops!

This is a uniquely urban solution, as I realize that many sites are out in underpopulated landscapes. Sadly, most buildings are closed off to the public, even more so if you have a camera. Ideally you would build a relationship with the surrounding neighborhood, but it can be hard to get in touch with official property owners and such. Asking permission takes time and often comes back with a negative result.

Caveat: I officially do not condone any of the following actions and if you are foolish (or bold) enough to try them, don’t blame me. Also, privilege can be in play with any kind of social hacking.

Key points in gaining access:

* Look like you belong there. This can be difficult in work-a-day archaeology rags, but your high-viz vest, hard hat and a clipboard can go far. Wear this combination and you magically become invisible.

* Enter and walk with purpose. This is part of looking like you belong–you have an aim: get to the highest point you can over your site and try to ignore anything in your way.

* Don’t show off your camera. If you can, conceal it until you get in place. Photographers are not welcome on private property.

* If you do get stopped, be nice. Ask for directions to the bathroom. If the person is still waiting for you when you get out of the bathroom, tell them you are an archaeologist working next door and you’d like to see the site from above, can they help you? Don’t mention taking photos. If they tell you no, then take off.

* Keep an eye out for doors that automatically lock. Not so great to get caught out on a roof.

So, in summary: Don’t break anything! Don’t steal anything! Take your photo and go. More tips can be had from the fine folks interested in Urban Exploration.