Tag Archives: blogging

Teaching Ai Wei Wei & the 9/11 Cheeseboard


This term I’ve been teaching Visual Media & Archaeology, a class conceived by Sara Perry–I’m covering her teaching while she is on research leave in Egypt. It has been tough, as I did not have time to prep the class beforehand and I’ve been writing the lectures from scratch. But it has also been great to revisit a lot of my thesis material though, and gather my thoughts regarding topics such as Art & Archaeology in a more formal way.

I am happy to get back to teaching though, as have been primarily focussed on research for the last several years. The students have been fantastic–very smart, engaged and disturbingly keen.

I’ve enjoyed bringing up all the weird, interesting, fun and downright disturbing things that I have found over the years in visual representations in archaeology and have the students discuss them. Ai Wei Wei and his ill-treatment of Han pottery caused a fairly passionate discussion, particularly when I mentioned that it was worth more (in terms of money) after he broke the vases. I let that debate die down a bit, then (trying my hardest not to cackle or rub my hands together in a sinister way) brought up Maximo Caminero’s subsequent “vandalism” of an Ai Wei Wei exhibition.

During the Museums lecture, I brought this image up in a slide:


Yes, we debated the 9/11 Cheese Board. What is the appropriate commodification of memory? The cries of dismay were fabulous.

So while it has been hard work, I’ve been having a lot of fun. For their final projects, the students have been getting together blog/portfolios featuring their work. Please check them out! They are really chuffed by page clicks and feedback:

How the Past Met the Present: A Story of Augmented Reality and Heritage:

Archaeology TV:

Drawn into the Past:

Art & Religion in Prehistory:

Feeding Venice/Get Sidetracked:

Awesome Archaeology Women:

Plants and Animals “of the Home”:

The Heritage Sight:

Why on Earth Would You Read an Archaeology Blog?


Fleur Schinning (pictured above) is a masters student at Leiden University who is studying archaeology blogs and impact. She has asked several archaeology bloggers to host her questionnaire so she can gain insight in how blogs and social media can improve the accessibility of archaeology.

Has Middle Savagery made a small, crater-like impact into your cranium? Or are archaeology blogs for the birds?

G’on, take a few minutes to fill it out. You even have a chance to win six issues of Archaeology Magazine:



#CritBlogArch Virtual Roundtables


I’m very pleased with the new dedicated issue of Internet Archaeology, Critical Blogging in Archaeology, first conceived at the 2011 Society for American Archaeology sessions in Sacramento. That it has taken so long to publish is entirely on me–working in Qatar and finishing my thesis left me spread a bit thin.

Happily, my postdoc here in the Archaeology Department at the University of York put me in the perfect position to publish the issue in Internet Archaeology, the Open Access journal embedded in the department, edited by the fantastic Judith Winters. Judith put a tremendous amount of effort into producing this issue, and I am deeply grateful for her willingness to be a bit experimental.

We decided to use Open Peer Review, which means that the authors and the reviewers are identified. I’ve found this works really well on Then Dig–peer review becomes less adversarial and more cooperative. Combined with the small group of people doing research on this topic and the complete inability to make these article double-blind, it seemed like a good choice. You can read more about the process in my editorial for the issue.

The other features that we decided to include is the ability to directly comment on the articles and to archive the uses of the #CritBlogArch hashtag on Twitter, to preserve the feedback and conversation surrounding the issue. So far the uptake has been mixed and without clear direction so we decided to create a series of round tables, identifying dates and times to discuss particular articles. The articles are all Open Access, so there should not be any barriers to discussion.

Join us on the following dates and times to discuss these articles on Twitter with the #CritBlogArch hashtag, or leave comments on the articles themselves.

June 16 (16:00 BST)
Mapping the Structure of the Archaeological Web – Shawn Graham
From Blogs to Books: Blogging as Community, Practice and Platform – William Caraher and Andrew Reinhard
Micro-blogging and Online Community – Lorna-Jane Richardson

June 23 (16:00 BST)
Crime, Controversy and the Comments Section: Discussing archaeological looting, trafficking, and the illicit antiquities trade online – Meg Lambert and Donna Yates
Blogging the Field School: Teaching Digital Public Archaeology – Terry P. Brock and Lynne Goldstein
Changing the Way Archaeologists Work: blogging and the development of expertise – Sara Perry

June 30 (16:00 BST)
Online Resistance to Precarious Archaeological Labour – Sam Hardy
Bones, Bodies, and Blogs: Outreach and Engagement in Bioarchaeology – Katy Meyers Emery and Kristina Killgrove
Vlog to Death: Project Eliseg’s Video-Blogging – Joseph Tong, Suzanne Evans, Howard Williams, Nancy Edwards and Gary Robinson

We also encourage responses to Fotis Ifantidis’ photo essay (peer reviewed with other photo essays from Steve Ashby and Jesse Stephen) on Instagram, or Flickr–please drop a comment with a link on Ifantidis’ essay.

How Savage is Your Savagery?

After receiving some rather chilling feedback regarding the name of my blog, you know, Middle Savagery, I took a step back to think about it a little bit more. I thought it was obvious to everyone, that it was reclaiming an arcane, racist category for classifying ancient societies in a reflexive, anthropological way. I shouldn’t have assumed.

While I had been blogging since 2001, I started my archaeology-based blog in 2004, after taking Sam Wilson’s excellent The Archaeology of Complex Societies class, wherein we had to directly address what complexity means. It was one of those game-changing classes for me, a rigorous exploration of archaeological literature on complexity that revealed my own assumptions about social organization a moment before blowing them completely away. In it, we learned about the history of categorizing ancient societies, including Lewis H. Morgan’s system of progression through savagery, barbarism and civilization, with gradations of Upper, Middle and Lower for each category.

So when I heard that the name was not well received, I was taken aback. By now Middle Savagery feels worn-in, well-used, easy–perhaps lacking the sharpness of critique, an archaeological in-joke on a blog that has grown far beyond the original intended audience of friends and the handful of archaeologists communicating online at the time. I thought about transitioning to a new blog, but I’m torn. I might still. Lacking that, I re-wrote my rather glib About page to include the following:

The name of this blog is from Ancient Society written in 1877 by Lewis H. Morgan. In a very racist, colonialist way, he categorized all societies within an arcane hierarchy, ranging from Savagery to Civilization. In a fit of reflexive angst brought on by sharing the last name Morgan, in 2004 I named this blog after one of these categories, “Middle Savagery,” to highlight the ludicrous nature of ranking ancient and modern societies along such lines. It is not meant to perpetuate or codify these categories in any way, but for us to highlight the suspect history of anthropological and archaeological thought.

Even as archaeological blogging has grown vast and somewhat mundane, I hope that I can keep up a little outpost here at Middle Savagery. That, and we’re finally publishing the papers from my 2011 SAA Session on blogging in the excellent, Open Access Internet Archaeology–look for it in the coming months.

Why I Blog

Doug’s Archaeology is running a blog carnival prior to the 2013 SAA  Blogging Archaeology (Again) session, a sort-of follow up to my 2011 session in Sacramento, which remains sadly unpublished.

Like Bill, a fellow archaeology blogging dinosaur, I think I may have answered the question, why I blog, before, and I’m also answering late.

I’ve been blogging archaeology for over a decade now; my first blog was during my first field school in 2001, at the Juliette Street Project in Dallas, Texas. I started it because I wanted to keep my friends back in Austin up to date with what I was doing, but I was too lazy to write individual emails. It was public-but-private, more of an experiential blog as I was learning what archaeology was all about. Happily, the blog is long gone, deleted in a moment of self-consciousness when I got into grad school.

Middle Savagery started as a livejournal in 2006, and it is probably telling that it began with this entry:

Screen shot 2013-12-07 at 4.59.47 PM


Reading through the old entries, I miss how casual it was, how much more akin to Tumblr-style blogging, with fragments of words, stolen poems, photos. My blogging has gotten overly formal, possibly as a result of too much academic writing. It started as love letters to all the people that I moved away from or couldn’t be with, and has ended up as grist for the academic grind.

Why am I still blogging? Indeed. I frequently ran out of words while I was writing my thesis, leaving none to spare for the blog. Still, I keep updating Middle Savagery. It’s mine, my own thing, and in the morass of academic publishing, I have a platform I can experiment with. I can be as dopey and full of purple prose as I want to be, or call out misdeeds, or summarize academic articles. Through some trick of luck, people read my stuff.

Over the years I probably should have been more strategic, made a Facebook fan page for the blog, optimized my titles, tagging and search results–10 Mysterious Archaeological Artifacts That Will Change Your Child’s Diet and Your Husband’s Sex Drive! But no. I’ll keep wittering on, and Middle Savagery will change and grow in a slightly stilted, awkward fashion, just as I do.


Then Dig – Live!

Then Dig is live! Check out the fantastic Distance theme that Alun Salt put together here:

And “like”: the Facebook page for updates:

Sneak Preview – Then Dig

On June 1st, Then Dig, the collaborative archaeology group blog, will debut with its first issue: Distance. I’m getting together my post for Distance, but if you are interested in participating, the Call for Posts is here:


I made a one-sheet for it that we’ll be distributing on the various archaeology mailing lists. So, expect us!