Yes, I’m going to be a Man at Work! That’s why there haven’t been many posts recently as I’ve been planning a trip to Australia. Well it isn’t a trip, I’ve been invited to work on a town bypass scheme digging Aboriginal sites, this is all I really know at present,
“Town bypasses will be constructed around the towns of Tarcutta and Woomargama in regional NSW. Each bypass will travel through greenfield areas, crossing prominent hills, creeks and significant stretches of land. Over 50 Aboriginal archaeological sites have been identified within the proposed route of the various bypasses. Some of these sites are very significant ceremonial places, gender specific locations (e.g. women’s sites, initiation sites) or representative examples of the region’s archaeological past yielding thousands of artefacts.”
Sounds interesting, it’s a bypass near the towns of Wagga Wagga and Albury Wodonga and I’ll be working with Aboriginal archaeologists as well. So I might give a digger’s eye view of digging in Oz as well as the usual fascinating news that normally populate the pages of A Place Odyssey, you lucky people!
Posted in archaeology, Diary | Tagged Australia, Crocodile Dundee, digging, Wagga Wagga | 2 Comments »
The Los Angeles Times recently had an online article showing two photos of the same place in downtown LA 50 years apart. At first it’s hard to convince oneself they are the same scene, ironically the only parts which seem the same are roads – which are in constant motion! It is amazing that in quite a relatively short space of time such changes can occur, and this isn’t on the edges of a city in the process of being built.
It makes me think of what Levi-Strauss said of cities in the New World,
The cities of the New World have one characteristic in common: that they pass from first youth to decrepitude with no intermediary stage. One of my Brazilian girl-students returned in tears from her first visit to France: whiteness and cleanness were the criteria by which she judged a city, and Paris, with its blackened buildings, had seemed to her filthy and repugnant. But American cities never offer that holiday-state, outside of time, to which great monuments can transport us; nor do they transcend the primary urban function and become objects of contemplation and reflection. What struck me about New York, or Chicago, or their southerly counterpart Sao Paulo, was not the absence of ‘ancient remains’; this is, on the contrary, a positive element in their significance. So far from joining those European tourists who go into sulks because they cannot add another thirteenth-century cathedral to their collection, I am delighted to adapt myself to a system that has no backward dimension in time; and I enjoy having a different form of civilization to interpret. If I err, it is in the opposite sense: as these are new cities, and cities whose newness is their whole being and their justification, I find it difficult to forgive them for not staying new for ever. The older a European city is, the more highly we regard it; in America, every year brings with it an element of disgrace. For they are not merely ‘newly built’; they are built for renewal, and the sooner the better. When a new quarter is run up it doesn’t look like a city, as we understand the word; it’s too brilliant, too new, too high-spirited. It reminds us more of our fairgrounds and temporary international exhibitions. But these are buildings that stay up long after our exhibitions would have closed, and they don’t last well: facades begin to peel off, rain and soot leave their marks, the style goes out of fashion, and the original lay-out is undermined when someone loses patience and tears down the building next door. It is not a case of new dries contrasted with old, but rather of cities whose cycle of evolution is very rapid as against others whose cycle of evolution is slow. Certain European cities are dying off slowly and peacefully; the cities of the New World have a perpetual high temperature, a chronic illness which prevents them, for all their everlasting youthfulness, from ever being entirely well.
What astonished me in Sao Paulo in 1935, and in New York and Chicago in 1941, was not their newness, but the rapidity with which time’s ravages had set in. I knew that these cities had started ten centuries behind our own, but I had not realized, somehow, that large areas in them were already fifty years old and were not ashamed to let it be seen. For their only ornament was their youth, and youth is as fugitive for a city as for the people who live in it. Old ironwork, trams red as fire-engines, mahogany bars with balustrades of polished brass; brickyards in deserted alleys where the wind was the only street-cleaner; countrified parish churches next door to office buildings and stock exchanges built in the likeness of cathedrals; apartment-houses green with age that overhung canyons criss-crossed with fire-escapes, swing-bridges, and the like; a city that pushed continually upwards as new buildings were built on the ruins of their predecessors: such was Chicago, image of the Americas, and it isn’t surprising that the New World should cherish in Chicago the memory of the 188os, for this modest perspective, less than a century in extent, is all that antiquity can mean in those parts. To our millenary cities it would hardly serve even as a unit of judgement, but in Chicago, where people do not think in terms of time, it already offers scope for nostalgia.
Taken from Triste Tropiques (emphasis added) 1961. Available at http://www.archive.org/stream/tristestropiques000177mbp/tristestropiques000177mbp_djvu.txt
Posted in Landscape in news, Musings on Landscape/s | Tagged change, Levi-Strauss, Los Angeles, photography, urban | 1 Comment »
In 2003 the the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian in Oxford, Cambridge University library and Trinity College Dublin were given powers under an act of Parliament to make a copy of every free website based in the UK as part of their efforts to record Britain’s cultural, scientific and political history, in much the same way a copy of every book published in the UK has to be deposited in one of the above libraries. However these powers have not been implemented, the Guardian reports. This is known as an e-legal deposit and is necessary to circumvent copyright laws which would normally stop the copying of such websites such as online newspapers.
However, now Margaret Hodge is pushing for the implementation of these powers to stop the losing of data and historical sources from the internet. This is unlikely to happen before the next election due to legal and technical issues, and after yesterday I’m sure Mr Brown has other concerns! This sort of loss of digital history was made clear last year when the old GeoCities free web hosting service was shut down in October meaning one of the first generation of home-made websites has been wiped.
Now, while this news doesn’t have the most direct link to a blog ostensibly about landscape archaeology it does lead rather nicely to this news piece from those bastions of mis-information, The Onion -
While this is rather amusing I think in the future past websites will be used for researching history (and archaeology?), well all the landscapers of the future have to do is read A Place Odyssey!
Posted in Landscape in news | Tagged British Museum, comedy, heritage, The Onion, websites | Leave a Comment »
Well, Google have been busy recently. I noticed Martin, from Liverpool Landscapes, had found Google has added Stonehenge to it’s Streetview, here at least there probably won’t be any complaints form locals about privacy, although there’s a policeman somewhere near the entrance to the tunnel who you can’t quite see. There is similiar way of experiencing Stonehenge if you use Microsoft’s Photosynth which I prefer; you can move around more freely and even go along and take your own photos and upload them.
Both of these types of visualising landscapes are surely a step in the right direction but both of them create a rather disjointed experience. I have been to Stonehenge and thus use these websites more to jog my memory and enhance it’s visual aspect over the purely mental or emotional but I’m not sure how cohesive a sensation it would be for someone not to have previously visited the stones. Luckily Google have added the ruins of Pompeii to Streetview as well. And yes, it is a little disorientating (I haven’t been to Pompeii), especially with the blurriness as the image pans along. The mini map in the corner helps, although I found it hard to actually find the ruins in the first place (try searching for “pompeii, italy ruins”). However, my feeble criticisms aside, these are great tools.
Google in Iraq
Google have also been busy in Iraq, they will soon begin digitising artefacts and documents from Iraq’s National Museum. 14,000 digital images will be available next year for free to view, however it isn’t made clear what further uses the images could be used for. It’d be great if rather than just taking traditional photos they could use some Photosynth-like method so you could ‘move’ round the artefact and see it from all directions. We’ll see.
France in Iraq
I also read an article last week about France’s involvement in Iraq. I have only found other references to this in online Chinese newspapers which seems odd. The news is that French and Iraqi ministers have signed two cooperation agreements on defense, culture and science which is good, but the last paragraph mentions archaeology directly,
“According to French analysts, France needs an aiding center in Iraq to help French entrepreneurs who are interested in making investment in Iraq, as well as provide supports to French research in agriculture and archaeology in the country.”
I don’t often see archaeology gaining such a profile but maybe Sarkozy is getting the bug, I hear he recently visited the excavation of an Australian and British First World War group burial site at Pheasant Wood, Fromelles, northern France, although I’m sure this was a matter of politics rather than pure interest.
Update: I have been informed by who I presume to be the Fromelles Project Manager that President Sarkozy hasn’t visited Pheasent Wood. I’ll have a word with my supposed sources!
Posted in Landscape in news, Reviews | Tagged France, Google, Iraq, Photosynth, Pompeii, Streetview | 2 Comments »
Ventures and Adventures in Topography
I recently had a look what was going on at Resonance FM which I haven’t done for a while. I found a series of programs by John Rogers and Nick Papadimitriou, Ventures and Adventures in Topography. Nick is better known as one of Will Self’s friends from his psychogeographic meanderings. Here they follow the walking guides from the early 20th century based around London and the South East.
In the most recent program they follow Pathfinder’s ‘Afoot Round London’ (published in 1911), and a days walk from Grange Hill Station to Loughton. They’re basically there to see what has changed from the days of the mysterious Pathfinder to today, the results are not wholly unexpected, the tracks are now roads and busier with cars. However, it’s a nice idea and attempting to follow an old walking guide seems a more useful and objective mission than some of the more usual psychogeographic accounts. It also makes me wonder about the similarity to these methodologies and their relationship to phenomenological accounts in mainstream archaeological literature.
The radio program is quite light and enjoyable, there are some readings from the original Pathfinder text, which is almost poetry and the music behind by Fabrizio Paterlini is very nice.
Voice On Record
Also on Resonance FM is episode 9: Dialects: From The Dawn of The English Language of Voice on Record. A series taking old vinyl recordings of the human voice and the environment, they’re just rather quaint to listen to. In this episode there’s a modern and original recitation of some Chaucer, and a nice old man recalling his days as a wheelwright and another chap’s earlier days as a lad drinking cider on the farm and hiding the smell from his mother by chewing parsley on the way home!
Harvest (2009) for terrafon, traditional music ensemble and cropland
Finally I found this recording and video by Swedish composer Olle Cornéer. He has built a large gramophone horn attached to an old plough, the ‘terrafon’ which is then pulled along through a field by the members of a ‘traditional music ensemble’. The sound of the plough is thus amplified as the plough cuts the land, giving an auditory aspect to the texture of the field, it seems quite bonkers but it would perhaps have pleased John Evans (2003).
Evans, J.G. 2003. Environmental Archaeology and the Social Order. London: Routledge.
Posted in Musings on Landscape/s, Reviews | Tagged ethnohistory, field recordings, radio, walking | Leave a Comment »
Tottiford Reservoir, north east Dartmoor has recently been drained by South West Water to show a previously unknown ceremonial complex. A local man noticed two stone rows and some cairns and informed the National Park Authority who then surveyed the area and confirmed there was a standing stone, a double stone row, a single stone row a series of cairns, a stone circle 22m wide and many flint tools.
Great stuff, there has been some geophysics done in the area before the reservoir is filled up, although there are no plans of the site on the Park website. The site being in a reservoir would seem odd as I thought most of these types of sites had at least one larger vista. It seems amazing though that there are no antiquarian accounts of this complex, what I’d like now is for Chris Tilley to put on a deep sea diving suit and give us a phenomenlological account of strolling about the area!
This area has until now had a relative lack of such sites which means it will be even more interesting to see the results of the survey and how it complements the previously known prehistoric archaeological features on Dartmoor, which is well known for the clarity of it’s relict landscape.
Posted in Landscape in news | Tagged Dartmoor, monument, prehistory | Leave a Comment »
Yesterday I visited the newly expanded Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford. It has had over £61 million pounds spent on it using a new design strategy referred to as ‘Crossing Cultures Crossing Time’ which
‘is an approach based on the idea that civilisations that have shaped our modern societies developed as part of an interrelated world culture, rather than in isolation. It assumes, too, that every object has a story to tell, but these stories can best be uncovered by making appropriate comparisons and connections, tracing the journey of ideas and influences through the centuries and across continents.’
This seems like a reasonable premise for the design of museum showing many cultural objects from across space and through time, obviously Rick Mather has been reading his Deleuze and Guattari and rather liked their rhizome. However, in practice rather than showing the interconnectedness of the material culture of the world it creates a rambling journey of disjointed assemblages, one can easily become disorientated. Some parts of the Museum themselves, whilst having great collections of ‘stuff’, are more like alleyways than exhibition spaces and act to channel people along rather than letting you stop and look at the artefacts, we decided it was an experience not unlike visiting an Ikea store. But at least Ikea looks like a finished product, almost every room in the Ashmolean had a display which either was empty, had an object still sitting in it’s polystyrene packing, or having no information panel, granted it hasn’t had it’s official opening yet but this makes it look scrappy and uncared for. There are also strange design features, windows that disappear round corners, small openings one could almost squeeze through and open doorways that lead to small empty rooms.
However the actual things in the Museum are great, and many and the new extension has enabled more of the permanent collection to be on show which can only be a good thing. It’s just a shame the museum isn’t easier to navigate, maybe if I’d planned the route beforehand and maybe followed it via OpenStreetMap on my phone things would have been clearer but there wasn’t a signal in there and I don’t like to have to make a plan of attack in a museum, which maybe a fault of my own but I’m probably not alone.
Posted in archaeology, Diary | Tagged Ashmolean, museum | 4 Comments »