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Google Streetview

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!

Field recordings

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.

http://venturesintopography.wordpress.com/

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!

http://podcasts.resonancefm.com/archives/2787

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).

http://www.ollecorneer.com/art/harvest/

Evans, J.G. 2003. Environmental Archaeology and the Social Order. London: Routledge.

Dartmoor’s new past

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.

http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/au_totarchpr1109

Ashmolean Redeveloped

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.

November

cartoon-house
Well, I got a merit for my MA, I may have mentioned I was writing a dissertation…less than I wanted probably what I deserved, I think the other Pete did similarly well. I am now working in Gloucestershire, Roman burials. Most of them of them are done, maybe a couple left, which would be nice.

Anyhow, I had applied for a few other jobs before starting this one, which amazingly is only 10 minutes drive from where I’m staying. I applied for TVAS, PCA and recently Wessex, all of which were not offering accomodation with the jobs, even Wessex in which I know both their offices are over an hour away. I don’t think this is a good way to go for diggers in commercial archaeology. I suppose they can get away with it due to the lack of demand for us at the moment, but it’s not a good move. Anyone got any comments about this?

So the site of the Battle of Bosworth has moved. What does this mean? My immediate reaction was ‘not that much’, which I put down to my not overwhelming interest in the period or battlefield archaeology, plus the fact that the ‘new’ field is only 2 miles to the south west. Where a place of mass violence took place is, within reason, considered less important than what took place there; Richard III still died and this led to the rise of the Tudor dynasty. However there have been artefacts found on the new site including 22 lead roundshot and larger munitions which are among the earliest examples of their kind. This will add greatly to our understanding of late medieval warfare, apparently.

 

I recently completed my Masters degree and get my results tomorrow, exciting indeed. However since I left, ‘our building’ has been refurbished which included moving the Landscape Lab where my coursemates and I spent much of our time. What interests me though, is that the Landscape Lab still exists, with the same equipment, resources and lecturers in the same building but in a different place. The new students may indeed be unaware of the recent changes in the internal architecture of West Court. What does this mean to the sense of place of the Landscape Lab? The same things will occur in there; lectures, seminars, cake, and Bob and Colin will act in the same positions, as teachers. The only real difference is the relative place of the Landscape Lab. Previously it was at the end of corridor, past Colin’s and opposite Bob’s offices; it is now at the other end of the building on more of a thoroughfare. Practically this changes the proximity of Bob’s and Colin’s offices and stops the fire door from being opened to cool the room. Socially this means it’s less easy to engage Bob and/or Colin and loiter for help, it also means we can’t sneak outside for biscuits.

 

How this change of relative placing of the Landscape Lab will affect the next year’s Landscapees is unknown, if they have any insights already it’d be good to hear them. Otherwise I’ve just been informed Levi-Strauss has died so better get something down about the opposition between Landscape Labs and Battlefields.

Winstanley

winstanley

I recently watched the 1975 film ‘Winstanley’, the leader of the ‘True Levellers’ or ‘The Diggers’ who took over common land during the reign of Oliver Cromwell to grow crops on. The film was historically accurate in regard to it’s aesthetics, indeed only animal breeds known to exist at the time were used to add to the realism. To be honest it is rather slow and without any surprises but was interesting to watch.

For a film made primarily in the countryside there was a distinct lack of traditional landscape shots which would seem strange for an English film representing a piece of English history. The only landscape scene is of a rather uninspiring vista showing a path to the taken over common land which is generally used by the antagonists of the plot. Most of the film is of a repeating sequence of taskscapes, the most prominent being that of the makeshift village of the Diggers; the houses reminded me of the Welsh hafodydd described by Girald Cambrensis as being ‘made of twisted boughs fit for habitation for just a year’. This village was not used for long but represented a locality in space and English history which is still known today, but I wonder how easy it would be to recognise this settlement in the archaeological record?

So the Diggers took over the common land to grow crops communally. They failed. However over the last few years there has been a growing interest in growing one’s own food. I remember, as a lad, allotments being regarded as rather antiquated and being only fit for old men as as an escape from their wives. However if one searches for “allotment chic” via Google you receive (if that’s what you get from Google search?) 171 results. If you remove the quotation marks this jumps to 34,100 pages, with quotes like ‘[a]llotments are terribly chic now’ (www1), or ‘allotments are becoming hip’ (www2). I think this is great and I did myself start a collaborative allotment in Cardiff a few years ago, I wonder what happened to it? Anyway, allotments are gaining in popularity, and now, possibly one of the reasons for this, a Mr Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has started up a project, Landshare. Here people who want some land, as allotments are now in short supply, can find others with spare land so they can use it for horti/agricultural purposes. In my area there are 34 Landowners and 89 Growers, not bad. But wait, this craze for growing on other peoples land goes further, look to Todmorden, Lancashire for instance where we have the Incredible Edible Todmorden project. Local people have been growing vegetables on sites around Todmorden for a about a year and herbs for longer. They have generally had permission but in not all cases. However the council have been helpful in letting them use the fire and railway stations, the Lidl car park is now under vegetable attack and planning consents have been changed to make similar approaches easier. This is great, people are encouraged to pick some herbs while waiting for the 11.29 to Burnley!

I reiterate, this is great! People are following in Gerrard Winstanley’s footsteps but under a modern rubric of sustainability, minimising carbon footprints and reconnecting with the seasons all with their own work. It also makes me think about dominant frameworks of tenure and how the localised uses of land in Todmorden could be understood both economically and socially, but that’s for later. For now, get digging!

www1 Allotment wars flare up as gardening gets competitive. Found on

http://property.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/property/gardens/article5968124.ece accessed 13.10.09 originally in The Times 29.03.09.

www2 Chic Sheds and Short Cuts: Allotments are becoming hip – and this is bad news. Found on http://www.paulkingsnorth.net/plot6.html 13.10.09 originally in The Economist July/August 2006.

Landshare http://landshare.channel4.com/

Incredible Edible Todmorden http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk/

Winstanley at IMDb http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073911/