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.


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.

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.


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.


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.



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/

four stone hearth

Hello everyone! It’s A Place Odyssey‘s turn to host the biweekly blog carnival Four Stone Hearth! I’m very excited and have rumaged up a couple of new blogs from friends I’ve met as a site assistant (digger) round Britain, I hope you find them interesting.

Let’s kick off then…

Liverpool Landscapes – Exclusivity: which parts of the city are Yours?

Since A Place Odyssey is primarily about landscape archaeology I thought I’d start off with a post reflecting this. A friend of mine who works for English Heritage is intersted in the Liverpool’s past.  Martin talks about exclusivity of place and uses example from his own history of Liverpool and the different areas he knows and likes. I quite agree with him, not about Liverpool – only been there once, but places are imbued with distinct characters derived from many avenues. Maybe next Martin you could see if this is reflected in the archaeological or if the town planning of Liverpool reflects any specific examples of exclusivity?


Digital Finds – Improved GPS coverage across Europe

Hmm, my mate Joe at Oxford Archaeology is researching how to incorporate digital recording techniques to field archaeology, there’s always a trial round the corner! This sort of thing causes quite a debate between site assistants in Britain, one that won’t be resolved until more of us have had some experience using this sort of technology. Here Joe discusses the new and improved EGNOS GPS coverage across Europe. Joe once undertook an experiment mapping peoples walk across a city with GPS, then asking questions about what landmarks they noticed in particular. It was quite interesting, I wonder if a certain Prof. Tilley ever got to hear about it? Maybe Joe could do another similar thing with EGNOS system and put the results up.


Community World Heritage – Saving Britain’s Past, Blaenavon, Heritage and Tourism

Cloe’s studying for a PhD whilst working at GGAT in Wales, she must be a busy lass, but find time to knock some interesting insights into how our past is used by modern communities and the ethical dilemmas around them. In this example she’s considering the World Heritage status of Blaenavon, south Wales. I went to Blaenavon on a field trip as an undergraduate a few years ago, it’s quite a well preserved industrial site, made infinitely more interesting by the Time Team sign thats ben stuck up next to the tiny teashop. Personally I think it’s odd, this is one of the oldest iron smelting works in the world and demonstrates the way this area was key to the industrial revolution that changed the world, and it’s got a tiny teashop and a Time Team sign, great. Stonehenge on the other hand, hugh carpark, visitor centre even it’s own tunnel, and they might (one day) move a road so it looks nicer in the landscape. And we don’t even know what Stonehenge is/was, odd. Anyway, go and see what Cloe has to say…


Neuroanthropology – Sympathy for Creationists

Greg at Neuroanthropology is attempting to understand the encultured brain and body in regard to people’s perceptions of creationism, which he equates with the lack of understanding of Star Trek. If he’s talking TNG, DS9 and Enterprise, I’m in, otherwise, oh could have an argument on our hands here! Greg admits he is stirring the pot when arguing that evolutionists have similar tendancies to faith and closemindedness as their more biblically inspired counterparts. I like the approach, at least if you say something slightly outlandish it’ll get people talking, so go and have a gander.


Ad Hominin – The pelvis of Ardipithecus ramidus

Ciaran at Ad Hominin is discussing the pelvis of Ardipithecus ramidus a 4.4 million year old hominin. I hope that is the correct terminology for these early people, I must admit this sort of thing is not my speciality. However it’s interesting stuff, the change in pelvis, argues Ciaran, denotes a move from the tree dwellers found in our long history to going for more of a stroll on the ground. I wonder how this would have affected the ways in which people interacted and their relationship with the environment?


The Spittoon – Life on the Fringe: Shrews and Voles Reveal Clues to British Prehistory

Anne at The Spittoon is discussing the evidence that later prehistoric movements of people into the British Isles is shadowed by the movement of shrews and voles! It doesn’t mention whether they were being kept as pets, I can imagine some Bronze Age chief developing iron as it would make a better collar for his favourite rodent! Hmm, anyway, yeah it’s interesting stuff, I don’t think it’s the end of the story though. Who were the Celts anyway? I think using such loaded terms might be slightly confusing these days with talk of transitions, migrations and/or enculturation but maybe I’m just being argumentative like Greg!


Aardvarchaeology – Marzipan Gold Hoard

Martin the sceptic, Swedish archaeologist and creator of Four Stone Hearth has been inspired by the goings on at Staffordshire. Both myself and Joe at Digital Finds have mentioned the gold hoard found in the Midlands of the UK, whilst Aardvarchaeology I think must have been feeling a bit peckish. Here Martin has a couple of photos of a gold hoard made from marzipan. I haven’t had marzipan since I was a child but remember not liking it too much, however if it looked this good I might give it a bit of a taste!


The Primate Diaries – Anthropology Human Freedom

Over at the Primate Diaries Eric is considering the anthropological attitude to capitalism, the free market and whether there is a total, timeless social economic system that is right. I think we would all agree that these things are culturally determined, but judging which are better or worse moves us towards an absolutionist position which maybe hard to justify. Go and have a look, there’s already a rather impassioned comment to get things started!


A Place Odyssey – Archaeologists for Global Justice

Archaeologists for Global Justice

And so we turn to my own blog. I just handed in my MA dissertation yesterday and so was a litle worse for wear today. I was looking into how late medieval people picked certain localities for the placings of their upland, possibly seasonal, dwellings in North Wales. It’s quite interesting and I’ll put something up soon but wanted to use this opportunity to give some time to Archaeologists for Global Justice.

Archaeologists for Global Justice arose as a response to the widespread and ever increasing injustice affecting our world. It was conceived and put into motion by archaeologists at the University of Sheffield (UK), and inspired by the actions of Archaeologists Against the War in opposing British involvement in the Iraq conflict. The idea of forming AGJ was initially voiced to a wider audience during a session entitled `An eternal conflict? Archaeology and social responsibility in the post-Iraq world´, convened at the conference of the Theoretical Archaeological Group (TAG), held in Sheffield in December 2005. The group is a culmination of numerous discussions and interactions, and represents a desire to give voice to our opposition to injustice.

There is a Facebook group and a mailing list hosted by The Unversity of Sheffield, but available for anyone to sign up to. Both of these sites have more information, principles and a manifesto, go and have a look, better still sign up. It would be especially good if more people involved in commercial archaeology got involved to discuss certain issues. One that I think of immediately is that we ‘will not collaborate with development plans which are not based upon principles of sustainability’. A tricky point for diggers working on a Barrett’s housing development indeed. There are pehaps no clear answers but AGJ is good place to start.



So there we are, quite a crop of good stuff. I’m sure some will be more interesting to more or less people. I’m opening up contributor positions to A Place Odyssey to the latest students on the Landscape Archaeology MA at Sheffield University tomorrow, we’ll see if they bring any exciting things here. I’d like to thank Martin Rundkvist for letting me host this fortnight’s Four Stone Hearth and hope you have seen something you like. The next Four Stone Hearth host blog is vacant at the moment so why not email Martin at martin.rundkvist@gmail.com and have a go yourselves. Thanks, Pete


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