Archive for the ‘ archaeology ’ Category

Making up Pyramids.

Enigmatic things are pyramids – capturing the imagination and the tourist pound, if there is a chance of making an argument for having a pyramid on your doorstep, few would skip out on the chance to tell that story. Few examples illustrate this better than the pyramids of Güímar. Found in Tenerife, this heavily invested archaeological site invites visitors to surrender a hefty sum of money at the door, in order to explore this, no doubt interesting, ‘pyramid complex’.

If you are in no mood to start scratching at the surface of this site, you would be forgiven for accepting that these are indeed evidence of a complex society, developing pyramidal structures, aligned perfectly for solstice based events – for who knows what form of mystical rituals or ceremonies. Of course, that is only half of the story.

The site does recognise in it’s interpretation that there is an alternative narrative to be had here. While one argument is presented that makes the case for this being a prehistoric site of world significance, the other story is one of 19th century farming structures, the likes of which you can see scattered all over the country. Both can be found in the on site literature, however, in terms of the spin, there is little doubt as to where this ‘museum’ has invested its interests.

For the museum/business at Güímar, this is almost certainly a site of prehistoric importance. They recognise of course that there is no evidence to support such a theory, apart from wild comparative inferences that requires no physical archaeological data to support the argument, yet there is no institutional reservation about spinning the story.

Visit this site, and you will enjoy some fine scenery, and some impressively well preserved, though abandoned, 19th century farmsteads. You will most certainly not find yourself in the middle of a complex prehistoric spiritual landscape. But take the on site interpretation on face value alone, and you would be forgiven for coming away thinking just that.

A site to be treated with extreme caution.

 

Nature Tombs: Photo Blog

Following on from images of Coity Castle, in a churchyard hidden behind that same castle, were some amazing nature reclamations of many burial monuments. Here are just a selection of some of the nature tombs to be found.

Some examples saw nature taking the shape of certain monuments.

In other instances, form is lost as nature expands above and beyond the original construction.

While it is always a shame to see such monuments forgotten and left to decay, there remains something quite impressive about these images, as nature takes back body and monument together.

Sex, Stratigraphy and Stripy Jumpers.

So an era ends for archaeology on television, and with it comes the demise of the much loved stripy jumpers made famous by Mick Aston. Yes, the bearded master of television archaeology is leaving Time Team, to be replaced by the breasts, errr, sorry, I meant to say ‘talents’ of Mary-Ann Ochota. With an impressive publishing track record comprising of opinion pieces on websites and exciting comments on reality TV shows, Ochota really brings a level of chest, errr, sorry again, extensive archaeological experience to, what was it again, ah yes, a show about field archaeology.

Now, it is worth stressing that Time Team has long had an issue with gender representation during its productions, with the female archaeology profession often being left as backdrop figures, there but not really there, doing something, but never anything terribly important. So perhaps it should be celebrated that we now have an exciting female presence at the heart of the programme. Except of course Channel 4 have gone down their now traditional route of ‘breasts makes best’, relying on the arbitrary notion of the ‘attractive’ ahead of any recognised credentials. British archaeology is jam packed with world leading female archaeologists with competent track records of to-camera work on television (and radio). Why then did a programme about field archaeology bring in someone with a highly limited background in field archaeology, to front a programme about field archaeology?

It goes much further than that, because in one fell swoop, Channel 4 are able to address both the gender imbalance of Time Team, and the ethnic imbalance present in Time Team’s ‘white apart from Raksha Dave’ team. All good things on paper perhaps, but one can’t help but be concerned with the way in which they have gone about it. Indeed, if you wanted to put a female, ethnic voice at the front of the show, backed up with some sense of experience, why not promote Raksha Dave to the front of the show? Well, perhaps Dave didn’t have quite the right shape, I, errr, of course mean, right credentials, to front the programme…

Did Raksha Dave meet all the criteria to present the show? Probably, except for the dress size criteria perhaps...

With a production commitment to reducing the screen time of the more established archaeologists , the real question that needs to be asked, is what is the future of Time Team after the current efforts to ‘sex-up’ the show? Well, the plans are already in place for future series.

Series 21: Time Team Eliminator

Over the space of three months, vote to save your favourite archaeologist from elimination. Who will be left to have the final honour of re-excavating Silbury Hill for no obvious archaeological merit!

Series 22: Time Team Extreme

In an attempt to tap into the underused potential of the briefly lived series ‘Extreme Archaeology’, the Time Team crew are dropped in to undertake rescue archaeology in war zones: who will find the best Babylonian burial site, who will survive, tune in and find out!

Series 23: Time Team Death Match

What do you do with a complete set of freshly excavated Roman military weapons, well put them to good use of course! The Time Team crew is split into regional teams and using their expertise and degraded Roman weapons, must fight for the ultimate prize, survival and a place in series 24!

Okay, so the reservations might be a little extreme, but the motivations behind the re-boot of Time Team are pretty transparent and ultimately disappointing. The supposed stated goals of the changes could have been achieved in a way that did not require the clear dumbing down of televisions only regular platform for British archaeology. We can hope that it works, because the field needs the coverage, but this direction may well do more to kill the show than give it a new lease of life.

Either way, Mick Aston will be missed from television screens, and his jumpers will, quite rightly, pass into legend.

*EyeOnWales would be happy to offer a full retraction should Mary-Ann Ochota present every episode in one of Mick’s jumpers, and never once find herself in need of a long, lopeing, bend forward Charlie Dimmock style to camera pout, if it happens even once, the deal is off!

Images around Flatholm Island: Part 1

This is proving to be an increasingly busy week, so while there are no shortages of political developments in Wales worthy of debate, I’m left with time only to root around the photo albums, and pull out some archive shots of Flatholm, a fascinating Welsh island, and a haven for anyone with archaeological inclincatons for the last 200 years or so. (Part 1 as there are plenty more of these to share some other time.)  

Roman Epic in the making at Caerleon. (Go there now!)

In some respects this is more a promotional piece than anything else, not that the Cardiff University led excavations in Caerleon particularly need any help in this department, but it is worth drawing your attention to the quite stunning work being undertaken in south Wales at the moment, if you are not already aware of it. Quite simply, the Roman remains being unearthed in Caerleon at the moment, have the potential to double the size of the previously understood parameters of Roman Caerleon. What makes this all the more impressive, is that for generations a simple consensus exited for the area currently under investigation, that there shouldn’t really be anything there. Well, there’s a lot.

It might not be the temple complex that got the media all excited last year, but the river side Roman development, which boasts one of the most remarkable tegula built walls seen in the UK (and day by day there is more and more found of it), wharf structures, alongside a host of interconnected constructions, is more than worth the attention that continues to fall on the site. Perhaps the notion of this being an area predominantly given over to trade might be less sexy for the media, but its significance for enhancing, indeed, revolutionising our understanding of Roman Caerleon, cannot be understated.

As far as the general public are concerned, this is certainly something worth seeing. Hundreds of people have visited the site in the past few days, with thousands likely to come to the site over the bank holiday weekend. If you can make it down before the excavation closes at the end of next week, you should really take the opportunity to do so. There is probably no more important archaeological excavation being carried out in Wales at the moment, and the significance of this site is indeed of national importance. If you have the chance to let your eyes see these wonders firsthand, then get down there now. Failing that, you can get an up to date feed on twitter via http://twitter.com/#!/CaerleonDig where some of the best finds from the site can be viewed.

Make no mistake about it, this is of huge importance for Wales, and the more people who come down to the site, the stronger the argument will be for the long term preservation and future study of the area. This should be putting Wales on the map, and you have a chance to see something amazing, while helping preserve this great site for the future of Wales.