The archaeologist Robert M Chapple has recently done something a bit special to celebrate his 100th post over at his blog. In a thoughtful and entertaining entry Robert discusses the writing and thinking space of the humble desk, that much maligned friend of the archaeologist. Indeed when a person thinks of an archaeologist the first thing that pops into a person’s head is the excitement of fieldwork in far-flung countries, a trowel perhaps, maybe some bones or Indiana Jones cracking his whip. It is rarely the vital tool that is the desk, a space in which to hunker down, study site reports, books and process the archaeological record properly over a hot cup of tea, that pops into the minds of people asked to think about archaeology.
Yet the desk is where the action happens! This is where the hard work of the amalgamation of knowledge happens, where the fieldwork is fleshed with the existing archive and the site is put within a larger context. Interpretations are made and broken on the humble desk. So Robert, recognising this vital space of thought and action, also saw it as a deeply personal space for the individual. As such he asked a wide variety of his archaeological friends to send their own photographs of their desks for his 100th blog entry. And it is a lovely entry, displaying both academic desks and personal spaces. I was also asked to join in and you can see my little bedside table from which I am writing this now! Although my work area is pretty bare compared to the desks (and fantastic 2 or 3 screen adapted computers) on show here, I got a serious longing for the university library where I carried out the majority of my dissertation research.
In other news I have produced a small article for the Teesside Archaeology Society TEESCAPES magazine. I was kindly asked to write for them by my good friend Spencer Carter, who is the edited of the magazine and a specialist in studying and understanding the context of prehistoric microlithics. Spencer is currently researching the Mesolithic period of northern England and his fantastic Microburin site, which documents his research and outreach work, can be found here. My article, which was published in the 2014 Spring Edition of TEESSCAPES, focuses on the amazing palaeoanthropological highlights of 2013 and specifically mentions the Georgian site of the Homo erectus finds at Dmanisi (1), the Spanish site of Sima de la Huesos, and the Rising Star South African project. It is an informal look back on year of research and excavations that bought much to the table in terms of our of knowledge of understanding human evolution. (I may also have sneaked in an Alan Partridge joke).
I’ve tried to frame the article within a basic introduction to palaeoanthropology, some of the major new techniques being used in the study of past populations and some of the problems in trying to understand the fossil record and of human evolution in general. It is a short article but I have to say I am very impressed by the presentation of the article, so a big thank you Spence! I hope to start producing articles for TAS as and when I can, but this aside I would urge any reader to check it out and to check out any local archaeology societies or companies near to you. They really are a wealth of original research and really help you get to grips with what is going on in your region and further abroad. My own article also includes a cheeky photography of me in a lab coat which is sadly, at the moment, a rare occasion. If you are an archaeologist, a student archaeologist or someone who just manages to engage in their passion between sleep and work then I heartily recommend jumping in and writing for your local society!
(1). The article is a review of the amazing palaeoanthropological finds and research of 2013 and as such is likely to become out of touch with the passing of years, as new research highlights new evidence or different perspectives are investigated, hypothesized and studied in-depth. A good example of this is the fairly recent claim that the Dmanisi individuals, discussed in my article, could possibly (but unlikely) represent different lineages of hominin species (check out Jamie Kendrick’s site The Human Story for more information on this issue and for in-depth entries on human evolution in general).