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Lose Yourself (In Mud): An Annotated Guide to the Archaeologists Rap

9 Feb

The following post presents a hopefully humorous lyrical remix of Eminem’s hit Lose Yourself, a rap song released in 2002 on the soundtrack of the film 8 Mile.  8 Mile is an autobiographical film based on the early life of the rapper Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers III), who also plays the lead character in 8 Mile.  The film chronicles the early struggles he had to break into the world of rapping, alongside the growth and development of his unique style among the underground ‘rap battles’ where reputations are forged and broken.  A significant character in the film is the setting itself, the old economic powerhouse city of Detroit, in Michigan, USA, which, following the collapse of some of its major motor industry, helps forge the identity and background of the characters in the film.  The ‘8 Mile’ of the film title refers to the 8 Mile Road (part of the M-102 highway) in Detroit, which bisects different suburbs of Detroit and is home to the main character, and is used in this instance to typically refer to the split between the economic and racial divide on each side of the road.  The original song is linked via a Youtube video below, so please do familiarize yourself with the flow of the original rap and then take a read through my light-hearted lyrical remix.  Although an attempt at archaeological humour, this post none-the-less raises some pertinent issues facing the archaeological researcher and excavator.

Source Material

Eminem’s song Lose Yourself can be found on the soundtrack to his autobiographical film 8 Mile, both of which were released in 2002.  No copyright infringement is intended and the original lyrics remain the property and copyright of their owners.  The basis for the lyrics of the original song used below have been taken from the AZLyrics website, see the version I used here.  This remix is only intended for educational purposes on the life of the archaeologist.  The video to the song can be found below (please be aware that there is some strong language in the song):

Lose Yourself (In Mud): A Rap Remix

– Intro –

‘Look, if you had, one trowel and one context sheet,
To record everything you ever wanted in one excavation or stratigraphy (1),
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?
Yo…’

Verse 1

‘His palms are sweaty, knees weak, diggers arms heavy (2),
There’s vomit on his hi-vis already (3): mom’s spaghetti,
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready,
To drop GPS points but he keeps on forgetting,
What he wrote down, the whole road crew goes so loud,
He opens his mouth but the words won’t come out,
He’s choking, how? Everybody’s joking now (4),
The digger’s getting closer, time’s up, over – diesel wow!
Snap back to reality, oh, there goes the ground,
Oh, there goes safety helmet, he choked, he’s so mad but he won’t,
Give up that easy nope, he won’t have it, he knows
His whole back’s to these trenches, it don’t matter, he’s gonna cope,
He knows that, but he’s bone broke (5), he’s so stagnant, he knows
When he goes back to this temporary site home, that’s when it’s
Back to the field again, yo, this whole rhapsody,
He better go record this context and hope it don’t pass him.’

Chorus/Hook

‘You better lose yourself in the field, the moment,
You dig it, you better never let it go (go)
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to record,
This context comes once in a lifetime (yo)
‘You better lose yourself in the field, the moment,
You dig it, you better never let it go (go),
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to sketch the trench,
This context comes once in a lifetime (yo).
(You better).’

Verse 2

‘The soil’s escaping, through this bucket that is gaping,
This Iron Age world is mine for the taking,
Make me a tribal king, as we move towards a Roman world order (6),
A field life is boring, but superstardom’s close to post-excavation (7),
It only grows harder, co-workers grow rowdier,
He drinks. It’s all over. These back-hoes is all on him,
Coast to coast shows, he’s known as the globetrotter (8),
Lonely digs, God only knows,
He’s grown farther from the department, he’s no researcher,
He goes home and barely knows his own publication record (9),
But hold your nose ’cause here goes the cold water,
His back-hoes (and other associated fieldwork tools) don’t want him no more, he’s ex-excavator
They moved on to the next fully-funded dig,
He nose dove and sold nothing of his previous book,
So the soap opera is told and unfolds,
I suppose it’s old partner, but the troweling goes on,
Da da dum da dum da da da da…’

(Back to Chorus/Hook)

Verse 3

‘No more minimum wage, I’m a change what you call pay raise,
Tear this mothertrucking tarp off like two dogs caged,
I was back-filling in the beginning (10), the mood all changed,
I’ve been chewed up and spit out and booed off site,
But I kept recording and stepped right into the next minivan,
Best believe somebody’s playing the repeat record,
All the pain inside amplified by the,
Fact that I can’t get by with my 7 to 5,
And I can’t provide the right type of life for my family,
‘Cause man, these muddy boots don’t provide no good loots (11),
And it’s no Indiana movie, there’s no Jane Buikstra (12), this is my life
And these times are so hard, and it’s getting even harder
Trying to feed and water my underfunded project, plus
Teeter totter caught up between being a teacher and a part-time researcher,
Baby, student’s drama screaming on at me,
Too much for me to wanna stay in one spot (13),
Another day of digging’s gotten me to the point,
I’m like an arthritic snail,
I’ve got to formulate a theory, a methodology or an application,
Single context recording is my only archaeological option, failure’s not,
Site leader, I love you, but this trailer’s got to go,
I cannot grow old in Parker Pearson’s lot (14),
So here I go it’s my shot.
Feet, fail me not,
This may be the only excavation that I got.’

(Back to Chorus/Hook)

Ending

‘You can do anything you set your mind to, archaeologist…’ *raises trowel in solidarity as camera pans away and music fades*

Archaeological Annotations

1.  Archaeological excavation is a fundamentally destructive process, therefore it is of the utmost imperative to record exactly what is uncovered, where and when.  Each stratigraphic horizon within an archaeological dig (the boundaries between different contexts, which can be either man-made or natural) are generally recorded to build up a site activity profile.  Features within the stratigraphic contexts, such as cuts or fills, are also recorded and excavated, with special notice given to structural or material remains found within the discrete horizons.

2.  Commercial field archaeology is not a physically easy job – it is also a demanding, time-consuming and pressurized job due to a number of variables.  These can be, but are not limited, the time allowed in which to excavate as set out by the conditions of construction, the weather, the travel involved to-and-from site, the temperament of the your co-workers, the physical and mental capabilities of your own body, the constant social re-scheduling due to upcoming site unpredictability, the long-term job insecurity, etc.  If you see an archaeologist in the pub, or out excavating, be sure to buy them a pint or a clap them at a job well done.  They’ll love it and remember that the public don’t think that archaeology is all about the gung-ho, ethics destroying, human remains violating, probable national law-breaking, relic selling, macho aggression exploits of Nazi War Diggers (or Battlefield Archaeology, for the UK readers), which shows the profession in a context-obliterating style.

3.  Safety is of paramount importance on-site.  Be aware of your escape routes.  Watch out for heavy machinery.  Wear a hard hat if needed.  Shore up that trench if you are going deep.  Get certified with the Construction Skills Certification Scheme White Card, or comparative scheme, which certifies the basic safety skills for archaeological field technicians.  See the incredibly helpful British Archaeological Jobs Resource guide on the White CSCS card here.

4.  Archaeologists often work side-by-side with the construction industry; it is why archaeology took such a hit both in the localised Celtic Tiger boom and bust in Ireland, for example, and in the global recession of 2008.  If there isn’t any construction going on, there aren’t going to be many excavations going on either.  (Though try telling that to the academic departments who excavate at will).

5.  Bone Broke, by bioarchaeologist PhD candidate Jess Beck, is one heck of a site to learn about the joys of human osteology.  Check it out now.

6.  The pesky rise of the Romans helped spell the end of many Iron Age cultures throughout Europe as the Roman republic (which later mutated into an Empire) battled, amalgamated or integrated their way of life with their barbarian neighbours.

7.  First you freeze in the field, then you freeze in the cold artefact storeroom.

8.  Archaeology, as a profession, offers many, many chances to travel the world and to dig at sites that span the length and breadth of human evolution.  If you are a student, or volunteer archaeologist, you too can check out the many options available to you.

9.  ‘Publish or be damned’ is a normal phrase in archaeology, despite the distinct lack of monetary incentive on behalf of the main academic publishers.  If an archaeological site is excavated, but not published at all, that can lead to the distinct loss of knowledge of that site from the archaeological record (!).  If you care about the archaeological record, get the findings of the dig written up, the specialist material unearthed and analysed properly, and then get it published for the whole world to know about and rejoice in.  You may regret the lack of money in your wallet, but that sense of satisfaction out-weights those empty pockets (hopefully).

10.  The back-filling of a trench is carried out once the archaeological site has been properly excavated and recorded as much as necessary, or is able to be.  Back-filling involves moving the soil from space to another, which is a fine description of archaeological excavation itself.  The tower of backfill is also a place where unlikely, but lucky, finds can be found stripped of their context.

11.  Contrary to the general public perception of archaeology excavations being full of characters in the mould of Dr Indiana Jones this is somewhat gladly not the case.  (Though you will, inevitability, find one or two first year archaeology students ‘ironically’ dressed up as Indiana in the first week or so of the course).  At best though Dr Jones is a looter and archaeologists never loot – we record like our lives depend on it, imagining that if we don’t record the archaeological sites we survey and excavate the giant rolling rock will (rightly) chase us down and flatten us where we stand.

12.  Prof. Jane Buikstra (Arizona State University) is one of the core founders of bioarchaeology (the study of the human skeleton and mummified tissue from archaeological contexts) as a discipline in its own right within the United States.  Buikstra, along with other early bioarchaeology researchers, has helped to set the gold standard for skeletal analysis and she continues to be a dynamic force within the discipline.

13.  Short term adjunct professor contracts in the United States and general short-term teaching contracts in the UK, alongside the general vagabond lifestyle of the field archaeologist, make being a professional archaeologist adept at moving completely at short notice.  Fieldwork is also notoriously underpaid considering how educated the workforce is in comparison to other skilled workforces.  The British Archaeological Jobs Resource is helping to try to curb that by launching the More Than Minima campaign in its advertising of job posts.  See the 15/16 Pay and Conditions document here, which set out a useful recommendation for the companies offering commercial archaeology jobs.

14.  Mike Parker Pearson (University College London) is a well-known prehistoric and funerary archaeologist, perhaps best known for researching and excavating the Wiltshire Neolithic and Bronze Age landscape in England, of which Stonehenge and Durrington Walls are one important part.  His 1999 Archaeology of Death and Burial book is a must for all budding bioarchaeologists.

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Bob Chapple 2014 Irish Archaeology Essay Contest Announced

7 Dec

Robert M. Chapple has recently announced the arrival of a new archaeology essay competition for 2014.  Focusing on any aspect of Irish archaeology, students at any 3rd tier educational establishment (see below) are asked to submit an original research essay highlighting the value and wealth of Irish archaeology.

Robert’s inspiration for the competition, which runs from the 6th of December of this year until the 1st of November 2014, is the sad loss of his father Bob Chapple, who died unexpectedly 3 years ago.  In a passionate and inspiring blog post Robert details just how his father influenced and supported him throughout his life.  Particularly touching is the dedication Robert gave to his father, the first archaeologist in the family, in a published monograph shortly before his father’s death.

The competition’s aim, which is sponsored by Wordwell Books Ltd who are offering a €60 voucher to the winner, is to present the work of next generation of archaeology scholars to the wider world.  If you are a student, whether an under-graduate or post-graduate, this is your chance to produce a piece of original research work that will be made available to a diverse and interested audience, it is an opportunity to engage and communicate your work with the world.

Robert states:

“In memory of my father, I would like to introduce an Archaeological Essay Prize for undergraduate and postgraduate students. The competition will open to any registered student at any third level institution, conducting original research on any aspect of Irish archaeology as part of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree/diploma of any kind. The entry is to be in the form of an essay (max 5000 words) outlining the research being conducted and its importance, relevance etc., along with results (expected, actual, emerging etc.) to be published on this blog.”

I, for one, look forward to reading the winner’s entry when it is published on Robert’s site and I am keen to see which topic and area of research will win the prize.

Ireland has a rich and diverse archaeological record with a rich and well documented palaeoenvironmental record.  Ireland is justifiably famous for the amount of well preserved archaeological finds from it’s peat bogs in the centre of the country, including bog bodies (such as Clonyclavan Man and Old Croghan Man) and Bog Butter, but Ireland also boasts some truly outstanding prehistoric and historic archaeological sites.  This includes everything from Mesolithic camping sites (Mount Sandel) to the staggering Neolithic Newgrange complex, from a Viking toy boat to the utter devastation of the Great Famine in the 19th century and it’s archaeological implications.

Of course the essay could be on any topic to do with Irish archaeology, from a site analysis or artefact discussion to archaeological theory and practice, it really is up to the student as to what they want to discuss and that opens a great opportunity to pursue what you love.  I will keep an keen eye out for the winner and I shall look forward to further competitions after the 2014 award.  Robert has taken a step forward to involve not just the researchers and archaeologists but also members of the public in helping to discover the wealth of Irish history and archaeology.  In short it is a step to be applauded.

Further Information

  • The competition is open from now until the 1st of November 2014, with the winner being announced in January 2015.
  • Further information and provisional rules on the form, content and rules of submission can be found at Robert’s blog here.

Keep on Diggin’

20 Oct

Horror of horrors, the original British version of the Time Team television show has been axed.  Cue plenty of ‘buried’ jokes by the media.  The show has been cancelled after a solid 20 years of bringing archaeological excavations and investigations to the public.  The show will continue with a new already filmed series which will be shown in 2013, but it has not been recommissioned for any other series after that, although one-off specials may be shown after this time.  There have been several well publicized problems during the latter series of Time Team, with a lack of focus on the archaeology itself and problems with presenters helping to drive the viewers away.  Although many professional archaeologists may gripe about Time Team and it’s misrepresentations about the archaeological sector, there is no doubt that it helped popularize archaeology and heritage on a large scale to a wide audience.  Fear not though restless viewer, although Time Team may have gone the way of Extreme Archaeology, the ever present Tim Taylor is currently devising new historical programs as we speak.  His statement regarding Time Team’s demise can be read here, whilst Francis Pryor’s can be read here.        

Meanwhile I recently took part in an archaeological dig as part of the Heritage Lottery FundedLimestone Landscapes Partnership‘.  The large scale project is based on the Magnesian Limestone plateau that runs from near the Tyne down to the Tees, and from the coast to central Durham, in north eastern England.  The aims are to help conserve and record the landscapes, wildlife, and rich heritage of the Magnesian Limestone whilst ‘enabling communities to learn about, enjoy and celebrate their local area’ .  I may be biased but this is an area of intense beauty, where the harsh realities of man’s industrial strength is matched only by the savage beauty of nature herself.

There are a wide range of projects available as a part of the program, and Community Archaeology is one such aspect of this.  Carried out under the direction of the Durham University Archaeological Services and volunteer members from the Architectural and Archaeology Society of Durham and Northumberland, the two week dig at Great Chilton seeks to investigate an Iron Age enclosure site.  Previous geophysical survey results had shown possible roundhouses, gullies and one or two boundary ditches; in other words a typical north eastern Iron Age settlement!

Approaching the Iron Age site at Great Chilton, with the rolling hills of County Durham in the background.

As I’ve stated before on this blog, I can’t contain my joy at being back out on site, even if it was just for the day.  Unfortunately for yours truly, the site is difficult to get to if you do not drive (although I am rectifying that situation), and as such I will not be able to attend the 2nd week of the excavation next week.  Walking across the field, with the short stubs of wheat being crushed underfoot, felt wonderful as the view of the spoil heaps loomed into view.  The sun managed to break through the morning mist as the day was set to be spent close to mother earth.  My task for the day was to excavate and help define a part of the ditch surrounding one of the Iron Age roundhouses in the first trench.  Although nothing of note was recorded it was a joy to be able to get stuck into the sandy soil and to take in the fresh October air.

Can you spot the Iron Age round house? 50%  sampling method of the outside ditch, where at meter intervals 1x1m square patches were uncovered and excavated down to define said ditch.

Community archaeology is on something of a high note at the moment as various projects around the country are including the local and not-so-local volunteers, whilst many archaeological units are including the local populace with engaging in the local heritage scenes.  I firmly believe that without volunteers archaeology would, in some respects, grind to a halt.  At Great Chilton I was re-united with a fellow digger who I had first met some time ago, on a similar Iron Age/Romano-British site in my hometown, and with who I have visited a few other sites since.  As the familiar clink of the WHS 4 inch pointing trowels filled the air I thought that this would probably be the last dig of the season, before the snows of winter appear.  Although I haven’t dug much this year I have felt grateful for the opportunities when I have had the opportunity to do so, and had once again enjoyed joining the extended family of archaeologists that toil away at sites throughout the country.

The next blog entry will concern the human foot as the final part of the skeletal anatomy that will be covered for the Skeletal Series entries.

Closures and Petitions: University of Birmingham & Wincobank Hill in Sheffield

2 Jul

There have been a few outrages recently in the heritage world in the United Kingdom.  Firstly I want to draw your attention to the threatened closure of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA) at the University of Birmingham.    The institute has been threatened with closure as a result of University cutbacks.  It is proposed that a total of 19 staff would be left without a job, whilst only 4 out of the 18 employed archaeologists would retain their job.  The remaining IAA staff would then be spread around the Universities various departments.  Just how will the University provide valued and respected teaching in the subjects of archaeology,  ancient history, and classics, has been the subject of heated debate and speculation by all those involved.

The University has provided a statement saying that the closure of the IAA would be mitigated by the setting up of a Centre for Archaeology Research in its place.  A claim which the UCU University of Birmingham website state that it would just be an online website, and not a true centre for research of academic excellence.  The UCU website has a detailed entry setting out how this whole debacle has been ‘disastrously mishandled‘ from the outset.  The ‘Archaeology’ facebook group has been active in calling out for signatures to help show public support for the subjects involved at the University, as it is a scenario that is likely being watched very closely by other universities that house archaeology, ancient history and classical departments.  Archaeologists remain upbeat however- an unknown person has made a humorous youtube Downfall parody, showing an angry Hitler threatening to take archaeology back to the dark ages (sadly copyright has been slapped rather fast on this video!).

Meanwhile in my section of the woods, there has been much speculation and dismay at the plans to build a new housing estate on the Iron Age site of Wincobank Hill, located just inside the city of Sheffield. Information on the site of Wincobank Hill can be found here, and there is an English Heritage page about it here.  A petition has been set up for signatures to be gathered showing support for new housing not to be built on the protected land.  There are already worries that sections of the Iron Age enclosure are being damaged through neglect, and it would be unfortunate if more of this interesting site was lost to professionals and enthusiasts alike.  The planning meeting was held recently, and it was with great pleasure that the application to build 24 new houses on the site was turned down.  However, there will be further developments, and it is vital that this campaign is sustained.

It is hoped that there will be another guest entry on this blog in the near future, but for the moment I have to focus on my dissertation research and write up.  I’ll be around though…

The View From Wincobank Hill (Change Petition 2012).

Update 07/09/12:

The fight still goes on for both of these causes.  Regarding Wincobank Hill near the city of Sheffield, the City Council have decided to refuse planning permission on the site.  However the battle continues as the decision now goes to the Planning Inspectorate to uphold the decision of Sheffield City Council in the preservation of this little understood Iron Age/Romano-British site.  You can do your part now in protecting Britain’s heritage by signing this petition here.

Update 29/09/12:

A fairly depressing update regarding the position and tactics used by Birmingham University regarding the department of archaeology.  The article can be read here, and the headline says it all, ‘The University of Birmingham throws in the trowel- as College buries Archaeology! ‘.  The tactics also seems to be promoting past projects to entice new students, whilst ignoring the on-going destruction of a valued department.

Update 14/01/13:

Fantastic news regarding the Scheduled Ancient Monument of the Iron Age site of Wincobank Hill in Sheffield- the Planning Inspector has dismissed Investates appeal to build houses on the site, and the site will remain green and building free.  It is an excellent result, and an impressive show of the interest of both professionals and of the interested public.