July 2015: Sam Hardy, archaeologist

This is supposed to be my plan for Public Engagement with Archaeological Themes and Practices next July – and it is, insofar as it isn’t. I tried to crib ideas off Jim in April, when I refused to devise any plan that assumed I would still be in this village more than a year later, but what passes for my imagination has failed, and I’m still here.


The immediately interesting ideas, like archaeological/historical tours on the trail of the English smuggling gangs who traded with the French during the Napoleonic wars, have already been done (along the multilingual Bexhill Smuggling Trail).

Those local outlaws won’t feature in Elizabeth Bennett’s month either since, as far as I know, unlike the the Rufford Park Poachers who resisted the enclosure of common land and the privatisation of game animals, there’s no traditional song to honour the Little Common Gang smugglers, who fought the Battle of Sidley Green against the state’s Coast Blockade. (In both cases, the survivors were transported to convict slavery in Australia.)

Slovenliness and social media

It’s a bit difficult for me to weave my public archaeology into my work or tease it out from there, because I am inveterate dole scum. And whether it’s labour, looting or destruction – short of action that would limit any subsequent public engagement to visiting hours – it’s a bit difficult for me to guarantee stories that capture people’s interest.

Evidently, I can’t even elicit public engagement by billing my work as “how a state violated its own laws and then protected the people who broke their illegal secret agreement“.


So perhaps, instead, I’ll help affected and concerned communities to learn how to check whether evidence of cultural destruction is genuine or propaganda.

I’ll show how it’s possible to use landscape features, architectural details and reverse photo searches to confirm or debunk claims. For example, look at the terraces and (highlighted) arches in these photos: you can use them to confirm both that the “before” picture shows the Tomb-Mosque of Jonah/Yunus, and that the “after” picture shows its obliteration.

Obviously, it’s often bad news, and it’s not very comforting to tell people that there is no evidence yet. But vulnerable communities need to know everything that they can in order to identify and take their least worst option. Applying these skills can ultimately help such vulnerable people.

Highlighted comparison of the Tomb-Mosque of Jonah/Yunus (c) Arab Leaks, Twitter, 24th July 2014)

Highlighted comparison of the Tomb-Mosque of Jonah/Yunus
(c) Arab Leaks, Twitter, 24th July 2014)


2 thoughts on “July 2015: Sam Hardy, archaeologist

  1. Cheers!

    Though there will probably be cases at the time, and I will try to investigate any “live”, they might not be educative cases (they might all require only one technique, or they might be lazy bullshit that doesn’t even enable detailed analysis).

    So, my plan is to produce a toolkit (or an archaeological user’s guide to existing toolkits). I’ll go through the process technique-by-technique, with a real case for each one so everything’s applied, to show how to use the tools themselves (down to screen-by-screen explanations of how to get data on the production of photos from image files), as well as how the results confirm or disprove the claims.

    I don’t know exactly how I’ll get the word out. I think I’ll be doing an hour or two on this in a postgrad course in the coming weeks, but I can’t expect or commit to a literal class. If mainstream media haven’t moved on, perhaps one amongst them (ideally, a regional one) would be willing to exploit the free content. We’ll see.

  2. Hi Sam,

    This all sounds really interesting (and of course I’m aware of your existing work in this area). What I’d like to hear more about is whether you have had any thoughts on how the public engagement part will happen. Will you be doing investigative work ‘in public’ during your month or will you use the month to create something educational (archaeological anti-propaganda toolkit?) based on existing work? Secondly, how will you take the engagement to the non-blogging public? Is there a way to take the idea to people who are not active on social media, but who would still benefit from your work?


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