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.