December 2015: Lorna Richardson, archaeologist of sorts

My project is designed to be either deliberately provocative, or incredibly banal, I haven’t worked it out yet…

So at the moment I am working as a field archaeologist. I’m digging pits and ditches and the dull stuff that even the people that created the archaeology in the first place wouldn’t think twice about. But it’s this banality of archaeological features that I find fascinating. As a bigger picture, the mundane field boundary, shallow pit or discarded piece of pottery becomes a piece of modern theatre, a human action, the faint shadow of a human thought process, a commonplace yet extraordinary sliver of time captured and enclosed by the earth; the earth as aspic. We, the professional archaeologists, commercial or otherwise, retrieve that archaeological action and turn it into records on paper, in binary form, or wrapped in plastic. It is then sent forwards to the specialists for the next bit of the process of creating an archaeological narrative. And that is often the last we, the diggers, hear of it, as staff move site, company or career path and the analysis and publication takes place further up the food chain. The humdrum actions of thousands of archaeologists throughout the country. Dig, record, bag up, begin again…

I digress.

So if we as archaeologists are creating a body of information that includes the commonplace ditch, the sterile feature, the isolated find, as we half-section time, can anyone outside the archaeological sector find anything meaningful in this work? Can grey literature be less grey and more colourful in its original landscape? Will the fact pits and ditches were found in place X add to the understanding of the history of place X for the inhabitants of place X? Can the common or garden evaluation report, available as grey lit through the ADS for example, be used as a tool for public engagement? And can I provoke some tuts of disapproval from my beloved discipline in the process of exploring this?

So my project, although in it’s infancy, is this: Lost Heritage.

Each month throughout 2015, I will create a Lost poster, as you can find on any tree or noticeboard where a dog or cat has gone missing. It will include a summary of a grey literature report about a location and the link to a website with further information (you didn’t think I’d make this project totally analogue did you?). The posters will contain information on 12 different sites, and will be place in 12 different locations throughout the year. The website links will be pull-off bits at the bottom of the poster. It’ll be designed to look like something truly has gone missing.. in this case, it will be part of the narrative of the history of each location.. perhaps not lost, but lost from plain sight or common knowledge. I hope that some people will pull off the slips and visit the website and discover more about their landscapes. Or they might be so incredibly underwhelmed by the bread-and-butter archaeology of the field archaeologist that they just don’t care.

This will be an experiment in inactivity, in sitting back and letting it happen. All I have to do is post the posters and hope I don’t get in trouble for doing so…

Feedback is welcome, this is at the developmental, prototype, whimsical stage, much like myself.

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2 thoughts on “December 2015: Lorna Richardson, archaeologist of sorts

  1. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #3 | Doug's Archaeology

  2. The basic image here, of the (hand-drawn with felt tips?) ‘Lost’ poster is amazing. Have you considered using a phone number instead of a website? Would be interesting for people who take the tabs to get direct contact with a human in exchange for their active interest.

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