Public archaeology / Eco archaeology

The statement that started this project off, here, said that this year of public archaeology is not aimed at analysing any engagement that takes place, but at simply creating some kind of engagement with non-archaeologists on archaeological themes. That’s my excuse for not going into great depth with any recap of this month as it draws to a close! Instead, I want to just give a few final thoughts on the wider issues raised by the archaeology, leaving the engagement to stand for itself out in the ‘real world’.

eBay needs more attention

I started the month looking at eBay. What I learnt from a look at some stats gathered from the site over a month-long period, and a vague comparison with the PAS, is that although eBay remains problematic for reasons connected to the provenance of certain items, there is a lot to be learnt from the site if we can get past that barrier of non-engagement that both ‘sides’ are sustaining. Yes, eBay and its users don’t like to talk to us, but we also, in general, make it clear that we want to talk to them so we can tell them off. I think that if we change the way we approach eBay, maybe put more time into learning about it objectively – collecting statistical data is remarkably easy – we can come up with new questions about the site, its objects and its users that may be a bit more conducive to engagement.

Mundane things are really interesting

It turns out that when you look at things that should be fairly dull – and not traditionally archaeological – like wood, lampposts or modern bricks, we can follow that stuff around and learn loads of really interesting stuff. Even looking at eBay, a brief statistical analysis of finds on there shows that there is relatively little to be learnt from the higher value objects than from more common items like clay pipes, if the sheer amount is anything to go by.

Public archaeology can change the world

Talking to the BWRP, it’s clear that co-operatives like that one sit in the middle of really important networks connecting things, people and politics, the past and the future bouncing off each other in the present. Archaeology has an important perspective to bring to understanding how these networks of habitability operate and to working between the multiple scales at which they can be seen. This kind of public archaeology perhaps has the potential to uncover more links between people and things, even more effective modes of habitation and give that information to people to use in their daily lives below and around all of the ways we’re supposed to live that come down to use from above.

This is a kind of public archaeology that places archaeology on a level with anyone else taking part and one that can lead directly from archaeology to sustainable urban living via developing relationships with people. It is public archaeology as a kind of eco-archaeology, taking an active part in the daily life of cities as much as trying to understand how they work.

I’m hoping to carry this work on in some way. Watch this space.


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