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BRITARCH  September 2008

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Subject:

Re: Does archaeology need a Black hole?

From:

"PETTS D.A." <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 12:31:53 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (64 lines)

It would take more than a few thousand. Complete excavation and post-ex (complete analysis not just post-ex assessment) of an area that size? 50 million+ Digging holes is not cheap
 
I think the key issue in Mike's email was not so much the importance of CERN issue, but the highly effective way in which they were able to drum up press and publicity for an event which whilst of some importance would not usually be seen as having much interest to the general public - the event itself (turning it on) was actually fairly anti-climactic and produced no experimental data beyond a confirmation of the fact that they could the beam to go round in a great big circle. The key experiments won't actually take place for a while. It would be interesting to find out how many people, including Radio 4 listeners who have spent the last week bombarded with items about particle physics, actually understand the science in even a general way (I'm not sure I do).
 
The last 15 years with the rise of Time Team / HLF etc has undoubtedly seen a great raising of popular interest and involvement in archaeology; however, this appears to have taken the form of increased involvement in local history/archaeology. I can think of no archaeological projects that have seized the popular imagination in the same way that the work in Egypt or the Near East did in the earlier part of the 20th century. 
 
I wonder whether this is partly caused by an increased interest in people's personal heritage, also reflected in the massive increase in interest in family history (seen both on the internet and in the media). This could be interpreted as an intriguing reaction to an increasingly mobile and globalised society or a pragmatic response to the fact that on-line resources now means that doing basic family history is, for most people, a piece of piss. 
 
It is noticeable how much emphasis is being given to making heritage / archaeology 'relevant'.which can be seen particulary in attempts to build interest in these issues amongst ethnic minorities. The lack of interest in these groups is clearly visible, and the heritage sector (and archaeology in particulary) is indeed hideously white. However, it strikes me (admittedly as a white middle class male) that the assumption that we can only make the past of interest to ethnic groups by making it 'relevant' to them is profoundly patronising. The history of slavery or the presence of black africans in Roman Britain are obviously extremely important topics that can teach as all much about the growth of the modern world and the multi-ethnic nature of past societies. However (again speaking personally), the aspects of the past that got me interested in archaeology as a child had absolutely no 'relevance' to my upbringing in southern England in the 1970s/80s; visits to the BM exhibitions of Thracian gold or about Pompeii did not lead me to make parallels between my childhood in Berkshire and life in the past. It was the very difference and otherness of visiting Avebury or Dover Castle that got me excited. I would have been profoundly disappointed if I'd visited Jorvik and come away learning that life in Viking York was 'relevant' to growing up in Reading in the early 1980s. The fact that the Da Vinci Code, Indiana Jones and Graham Hancock have been so succesful is because they appeal to people's sense of difference, excitement and love of the spectacular. 
 
This is where the Large Hadron Collider has been so effective- we can argue about the scientific value of the experiment, but the fact remains that the science community has used the 'spectacle' of the event to succesfully promote their subject. We have heritage open days coming up - without wanting to dismiss this excellent event in any way- we need to respond to the 'big bang' experiment with more than just the opportunity to visit a local museum. The heritage sector has succesfully spent the last 15 years emphasising the importance of local heritage, archaeology in the community and the 'relevance' of the past to our everyday lives. Lets be careful though that the 'local' does not become 'parochial' and above all lets see some more 'big archaeology'; awe, spectacle and excitement just for the sheer joy of learning about the past.
 
Just some ramblings on a rainy day.

________________________________

From: British archaeology discussion list on behalf of Simon Ward
Sent: Thu 11/09/2008 11:45
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Does archaeology need a Black hole?



Here's a few choices:

Spend billions trying to recreate the big bang and in the process reap the
technological rewards (like the internet).

Spend trillions making war on other nations and in the process kill a lot of
people.

Spend a few thousand digging up the entire innards of Pevensey and tell me
whether it was beseiged or not.

Simon Ward


----- Original Message -----
From: "Trevor Ogden" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:22 AM
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Does archaeology need a Black hole?


> At 09:43 11/09/2008, Michael Haseler wrote:
>>It amazes me how caught up the public have been by the Cern particle
>>accelerator, which is after all not much more than a glorified shooting
>>range which has produced next to nothing of any merit to the public except
>>the plot of a few B-rate science fiction movies.
>
> As a physicist in another field, I am tempted to agree.  It is a great
> deal of money, and the hype has been pretty repulsive.  Someone said it
> was the most ambitious experiment ever.  The most expensive and difficult
> to organise, yes, but ambitious?  What about early attempts to measure
> gravitational constant, speed of light, diameter of earth (Greeks)?  It's
> all a bit revolting.  I was a bit tickled though by Andrew Marr's image of
> "protons champing at the starting gate".
>
> Trevor
>
>
> Trevor Ogden
> Abingdon, Oxfordshire
> [log in to unmask]

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