Wednesday, 25 February 2009

CafePress shop

Pagans for Archaeology shop on CaféPressI've set up a Pagans for Archaeology shop on CafePress with T-shirts, a mug and a bag. I will soon be adding new designs and badges, fridge magnets and car stickers, so watch this space.

If anyone has designs that they would like to donate, or ideas for witty captions, please let me know.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Let's get active

At the weekend, I went to a conference about community archaeology - that's archaeology done by and/or for the community. All very inclusive.

So, if you would like to get more involved in archaeology, here are some ideas for stuff that we could do under the banner of Pagans for Archaeology - because part of the aim of this group is to raise awareness among archaeologists that there are moderate Pagans out there, in fact we're the majority.

T-shirts: I am thinking of getting some T-shirts via Café Press but would like to know that people would buy them. Also, suggestions for motifs and slogans would be welcome.

I would like to create a list of volunteers and skills - perhaps on the PFA Yahoo group, as that is more private than Facebook.

I think it would also be good if people could invite archaeologists from their local university to give talks at Pagan moots, and do a bit of awareness-raising. Also, PFA members could offer to speak at county archaeological societies about Paganism and Pagans for Archaeology (if you would like to do this, I have Powerpoint slides you could use).

If you want to try your hand at experimental archaeology, digging, potwashing, recording, drawing etc, join your local county archaeology society. Don't forget to mention that you are a member of Pagans for Archaeology and explain what it is. If you message me with your email address, I can supply you with a leaflet to print out and distribute - either at your local moot or at the county archaeological society.

There are also opportunities to take part in archaeological research on an informal basis (on your own if you like) in to landscapes and their archaeology, which can result in a deeper connection with the site.

Another idea is to start a collaborative website of Pagan sites of interest, both ancient and modern, and hopefully walking trails to join them up (like a Pagan version of JTrails).

You could also collect some oral history from the older members of your local Pagan community, and take photographs of Pagan altars, costumes and artefacts (with permission from the owners of course).  You can post them in the Pagans for Archaeology Flickr group.

Please post a comment if you are interested in taking part in any of these initiatives.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Study day

Late Antique Archaeology 2009: Late Antique Finds: Excavation and Analysis
London - Sat 7th March 2009

The study of late antique artefacts is no longer limited to silver plate and pilgrim tokens. Yet on many sites, finds are still excavated without thought for the information that they ultimately provide. Rich destruction deposits are excavated to a 'one size fits all' method, and finds are often studied only when digs have finished. Sadly, specialists are often kept out of trenches, despite the insights they can provide from finds into deposits actually under excavation. So do we simply collect finds?, or is there information, particular to each object type, and to late antique deposits, that needs to be recorded in order to study them properly? This meeting will examine the methods appropriate to the recovery and analysis of late antique finds, focusing especially on problems specific to the period and on new discoveries.

A joint conference of the University of Kent and King's College, London, to be held at the Safra lecture theatre, KCL Strand Campus, The Strand, London, WC2R 2LS.

10.30 Welcome by Luke Lavan (Kent) and Tasssos Papacostas (KCL)

10.40-11.10 Steve Roskams (York) Animal Bones
11.10-11.40 TBC Textiles

11.50-12.20 Jerry Evans & Phil Mills (Leicester) Late Roman Pottery
12.20-12.50 Joanita Vroom (UEA) Early Medieval Pottery

2.00-2.30 Veerle Lawyers (KULeuven) Glass
2.30-3.00 Anthea Harris (Birmingham) Everyday Metals
3.00-3.30 John Casey (Kent) Coins

4.10-4.40 Stephan Gros (Vienna) Waste
4.40-5.10 Phil Mills (Leicester) Building Materials

5.10-5.40 James Gerrard (Pre-construct archaeology) Excavating and studying the domestic hoard from Drapers' Gardens, City of London

Entrance is free, though places are limited. To reserve a place please email Michael Mulryan on

Location details. Temple Tube station is closest.

Monday, 16 February 2009

new logo

I have designed a logo for Pagans for Archaeology.

An underworld goddess seemed appropriate, but the pomegranate, attribute of Persephone, was already taken. So then I thought of Vanth, Etruscan underworld goddess, and looked her up. Apparently she had eyes on her wings, which reminded me of the owl butterfly. So I chose the eye in the wing of an owl butterfly as the logo, to represent Vanth.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Free lectures

University of York: Understanding human history is food and drink for archaeologists
Dr Craig’s lecture Reconstructing Pre-historic diets: How little we know about Stone-age cuisine will be given at 6.15pm, on 17 February, in room P/L001 in the Department of Physics.

University of Bath, Centre for Death and Society: 'He most certainly is not a museum object.' The influence of the museum profession on contestation over human remains in collections. Dr Tiffany Jenkins, 12 March 2009, 17.15 - 18.45
University of Bath, 3 East 2.20

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

new CBA book on human remains

Human Remains in Archaeology: A Handbook
by Charlotte A Roberts

This book, no 19 in the CBA Practical Handbook series, provides the very latest guidance on all aspects of the recovery, handling and study of human remains. It beings by asking why we should study human remains, and the ethical issues surrounding their recovery, analysis and curation, along with consideration of the current legal requirements associated with the excavation of human remains in Britain.
Note that it also covers the ethical considerations surrounding human remains.

I hope that it also covers in some depth the arguments for retaining human remains for study, such as:
  • the constant development of new techniques for studying them, such as the recent study of dental plaque by Karen Hardy which showed what plants people were eating and helps to build up a picture of their lifestyles;
  • changing interpretations of previous studies, giving rise to the need to reinterpret pathologies of remains, such as the controversy over whether bog bodies were "human sacrifices" or murder victims or executed criminals (this controversy should be of importance to Pagans, because one of the most frequently repeated slanders of ancient pagans is the idea that they regularly sacrificed human beings);
  • examining previously unexamined parts of the remains, such as dental calculus; or in the case of Ötzi the 'Iceman', it was 10 years after the discovery of his body that X-ray revealed the arrow wound that was the cause of his death. Had he been re-buried this (and much else) would not have been revealed.
  • the opportunity to build up a detailed picture of the life stories, religious practices, diet, travels, illnesses and customs of communities and individuals in the past, purely from bone analysis;
  • the fact that people of the past wanted to be remembered, not consigned to oblivion.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Saxon burials excavated

clipped from
Archaeologists confirmed they were Saxon burials and decided to excavate the graves immediately to avoid the risk of looting.
English Heritage, said: "Our understanding of the graves is considerably better for the careful and exemplary approach taken by the two local metal-detectorists who discovered the site and its subsequent excavation by county council staff and unpaid local archaeologists."

blog it
Sometimes you have to excavate for fear of looting of the grave goods.

Also, these burials shed more light on Saxon society and burial customs.

Osteoarchaeology could be used to discover what they died of, and relate it to modern illnesses and epidemiology.

With all of this data, these people's identity can be recovered to a certain extent, and they will be remembered.

Petition to save human remains

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to reject utterly any suggestion that remains found in Stonehenge should be reburied and left to decay.
The recent history of this nation is founded upon scientific principles. Science advances continually because of a continual influx of new evidence and information. To allow these remains to be reburied would result in a vast loss of potential evidence as new techniques as yet undeveloped could never be used on these valuable specimens. We must of course be respectful and treat human remains as well as possible, but not if this is at the cost of science, history and education.

(On the 10 Downing Street website.)

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Education and research

There's a great article by Tiffany Jenkins over at spiked, British museums: the Druids are at the gates, which points out that:
Such a seemingly eccentric controversy, sparked by some Druids, ancient skeletons and cultural institutions, is more significant than it is funny. This fight over old bones is a revealing snapshot of the state of museums and the problems they will continue to face in their role as places of research and education as a consequence of the trends that members of the sector have helped set in motion.
These trends have been set in motion by museums for two reasons:
the code of ethics of the Museum Association, the professional body for the sector, argues that museums should be a places that consult and involve communities, users and supporters. It states that institutions should: ‘Consult and involve groups from communities they serve and their representatives to promote a sense of shared ownership in the work of the museum.’ The code also argues that institutions should, ‘recognise that individuals or communities may have a stronger claim to certain items than the museum’.
Until they can make a clear defence of the importance of education and research, museums will remain buried in endless consultations about old bones.
Museums could also argue, as Pagans for Archaeology does, that they should be be preserved so that the memory of the ancestors can be perpetuated and rescued from oblivion, and the remains can be studied scientifically for the benefit of everyone.