Saturday, 27 September 2014

Return to Beanotown

It's been a while since I've had a chance to catch up on archaeological fieldwork being undertaken in Beanotown (see Nov 2013: The Archaeology of Pies) and, given the extraordinary nature of prehistoric pastry-related discoveries previously made there, I was very pleased to see that a sequel documentary has been commissioned and screened by the good people of the CBBC channel (still not worked out what CBBC stands for but I suspect it's very important - Cultural British Broadcasting Corporation perhaps?).

Anyway, the nature of fieldwork seems to have changed for the second season of investigation. On the positive side, as far as I can see, the project is far better resourced this time around, the team operating within a considerably larger trench  

(although I'm altogether sure that this is necessarily a good thing given that Beanotown School apparently sits, as revealed last time, slap bang in an Area of Outstanding Scientific Interest). On the negative side the bulk of the investigation is currently being undertaken by volunteers  

(which is not, I suspect, strictly ethical given that most seem to be of pre GCSE grade age). There were also a few issues concerning health and safety (only the director seems to be wearing a hard hat and any kind of high vis jacket – and I'm not sure what the Health and Safety at Work Act has to say about the wearing of bow ties on site)


whilst the recording of contexts seems to be almost non existent (although it's always difficult to see what has been staged for the purposes of television - but I didn’t, for that matter, see any discussion of artefact associations or associated bone groups either) nor was there any site photography or drawing going on (which was a bit odd).

This may, of course, all be due to the fact that director of operations is now Dr Palaeo (rather than the more pastry-obsessed Lancashire Smith). I'm not aware of Dr Palaeo's work, but he does seem to know his stuff, and I have to say that I was most convinced by his meticulous recreation of the Mutton-Poultry-Bovineo-Saurus in the final scenes


That is at least until the very close of the programme when it was hinted (quite strongly by the film maker) that the bulk of the faunal remains had been planted (akin to the way in which the faked bones of Piltdown Man had been discretely placed within the pre-disturbed gravels of Barkham Manor way back in 1912), which, as far as revelations go, was more than a tad explosive.
If this newly identified species of prehistoric animal is indeed a fake, and if there is any doubt concerning the overall authenticity of the Mutton-Poultry-Bovineo-Saurus, I think we need to know, certainly before any it becomes the subject of further PhD research and / or a best-selling book.   

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Groundhog 21

Is the music still playing?

Anyway, cogs whirr and brain patterns flash a familiar sub-routine. Click click click.

Thought 1: there comes a time in every profession when the 'Groundhog Day' factor comes into play: the feeling that you are trapped in a time loop, forced to relive and replay the same events, day after day.

Thought 2: the trouble with working in academia is that the 'Groundhog Factor' is calculated in 12 calendar months rather than a mere 24 hours. Sure as eggs is eggs, induction is followed by term one which is followed by Christmas then term two, Easter, exams, summer fieldwork, summer holiday before you are plunged back into induction endless cycle.

Not that I'm complaining mind, far from it.

I love archaeology (have I mentioned that before?) be it teaching it, talking about it, digging it, lecturing about it, reading about it, visiting it, it's all good.

So that's (to coin a phrase) all custard then. Vanilla custard.

Thought 3: it's just that the cycles of groundhogey-ness seem to be moving ever faster (a common complaint I know). A colleague with a cheery, optimistic, 'happy-go-lucky' outlook on life once commented that such certainty in professional matters (i.e. doing the same thing again and again) was undoubtedly a good thing for it indicated job / life security coupled with the pleasure of mixing with the young and youthful (thus remaining forever young or at least never growing mentally old). A rather more pessimistic colleague noted, in relation to the same observation, that working in a university was a bad thing for 'every year you get older whilst those whom you teach are eternally 18....'

....well anyway, I think he got counselling in the end.

Thought 4: the observation that there is a certain structure and formality to the academic year is probably not that novel, but, as I sit here mindlessly tapping on the keyboard thinking on the Groundhog Factor (now there's a game show title) waiting for my new tutees to arrive, I realise just how quickly the year has gone. One minute I was considering the Big Dig theme, to be taken from the Eurovision 2014 list of hopefuls, and then suddenly the archaeological fieldwork began...then it's all over for another year. We dug lots, we found lots and there's certainly lots to investigate further and discuss.

Fingers tap keyboard as notes are prepared...there's a knock on the door. Are these my tutees? It would appear yes...thirteen new faces enter the room.

Groundhog 21 begins.

Normal Service will be Resumed as soon as Possible


...a chance to dig some archaeology...

 ...go on holiday.....

...visit some archaeology on holiday...

....visit some things that aren't archaeology on holiday....

....visit some more archaeology....

..but, as they say, and indeed as a whole nine people have noticed, it does mean that, just occasionally, certain things can end up 'on hold' or simply forgotten. This is one such slidey, timey-wimey, forgotteny thing. To the nine of you who noticed, I apologise, and hope to reassure you that normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

In the meantime, here is some music.