British

Archaeology

The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 100

Issue 100

May / June 2008

Contents

There is more content online than usual for this bumper issue!

news

Early Scottish gardens unturfed

Axes could be 0.5m years old

In the press

Listing lobby was no hot air

Kent Anglo-Saxon cemetery could be royal

Poetry to assist transfer of Hadrian's Wall collection

In Brief & Phase 2

features

John Wymer
Mike Pitts introduces an archaeologist with a fine eye for illustration

The Lost Royal Cult Of Street House, Yorkshire
The excavation of a unique Anglo-Saxon cult cemetery

Born digital: Making People Believe
How computers have changed the world of archaeology

The Office: Heritage and Archaeology at Fortress House
John Schofield finds unexpected things on Savile Row

Green Men & The Way of All Flesh
Richard Hayman uproots a fashionable myth

on the web

Recommended websites
Caroline Wickham-Jones considers archaeological imagery, and The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland has a new website

100 letters & news

Some of the letters we received and news stories we revealed in the past 100 issues

CBA correspondent

Campaigns, comment and communications from the CBA
Communication is king, says Mike Heyworth, celebrating nearly 60 years of magazines

Extra online content

science

Sebastian Payne asks, what do forensic archaeologists do?

Mick's travels & more travels

Mick Aston looks for early saints in Cornwall, and an introduction to visiting Cornwall's sites & monuments

my archaeology

Phil Harding, the man with five guitars

 

ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts

on the web

Archaeology in pictures

Caroline Wickham-Jones searches the internet for reconstructions, animations, webcams and dynamic maps.

AAIS Portfolio Gallery screenshot

Web pages are text driven, but can be more versatile. Illustration is a useful medium, exemplified by the gallery of the Association of Archaeological Illustrators and Surveyors (www.aais.org.uk).

Plenty of images exist on the web – from those who seek to publicise their services (worcestershire.whub.org.uk) to those who want to make their point (museums.ncl.ac.uk), or illustrate an example (lithiccastinglab.com).

How to find that particular picture? A search for "archaeology" on Google image reflects the wide range of material, from cartoons to maps. It is a different way into the wonderful world of on-line archaeology. There is even the odd skeleton or two (www.picture-newsletter.com/archeology). You can surf into a veritable tsunami from blogs (www.anthroblogs.org/nomadicthoughts) to "interactive" digs (www.archaeology.org/interactive). Though not truly interactive, the last does provide a remarkable variety of information about excavations around the world.

I turn to Scran when looking for material. There are thousands of images and archaeology is well covered. The disadvantage is the subscription needed to see the images full size, and you have to purchase images to reproduce them. Thumbnails are not always clear, but do provide an idea of what is there, and if you are an archaeologist you might know the contributor. scran started life as a Scottish site but coverage has been extended to the rest of the UK (slowly catching up).

No matter how good the text, reconstructions have to be presented graphically, whether real (www.ancient-arts.org), or virtual (www.reconstructions.org). Maps too are graphic. On-line maps may be "static" (Roman Britain), but some go beyond simple visuals – the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust community map may be experimental but it looks good. Others have pushed the bounds further. It is now possible to create dynamic maps to be updated by the user. On-line archaeology has a good example of this, though it takes a while to get used to the system.

It is not difficult to jazz up on-line images – from straight-forward cartoon clips in celebration of African Origins to Wessex Archaeology's fly-over of the Stonehenge area using lidar data, looking curiously snow-like (see feature, this issue). This is not just the realm of archaeologists. A search for Bayeux on YouTube is interesting, from the obvious to the outrageous – but really fun if you can cope with anachronisms. I know we should strive for accuracy, but the past can inspire (and this is a "tapestry").

Webcams lend themselves to archaeology. Colchester Archaeological Trust claims to have operated one of the first live excavation webcams, at Stanway in 1997. The best known archaeological webcam, however, must be Charles Tait's Maeshowe site which operates for two months to provide a glimpse of the winter sun entering the tomb (hopefully).

Top Site

Is a picture worth a thousand words? Not yet on the internet, where explanation still reigns. Perhaps the detail of archaeology is just too much; but we could do more.

Free archaeology on the web

  • Skara Brae Fishing Trip – uk.youtube.com/watch?v=88Sh8BSC0Ho
    • Pure relaxation. Primary 4 (eight year old) pupils give their view of life in the past. All is not lost in all our schools
  • On-line archaeology – www.online-archaeology.co.uk
    • Once you have mastered the concept the shortcomings of this map are yours. This site pushes available technology to work for us
  • Insite project – www.cs.bris.ac.uk
    • Computer based reconstructions of archaeological sites – apparently seamless possibilities
  • Kilmartin Interactive map – www.kilmartin.org
    • Useful guide for prospective visitors. Still being updated, but that is a measure of thriving archaeology
  • Scran – www.scran.ac.uk
    • Not quite an archive of archaeological (and other) images – but aspiring

New look for Scottish antiquarian society

Simon Gilmour, director of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, introduces its sophisticated but understated new website.

Our significantly enhanced website was launched at the anniversary meeting (as the AGMs are known) on St Andrews Day, last November. It provides news and comment, details on the history (the society was founded in 1780) and current constitution of the society, as well as our programme of events and notice of research grants and other awards (www.socantscot.org).

The website was designed by cfa Design (www.cfa-design.co.uk) and programmed by Hanson Park Ltd (www.storeseen.com) to our particular brief. The concept aims to present the depth of history and stature of the society while introducing new technology including online purchasing and a fellows discussion forum. To this end, the website is illustrated with portraits of the original founders, kindly provided by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and is sprinkled with illustrations from the society's early accommodation and its present location in National Museums Scotland. The effect is a bold statement on each page, with simple, easy to navigate buttons and space for text and images.

There is now an online shop, where anyone can purchase society publications, and (coming soon) tickets and other merchandise. There continues to be a link to scanned, out-of-print publications as free downloadable PDF files through the Archaeology Data Service on the publications page (ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/library/psas/. These include the five volumes of Archaeologia Scotica (1792–1890), the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (129 volumes from 1851) and seven monographs.

Society of Antiquaries of Scotland's new website

Society fellows have enhanced access to the site, which includes the use of an online forum to communicate with other fellows across the globe, downloadable versions of the newsletter and, in the very near future, recent Proceedings. Registering as a fellow allows shop purchases at the fellows' discount price, where available.

The website also aims to provide up-to-date news from the society itself, and on current affairs in the heritage sector. We invite people to write to the society with their views and thoughts, which can be published on our Letters page. We also provide short summaries of recent projects that we have sponsored and will, as part of the process, encourage grant recipients to compile a short illustrated description to keep everyone up-to-date. The Grants page provides information and downloadable forms for applying for society grants and other awards. This will be fleshed-out in future to provide greater detail on the purpose and history of particular awards. The Donations page highlights the fact that we are a fully independent society, entirely dependent for our income on the subscriptions and generosity of the public, and details the contributions that can be made by UK taxpayers through gift aid. It is also possible to donate direct to the society on this page.

Fundamental to the success of the website is its regular use by fellows and non-fellows alike. In particular we would encourage fellows to use the Forum, accessible after you register; currently there are several posts placed by the director, and at least one fellow, awaiting your responses. One of these is an invitation to participate in the development of a Scottish archaeological research framework, funded by Historic Scotland and facilitated by the society, by posting your thoughts on what areas of our understanding of the Scottish past require greater investment in future. Non-fellows are welcome to comment on the same in writing to the society.

We hope that you enjoy exploring this new website, and partake in everything that it offers. We are very interested in hearing your views on the site, what works well and what does not, which will allow us to tailor it to suit you, the users, better.

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