Anarchy and Ammonites

Almost everything interesting in Bristol was closed when we got there yesterday–the markets, the anarchist collectives, the galleries. Still, I wanted to see more of the city than the university campus and the small neighborhood where I was holed up during the snow & sickness. In particular I wanted to check out Stokes Croft, informatively dubbed “The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft.” Sound familiar?

The neighborhood graffiti and murals were interesting–one of the first well-known Banksy murals is over the main street and the nearby squats are completely covered in art. I also wanted to see Turbo Island, a small area in Stokes Croft that was excavated to investigate heritage and contemporary homelessness–an interesting experiment in contemporary archaeology. From John Schofield’s email announcement of excavations on Turbo Island:

As some of you will know, the project that Rachael Kiddey and I have been doing with homeless and vulnerably housed people in Bristol is taking a new turn. During our perambulations last summer (and ongoing) we regularly returned (physically and in conversations) to Turbo Island, where Stokes Croft meets Jamaica Street – people kept telling us (hi)stories about the site, how it was a ‘speakers corner’, and how they used to hang pirates there. So we thought it would be fun and interesting to involve them in a small excavation of this place where they spend so much time – to perhaps uncover some of the stories of Turbo Island.

There wasn’t a lot left to see besides a few Tiki heads and the Stokes Croft museum was closed. Another time, I suppose.

After Bristol we ran off to East Quantoxhead, a tiny town on the north coast of Somerset that is famed for the huge ammonites that are eroding out of the beach head. The town is built out of the local rock, so there are fossils in all of the walls and houses. We looked around a bit, but had to hurry–the sun was setting and we wanted to get to the beach before it was dark!

The short walk follows a small stream through lovely green fields and out to the beach. I swear I want to spend a summer just walking through England, eating pub food and taking photos. It was foggy and gray, so the trail looked like it disappeared into nothing, like we were on the edge of the earth, instead of looking out over Wales.

The beach itself looks like it was intentionally cobbled with smoothed limestone and alternates with dark and lighter sediment. The light was almost gone, so we only saw a couple of small ammonites–not the huge ones that we were hoping to find. I think the area has also been heavily quarried by fossil hunters–it’s too bad, really.

So we headed back through the fog, down sunken, hedge-lined lanes and over to Exeter to meet with a few friends. It’s cold here, but I’m not sure I’m ready to leave for Qatar in a couple of days!

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

2 thoughts on “Anarchy and Ammonites”

  1. Sorry to comment on an old post – but I vaguely remembered this and have been trying to sort who wrote it! (Glad to have found it, and know that I wasn’t making things up…)

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, thought I’d say hello…. I’m an Arch & Anth student at Bristol – and I live in Stokes Croft. (Love the neighbourhood, but I don’t get out in it nearly enough – when things are actually open – every third day before sundown, or something, I think!)

    I missed TAG (it was a bad, bad timing – essay and presentation deadlines on either side and the GRE to take in London and a flight to California to catch). I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t manage to bend the laws of physics get myself into all places at once (and, of course, the laws of procrastination).

    Anyway – hello, thanks for writing, and I hope you enjoyed Bristol – and, really, since few of us here that I know made it – how was TAG?

  2. Hi Noelle,

    Very good to “meet” you, even if I’m a month late in responding to your comment. TAG was a bit of a blur, and the notes I have are not that complete. I probably should have posted, but was just too ill really to digest it…sorry about that.

    It seems like I’ll be in Bristol sometime soon, maybe we can meet for drinks!



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