Blogging Archaeology – Week 5 & Finished!

From Terminal 3 in Heathrow, between Mulberry and TGIFriday, here’s the last edition of Blogging Archaeology. Our SAA session in in a couple of days and I’ll be covering it (and probably the rest of the SAA) on twitter: check #blogarch or for updates.

Last week I was prompted to ask about possible outcomes of this conversation, after several participants expressed interest in publication:

For our last question, I would like to ask you to consider the act of publication for this blog carnival. How could we best capture the interplay, the multimedia experience of blogging as a more formalized publication? What would be the best outcome for this collection of insights from archaeological bloggers?

First, I recommend reading the comments on last week’s entry, where Jonathan Jarrett from tenthmedieval discusses the electronic publication of blogs, noting that it is considered the lowest form of publication because it is considered transient. This is a good point, and one well taken. Jonathan also questions peer review of blogs–after so much speculation regarding peer-reviewed blogging, I think that an experiment might be in order. I will likely bring this up during the blogging session, if we have time to chat.

Shawn, the Electric Archaeologist provides a few good reference links about “the relationship between blogging and other academic forms of discourse” and makes the good point that the best outcome for many of us would be a refereed publication. I wonder if there is a middle ground available for us here, something that would satisfy both the academic community and be digital, open, and more suitable to the conversational tone of blogging.

Bill Caraher from The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World has been giving me great feedback via email and contributes to the conversation by offering some observations about publishing Blogging Archaeology in a traditional manner. He specifically cites transmedia dialogue, that is, “the interaction between various forms of web-based media” as well as that between digital and paper media. He also makes the excellent point that as archaeologists we are attuned contextual shifts and translating meaning from physical objects into “the more elusive realm of practice, social structure economic organization, and political life” and so we should be able to negotiate the structure and meaning of blogs to some other media.  He suggests that we build a blog catalog with an eye toward the archive, which I heartily endorse. I wonder if we could build upon Shawn’s network of interconnection to create this catalog. There are several other insights in his blog post–I highly recommend a wander over his way to check his post out.

Matt Law suggests that we check out the Archaeological Record, the SAA publication as a possible format, and perhaps that peer review is not the best format. Publication is an unexpected outcome for him, but he hopes that any results will be published quickly and that it will “embrace the informality” of blogging. Bill’s comments on the post are worth checking out as well.

Passim in Passing (who has remixed the logo each week to a horror-show theme) is happy to have found other blogs and suggests that we might be able to offer “text summaries alongside some visual mapping of the responses” – I would hope this as well–visualization tools are so close and so adaptable that it is worthwhile to try to do something creative, building on Shawn’s cool graph. Hmmm.

Doug’s Archaeology was also caught off-guard, and notes that his page view count has gone up considerably, though it might result from a post about Lew Binford’s health. He encourages other bloggers to consider the consequences of blogging and to make sure to have a polished and up-to-date CV–which reminds me, mine is woefully outdated and badly formatted.

Dig Girl makes the great point that a formal publication would “go against the very virtues of blogging that many in this carnival have been rallying around: flexibility, informality, and dialog.” She feels the same though, that the “experience has been a unique one that warrants some kind of formal and creative documentation.” She also points out that there is a discussion of archival of RSS feeds, noting that “perhaps one day your rambling posts could end up automatically archived on a progressive digital library system.” Amazing stuff!

MSU’s blog answered as a group for this edition–they too suggest the Archaeological Record, with online hosting from the SAA. There was also the suggestion of a blogroll, which I think makes sense. I try to keep my links updated, but there might be a better place for this than on just one individual’s blog. Thank you very much for mustering such a strong response every week, MSU!

John at Where in the Hell Am I? also likes the idea of a publication in the SAA’s Archaeological Record and hopes that more archaeologists might consider starting a blog as a result. He also would like for CRM to be more open to blogging and notes that the people in his office don’t consider his participation at the SAA in a blogging session to be “particularly valuable.” This is frustrating and as John says, “perpetuates the view of CRM as small-scale and unable to be involved in big-picture ideas.” I would also encourage John’s bosses to check out the incredible public education and outreach that Wessex Archaeology is continuing to do in the digital realm.

Michael Smith at Publishing Archaeology is not sold on publication of the Blogging Archaeology conversation, and brings up the two very good questions: Who is the audience? and What is the purpose? He wonders if such a publication would alleviate the “blog-cluelessness” among influential archaeologists. I too am unsure about this and about the potential audience. His questions are good ones, and only answered in part by the participants in the Blogging Carnival. I look forward to his paper at the SAA–I’m sure it will push us to produce something that is both inventive but also useful to the profession.

Alun Salt reacts to these points and wonders if a digital-only publication would be ignored by the “blog-clueless,” and provides a model in Holtorf and Karlsson’s recent Philosophy and Archaeological Practice. I’ll have to check it out, but I wonder, if blogging is a shout in the digital dark, what better is a collected volume? This is obviously a collaborative product, and I wonder if separating this conversations into chapters would not be the best transmedia approach. It would preserve some authorship at perhaps the expense of interactivity and informality. Alun wasn’t forcefully arguing the point–I think one of the most interesting outcomes of this blog carnival could be a brave new publication standard–not that I’m holding my breath.

Terry Brock at Dirt wonders about using Anthologize, but also perhaps having a collaborative blog. I like the idea of a “home base” and I would be happy to contribute posts toward such a thing. Building a community is a happy outcome of this session, and now has a community that has become self-aware, perhaps it’s time to make others aware of us.

Throughout the carnival I thought about contributing my own posts, but it was a true pleasure to collate and react to the reactions of others–so much so that by the time I was finished reading and reacting, most of my thoughts on the subject had been covered! As the organizer/instigator I am extraordinarily pleased at the nuanced responses that the carnival has attracted. We will discuss this further at the SAAs, and I will do my best to report this conversation. Also, I hope to move forward with the following points:

1) Catching the network/Archiving the conversation – listing/archiving and keywording the responses would be a boon to any further work or conceptualization of the carnival as a particular moment in time that can be referenced and built upon.

2) Blogroll – Building a central place that would serve as an RSS feed and maintained list of links would be a fantastic idea. I think it would also serve a great place for…

3) …Peer-review for blog posts – While it would be a drag (in my opinion) to have every single one of my posts go through a vetting process, I think there should be a mechanism for peer-review. My thoughts are that it should be an open review, such as a google document, and comment would be asked from both bloggers/digital archaeologists and peers drawn from the subject matter. After the blog post has passed this process, it would receive a “stamp” and a link back from the central site, with a particular note that this post is peer reviewed. Much like the “research blogging” phenomenon, this would provide readers (the blog-clueless, in particular) a venue for receiving vetted blog posts and would perhaps draw the non-blogging peer-reviewers into the conversation without necessitating their hosting/maintaining their own blog.

I’ll see many of you at the SAA–I have to catch my plane!





It’s been an incredible time here in Qatar, working with the QIAH (Qatar Islamic Archaeology and Heritage Project) on the NE coastal pearling sites. I’ve been very involved with the Blogging Archaeology SAA session and other various side projects, so I have been distracted from my usual mode of field blogging, which is a little sad because I’ve been able to do some new and interesting things here. I have a half-dozen posts that I’ve been waiting to edit and bring out–hopefully I will be able to finish them up in this last week.

I think it sums it all up though in saying that it is a truly amazing experience to work with well-trained, professional archaeologists again. We had a fairly last-minute rescue job that I’ve been working hard at this week and I have rarely seen rescue archaeology done so efficiently and so well. Working with professionals is just so easy–you all know what needs to be done, and everyone pitches in to make it happen. The craft is respected and pleasure is taken in the little things, like exquisitely rendered sketches and less-than-mil grid accuracy. There’s a reason that academics have increasingly been hiring professional archaeologists (trained in single context) to excavate sites–it is fast, it is exacting, and once you have been on a project that employs these folks, there is no looking back. We were extremely well-managed by Tobias Richter, who took care of us, made sure that things ran smoothly, and kept a sense of humor about it all. It’s really the gold standard for how sites should be run.

The work that has been done in the name of the QIAH is absolutely top notch–performed by excellent archaeologists who have really given it their all. I’m proud to be a part of it, and actually pretty sad to be leaving Qatar!

Post redacted, March 7, 2013. There’s a first time for everything!

These Boots

I’ve had these boots for years and they’ve climbed volcanos in Nicaragua, gone down abandoned show caves in Texas, skipped around the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, through deserts and mangroves and over ancient lava on countless adventures. They’ve been slung over my shoulder in $7 hotels, forgotten in unmarked cabs, and sleepily pulled onto my feet over and over again. The treads are almost invisible, the cracks along my toes formed while I was crouching over yet another piece of archaeology, the laces replaced, at last count, six times. Once with yellow kite string.

They actually hurt my feet now, these boots. But they’ve held up over the years. I’ve tried Clark’s desert boots, and while they’re great for photography and for sensitive archaeology, they didn’t stand up well to rocks and to desert sand. Lots of archaeologists just buy the cheapest thing and then throw them away, but I’ve kept these boots for years and they’ve served me well. When I wore out a pair of chucks, I’d sling them over a powerline–the only proper way to “bury” a pair of shoes that saw me through punk rock shows and love and disappointment.

It’s time. The laces have lost their aglets and are fraying in the middle. The cracks in the leather fill them up with piles of dirt and rocks. The treads have no purchase and are slippery on the rocks.

The boots are done, and so is the season here in Qatar. I’ll be back in the Bay Area in less than a week, and then at the SAAs, being an academic archaeologist again. Tomorrow, I think I’ll tie the laces together, throw them over my shoulder one last time & find them a proper place to live in the desert.

Dig house life: the little things

& things that make me happy when I’m a little blue.

Accidental color composition in the wash room.

People who are casually excellent at their job, even under time constraints and in the hot hot sun. Also, permatrace.

Fuzzy cycle on the washing machine that sings to me.

The bucket shisha.

Finding the ridiculously hectic kitchen quiet, if only for a moment.

The remains of a big bonfire we built out of beach wood.

Blogging Archaeology – Week 4


I’ve been digging midden in the hot sun for the last couple of days, and I’m filthy and tired, but here we go!

A couple from last week:

One of our session participants, Sarah Nohe at Gettin’ Dirty Before 10:30 (or the Middle Eastern version, Gettin’ Dirty Before 5:30, after being woken up at 4 by the call to prayer) discusses blogging at an organizational/regional level, mentioning that “more individual viewers had visited the regions blog than had visited the organizations’ website as a whole.” I found it interesting that blogging was discussed at a staff meeting–I’ve never heard of such official handling of blogging in archaeology before.

Alun Salt mentions not being able to keep up with my questions–neither am I, it seems! He has a great response to week 2, that blogs are both a built-up repository of what you were thinking about over time and “a stream of nowcasting.” I agree with this point and hope that my colleagues are cognizant of this fact, that they are new media-literate enough to understand that blogging is an ongoing process, ever an unfinished product, and that it shows strength as a scholar to refine ideas and be willing to make mistakes in order to get a better result.

On to week three responses:

To illustrate his point, Shawn Graham, the Electric Archaeologist, used Gephi to visually trace the network of relationships between bloggers who are participating in the blog carnival. The true power of blogging doesn’t necessarily show in comment-count, but in the network of relationships that blogging forms. You participate in the conversation not just by speaking your mind, but listening to what other people say. While comments do indeed show that you are listening, linking to the blogs you read is the best way to show your good taste and (to a certain extent) your academic/personal relationships that you’ve fostered or are fostering.

In a complimentary fashion, Bill Caraher at The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World wrote a similar post, noting that “the influence of a blog and the way that it becomes part of the academic discourse represents are far more complex and (to use an over used term) networked phenomena.” His blog has been cited in academic publications and considers blogging to be another facet of academic experience. He also wrote a post regarding Blogging for Publication in Archaeology, something that is in the works and will be further discussed after the SAA session.

Dig Girl (whom I accidentally outed) was our catalyst for last week’s question, has kept her blog primarily for friends and family to understand what she does a bit better; she pre-digests archaeology news with this audience’s interests and level of understanding in mind. I started blogging archaeology in much the same way. I wrote because I missed my friends while I was in the field and it was an easy way to update everyone at once, and then I had to move away for grad school, and finally it became broader than that. Colleagues started discovering the blog, then my family, and my audience was suddenly a lot bigger and more diverse than I could imagine. I’m pretty chagrined that I slipped and used Dig Girl’s real name–but as she says, nothing in her blog could be used against her. If anything, I think it would be a positive in the hiring equation.

John at Where in the hell am I? also blogs for his friends and family and his next post is one of the best examples I’ve seen that explains the varied Texas  CRM field experience. John’s blog exemplifies a strong tradition in archaeology–storytelling. We make narratives from our gathered information about the past, and pair them with our contextual experience of this process of gathering. I think this is where the short form excels above other methods of communicating archaeological information. Nowhere else are we allowed to tell our archaeology campfire stories, the things that we did or our friends did that make up the stuff of our profession. Most people choose not to share this information, but I think it gives non-archaeologists the best insights into our profession. Do yourself a favor and read John’s experience with a gentleman who drove him around in an old jeep in the Hill Country.

Alun Salt helps us understand why we don’t receive more comments using the 95-5-0.1 rule–wander on over to his blog to check it out. He points to Facebook as the place where people will comment on posts rather than on the blog itself. Blog-commenting isn’t a very visible activity whereas interaction on Facebook has both visibility and a more instant payoff. Even if others within your Facebook social circle do not read the blog post, they can see that you are interested (and are therefore interesting) in the content of the blog post. Alun expands on all of this, it’s really worth checking his entire post out.

Matthew Law (a fellow OG LJ archaeology blogger) at Adventures in Archaeology, Human Paleoecology and the Internet also notes this dichotomy–the blogs set up for outreach projects at Cardiff University weren’t nearly as successful as Facebook groups that were set up for the same purpose. After several years of experience, I am seeing more and more that blogs are not particularly well suited for short-term group projects. Setting up a Facebook page may bring the audience you desire, as they are able to “perform” their interest in your site/research as a “like,” thereby incorporating it into their projected online identity. And don’t fret Matt–you can always change the name of your blog.

The MSU Campus blog provides us with some insight, beginning with Katy Meyers’ appeal to treat blogs as a roundtable discussion rather than a solo activity. Grace Krause suggests that we draw in wider participation by linking blogging with the real world, blogging public events and such. I think this is a great idea–I still need to work on some of the public aspects of my SAA and TAG sessions. Lynne Goldstein views the problem of communication as an historic one and suggests promotion through personal Twitter and Facebook feeds. I’m pretty inconsistent about this last point myself–I post links on Facebook most of the time, and Twitter very occasionally, but I’d hesitate to make a Facebook fan page for a personal blog.

Terry Brock extends this point at Dirt, and encourages us to ask “what would you like to see more of?” or “what questions do you want us to answer? on Twitter or Facebook. I’ll admit that I’m an inconsistent Twitter user, probably because I don’t use it on my phone. I agree with him though, “I consider blogging to be one piece of a larger use of online media for archaeology on the web.” This kind of distributed identity is good for archaeologists and even for archaeological projects whereas webpages have relatively limited use and success conveying the same information. (see Carol McDavid’s excellent and seminal dissertation regarding this point)

Johan Normark uses his blog, Archaeological Haecceities to query the Object Oriented/Speculative turn and notes that timing his posts can get better results. He’s writing for a different time zone, as I am I (at least in part) as most of his traffic comes from the US. He also names his hit stats, which look pretty respectable to me.

A new blog and entry comes from Doug’s Archaeology. He notes that archaeologists rarely solicit comments on their blogs, but I have to say, I have a few times and only rarely do I get feedback in that form. People who will read my blog and who will talk to me about it on Facebook or in person won’t comment directly on the post. Doug’s research sound interesting though, probably something the Electric Archaeologist should talk to him about. I’m also looking forward to reading his publication Making a Living, coming up in the SAA Archaeological Record and will watch the Youtube summary when I have a moment.

Again, a big thank you to everyone who contributed to this week’s discussion of blogging in archaeology. As I wrote to Bill Caraher in email, this conversation seems to have taken on a life of its own! If I missed your contribution, please notify me.

For our last question, I would like to ask you to consider the act of publication for this blog carnival. How could we best capture the interplay, the multimedia experience of blogging as a more formalized publication? What would be the best outcome for this collection of insights from archaeological bloggers?

As always, please email me a link to your post! Seeing as I was so late in responding, the deadline for blog entries is 29 March.

The Dorothy Garrod Photographic Archive

"Heap of rolled flints in EB" - 1933

Dorothy Garrod (1892-1968) was the first prehistorian and the first woman to be elected to a professorship at Cambridge University. She excavated in Gibraltar, Palestine, Southern Kurdistan, Anatolia, and Bulgaria where she made amazing advances in archaeology, uncovering the skull fragments of a Neanderthal child and established the Natufian culture. As they tell it, the Pitt Rivers Museum received “an old-fashioned leather hat-box with the letters ‘D.G.’ in gold on the front.” Inside was an absolute treasure–Dorothy Garrod’s collection of negatives from her field work. The Pitt Rivers Museum has scanned them all and shared them at The Garrod Collection webpage.

Even if you aren’t a giant history of archaeology nerd, it deserves a look. The photographs are amazing–well-shot and downright delightful, showing a full range of the archaeological experience in the 1920s-1930s. There’s illustrations too!

Dean Harriet M. Alleyn, Dorothy Garrod, Elinor Ewbank, Mary Kitson Clark, Dr. Martha Hackett, (left to right) I can't lie, I wish I was standing in that line of amazing women.
(On envelope) Photos. KH. Qumran(?). Attetatious de Benediction. St. Sepaccre. 1960 (Back)
(On envelope) Photos. KH. Qumran(?). Attetatious de Benediction. St. Sepaccre. 1960 (Back)

Thanks to the Pitt Rivers museum for making this archive available to researchers online!

Entanglements: materials, practices and design

I don’t usually post symposium notices, but I’d love to attend this one:

Entanglements: materials, practices and design
Symposium: 5th/ 6th May 2011, Nottingham Trent University, UK.
‘Entanglements’ brings art, craft and design together with the human sciences to explore theoretical, creative, empirical and curatorial aspects of our relationships to the material world.

Symposium Themes

  • What are materials? Between raw stuff and human effort
  • The effects of stabilisations, closures and re-configuration of materials.
  • Materials, objects, experience and playful/ sensual engagement
  • Design’s role in practices; making strange/ new materials
  • Materials and everyday life, sustainability and transitions

Confirmed speakers:

Tim Ingold, University of Aberdeen (Stone); Elizabeth Shove, University of Lancaster (heat); Tim Dant, Lancaster (carbon fibre); Peter Wright, Newcastle (electricity); Yolande Strengers, RMIT (houses); Eiluned Edwards, ntu (cloth); Sophie Woodward, University of Manchester (denim); Tom Fisher, NTU (air); Zoe Laughlin, KCL (‘strange’); Sabine Hielscher, SPRU (shampoo); Sarah Kettley, ntu (metal); Susan Lambert, MoDiP (plastic); Andy Jackson, UCA (wood);

Hopefully someone will write up a report–I’d really like to hear about it.