BAJR Federation Archaeology

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vulpes Wrote:In what way is Francis Pryor not sensible?
He was not sensible when he wrote Britain AD, well, except insofar as making money may be deemed to be sensible. As long as he sticks to his expertise in prehistory then he is ok, but the moment he steps out of that period he immediately makes a fool of himself. Rather than write all the issues with the book out longhand, I'll just point you to this review in The Heroic Age. I think it covers the main points.
ok I have to be honest, I'm definitely not seeing your point. If we have the same edition then the quote I guess you're referring to is

"most of the contract archaeologists I know express just as strong an interest in method and theory as you do"

Is that the piece you meant?

I think you have misunderstood our intentions. We are not attempting to strike out against theory. What we have been talking about on the page comes down to three main things. One being abtuse language that actively hinders comprehension. The second is that some projects show a worrying trend to be completely divorced from anything as old fashioned as evidence, and not simply the stuff in holes now, evidence of any kind, including pre-existing perspectives that are being criticised unfairly. The third is that some projects, and admittedly a tiny tiny proportion, appear to be of little actual value but are justified under some weird relativistic netherworld.
And it's precisely because we have an interest for this stuff that we wish to discuss it.

And why do people here keep assuming I'm a contract archaeologist? And if I was what's wrong with that? I spent many years doing that sort of work, and it was fantastic. And now I do academic jobs, well so what. I'm still an archaeologist, same as I ever was.

But to illustrate a point about evidence, recently someone criticised my work saying,

" It wouldn't go amiss to realise it.... was written nearly thirty years ago on a different continent in a different academic climate and against a different theoretical and methodological background"

which seems to rather ignore some similar points I had made earlier about the same piece such as

"Do you see that was written 28 years ago? Well we've been through a whole other theoretical cycle since then..."

and

" Some of that is a rather specific to America"

Now if you don't mind I'll go back to picking through that article for choice quotes as it is very, very funny (the bits we were admiring!)
Are you interested in discussion, though, or are you 'not being entirely serious'? You seem to be arrogating to yourself the perfect get-out clause: if anyone proves you wrong, you were 'just kidding around, couldn't you tell?'

Hey ho.

So, you don't like the Transit van. (You also don't say *what* you don't like about the Transit van, except for baldly stating it's 'hideous', 'not even a very old one', and 'no merit at all' -- this gives the impression you aren't actually interested in having a serious discussion)

What about the excavation of a WWII POW camp?
What about a campsite excavation of the stopping place of a handful of present-day First Nations men, out hunting?
What about the excavation of a 70s campsite in the Forest of Dean?
What about the excavation of paint layers on a Spitfire during its restoration?
No absolutely, we are interested in discussion, it's just I wish people would read the stuff before criticising it....

So the transit van then. Ok I didn't understand that project, and I was clear about that, and I still don't. What I did discuss was the effect of projects like that on public perceptions of archaeology and whether such a project could be justified in terms of financing this project compared to other ones, specifically social projects in deprived parts of Bristol. Now I know by not funding this project money suddenly wouldn't appear in the account of an adult literacy programme, but it is still valid to ask if the finances of this project could have been better spent?

But I did place up the stated objectives of the project in their own terms. It's hard to discuss these meaningfuly as I don't believe in them. I wondered at the time were we seeing an archaeological equivalent of the debate about what constitutes art. Specifically I was wondering if they were trying to examine the boundaries of what can be considered archaeology, but this does not seem to have been their objective. I also wondered if it was simply a publicity stunt, as it is immediately headline grabbing stuff, and was there a policy at Bristol of all publicity is good publicity? Again this doesn't necessarily seem to be the case as they published it properly, but saying that, they certainly saw fit to plaster it over the front of British Archaeology. Perhaps if I had done this project, and it was a serious research endevour, I may have been a little bit more discrete about it.

Now I wonder how that transit van went down on boards like this when it first came out?

As to your other suggestions those are really interesting. When dealing with early modern and 20th century material there is always a danger of straying into the pointless. One of the projects I am involved in looks at a range of rural settlement sites that were occupied mostly in the 19th century but some of them well into the 20th century. We are always being asked "what's the point" both by locals, other archaeologists and general visitors. In our case the point is that there as there is only a small amount of historical data, and that's often contradictory, then archaeological techniques can provide useful information. Whilst our results are of no massive significance, they have for instance altered our understanding of the quantity and types of imported ceramics present in the far west of Ireland, and the level of personal items that were taken to transhumant summer camps.

World War 2 defenses are another case where, in my opinion, archaeology has a lot to offer, and the Defense of Britain project is great. From that I learnt the 'bombey' we used to play on as kids was actual a Bofor medium anti aircraft gun emplacement, and that the concrete bollards down where the railway crossed the cannal were not put there by the council to stop travellers moving onto the site, but to stop German tanks advancing across the midlands. Awesome! But that sort of thing works really well for two reasons; one becuse there isn't allways adequate historical material to cover what was built and also what still survives, so you certainly need something like archaeology, although other approaches can work just as well; secondly because it is of interest to a great many people, well beyond the boundaries of the normal archaeological audience.

I think with these projects the two key questions to ask are;
1) Are archaeological techniques the best way to access the information
2) Is the information worth getting

Additionally with site work on 20th century stuff I would suggest at least questioning whether it's worth giving it the full whack of excavation or not. Do you want to use the same sort of detailed strategraphic recording as you would on older sites? In some cases perhaps you would, I think in others maybe not.

As I wrote on the CSA page when the Tuscon Garbage project came up
"I'll get some more stuff on this tomorrow. I actually think this one deserves some close attention, because there may be some justification for it, depending on the methods and what they did with the results. "
Now I never did go looking for that information and the question posed on the site is presently unresolved (only for us I'm sure that project has been discussed ad nauseum elsewhere). I don't think this sort of discussion on the site indicates a mindless reactionism though.
Quote:I wish people would read the stuff before criticising it....

I tried reading your stuff, but couldn't get through the first chapter.... xx(
..and you still have yet to say what is wrong with the Transit van! Not 'I don't understand it', not 'I don't believe in the project objectives', be specific for us. I'll even link you to the project design:

http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/downloads/THE%20VAN.pdf

Would it have helped if the van had been a few years older?
I do get the impression here that 'Sensible Archaeology' is anything that you and your groups members fully comprehend / endorse. Whereas anything that might push the envelope or your comfort zone, theoretically, temporally or methodologically is fair game for your anti-intellectual crusade. In this context BRahn, Kevin et al may have a point. I am similarly suspicious of your attempts to hide your prejudices behind humour.

You raise issue of funding and also parallels with perceptions of art. I can only guess that you have a similarly binary view of the Art world - good Vs bad / sensible Vs Frivolous ?
Interesting link to the Aussie farm vehicles project BRahn. I particularly like objective 4:
Quote:To enrich and enliven archaeological theory and debate.

:face-approve:
Well this has all been very interesting. A bit like being shouted at by strangers, but interesting none the less. I posted on here to add members to the site, which we've done, and hopefully recruit some people that would add some content, which only time will tell. However we've become locked into an arguement about the validity of the project, and seem to have reached an empass. Obviously I think there's something valid here or I wouldn't be doing it. For those that can't see any merit in it? Fair enough.
I've certainly learnt a few things from this discussion and will be amending the site to reflect some of those over the next few weeks. Clearly there is a need for a greater seperation between the humour and the genuine discussion. We should also have to address the issue that we are discussing multiple different aspects of archaeology in a presently amorphous and freeform way. Whilst we may get what we're on about, will other people if it is so chaotic? With some work it should be possible to provide more focused strands of discussion. Having been forced to think much harder about it through these discussions I think I can see perhaps 7 related topics and maybe we will focus on one at a time for now, until we have something a bit more developed. It's early days for the group and we are still learning what we mean by 'sensible archaeology', learning how to express it, and learning how serious we are about being sensible.

For now though,

laters
sensible lad :face-approve:
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