What do we, archaeologists, see as our grand challenges

Posted on February 1, 2016


What are the great challenges of archaeology? At the beginning of the month I sent out a call to see what my fellow archaeobloggers though were the ‘Grand Challenges’ of their archaeology in a blogging carnival. The responses have been amazing or ‘grand’ as Susan at ‘Don’t forget you shovel’ interpreted the phrase into the Irish meaning of the word: ‘So … it’s a word that oils the social wheels, but also establishes the start of a conversation, allowing deeper questions to evolve. It’s a word that can be used to temper the realities of life, where a finished PhD that’s good enough is better than an unfinished one that’s lying in a drawer. It’s a word that can inject hope for the future.’ I think that perfectly encapsulates the responses to this blogging carnival, the start of many conversations,  allowing deeper questions to evolve… hope for the future.

Moreover, reading everyone’s responses has made me think of a ‘Republic of Blogs’ for archaeobloggers. A Republic of Blogs is a take on the Enlightenment’s Republic of Letters as described in this excellent presentation, that I recommend you watch, by Patrick Dunleavy. Video summary:

‘After a long period of monopolising academic discourse, European universities went into decline as classical scholasticism, which was primarily inward and backward looking, gave way to the ideas of Enlightenment. Intellectual development moved outside the walled gardens of academia, because enlightenment thinkers shifted their various discourses into the realm of correspondence, creating a Republic of Letters. Prof. Dunleavy argues that we are currently experiencing a similar shift towards a Republic of Blogs that enlarges communication, debate and evidence beyond the halls of universities.’

I encourage you to explore the conversations, comment, discuss, formulate thoughts, and continue the discussion.

Our Grand Challenges …in no particular order:

Lucy S:

1st: ‘Yet some very familiar stories are still kicking around, in and among (and in spite of) these new discoveries, methods and opportunities. The idea of the Etruscans as mysterious and unknowable, a frustrating mirage which obscures these wonderful leaps forward.’ http://potsplacesstonesbones.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/blogging-carnival-grand-challenges.html

2nd: ‘Coming to the point at last, my own grand challenge is to carve out a meaningful space for this new woman-in-archaeology-but-also-in-motherhood self.’ http://potsplacesstonesbones.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/grand-challenges-part-ii-news.html

Florence N : ‘Then there’s me. I don’t fit this postcard image of London affluence. In fact, I stick out like a neon orange thumb, because that’s the colour I’m wearing. No, it’s not a strange new fashion statement for the office: I’m wearing a hi vis jacket, a white safety helmet and steel-capped boots. My shoes are covered in dirt. There might be dirt on my face because I didn’t have time to check before I left the site I was working on, and I suspect there might be-why else would people be staring?

Today, London’s story is about bright young things in shiny offices being ‘aspirational’ and reinforcing the city’s image of photogenic success through high earnings. A 23-year-old young woman wearing PPE just doesn’t have a place in this story. Walking down an affluent street in central London wearing the gear I need for archaeology, I’m likely to be gawped at by unsuspecting pedestrians. The real irony is that although my hi vis jacket may serve its purpose in making me more visible whether on site or in the street, I also feel irrelevant and socially invisible.’ https://florencesmithnicholls.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/commercial-archaeology-hi-vis-but-no-visibility-in-the-big-city/

Michael S: ‘Over the past decade I have become involved in several transdisciplinary research projects. I have learned to interact with scholars in other disciplines (including geography, planning, sociology, political science, economics, and physics), and I have had to read widely in disciplines far outside my comfort zone of archaeology and anthropology. These experiences have made me simultaneously optimistic and pessimistic about the ability of archaeology to generate reliable information about past human societies.’ http://publishingarchaeology.blogspot.fi/2016/01/a-grand-challenge-for-archaeology-to.html

Sarah M: ‘As we work so closely with material that has survived many changes, archaeologists often have the strongest desire to see that material continue to survive. But the questions we follow, the stories we tell are all about the change.  We have a vast treasure trove of resources for understanding how change works, how societies survive and even thrive despite the loss of much that may have felt central to their lives.’ https://heritagefortransformation.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/learning-and-teaching-to-let-go/

Matt H: ‘ learning to code; sharing data; sharing findings; publishing negative results; identify the unique nature of your archaeological data; dedicated open-access journals; introduction to logic and quantitative methods in universities; talking to people outside of our bubbles; studying other fields/sciences; reading old literature; never being satisfied; being more skeptical than the skeptics; being creative; and adapting {stealing} ideas from the smartest people in the room… http://matthewdharris.com/2016/01/31/grand-challenges-for-archaeology-a-model-based-point-of-view/

Smiti: ‘So why is creativity important for archaeologists? Well, we’re trying to figure out aspects of human life in the past. It’s like a massive puzzle that has lost most of its pieces forever. We are trying to figure out what’s going on based on only a handful of pieces. Over the years, we’ve refined loads of techniques, methods, and theories to aid in this process. Still, we often have to exercise a good deal of creativity during many parts of the process…’ http://habitsofatravellingarchaeologist.com/creativity-and-archaeology/

Alice G: ‘Really, we should be taking the perspective that Earth is just one of the planets colonised by life at this point in time, and contextualise ourselves within a whole solar system. If there is anything living on other planets, then perhaps they will have their own “cene”. We can’t judge the scale of the Anthropocene in isolation after all. So we need to develop concepts to frame humans a part of a much bigger system than just one planet. Continuities and discontinuities are important here, and we need to be wary of drawing the lines in all the wrong places.’ http://zoharesque.blogspot.com.au/2016/01/the-anthropocene-nonhuman-and-solar.html

Andrew R: ‘Publish an Archaeogaming Excavation Report in a Traditional Archaeology Journal (10 points): Archaeological surveys, excavations, site reports, end-of-season reports, etc., for virtual worlds need not be relegated to journals focusing on media archaeology, game studies, and the like, but should qualify for inclusion in many of the journals that appear in this exhaustive list posted on Doug’s Archaeology.’ http://archaeogaming.com/2016/01/25/archaeogamings-grand-challenges/

Christopher Robin, Tigger and Owl: ‘Imagine, if you will then, that Christopher Robin, Tigger and Owl, playing at being archaeologists for a day, are sitting around a fire in a clearing of the Hundred Acre Wood. Their conversation turns, as it always does when archaeologists congregate, to their (current) profession, and some of the challenges they’ve encountered while uncovering the mysteries of the past. For the purposes of this tortured metaphor, The Hundred Acre Wood is not always a place in England but sometimes a city in New Zealand (just go with it, okay?).’ http://blog.underoverarch.co.nz/2016/01/archaeological-challenges-in-the-hundred-acre-wood/

The CRM podcast:  http://www.archaeologypodcastnetwork.com/crmarchpodcast/76

Paul B:’I find the last argument somewhat shaky too, though it is the one which seems to be most commonly articulated. Firstly, is it really archaeological knowledge tourists in general ‘consume’, or is this an incidental factor? Would visitor numbers drop at any major site (like Stonehenge) if we did not have seeds and snails from the primary silts of its second phase? We tend to overlook the fact that ‘not knowing ‘ about the past (‘the mysteries of the past’) is often a significant draw for tourism (and media edutainment). Gawpworthiness is also an important factor. A nice ruin covered in jungle plants is at least as photogenic as some heavily repointed wall-stubs displayed between immaculate green ‘Ministry of Works’ lawns. A museum case with a small heap of gold coins found accidentally in upcast from a mole hole by a dog walker is at least as much of an attraction for visitors as a carefully designed display of the snail shells and carbonised seeds and ‘what they tell us of the chalkland environment here a long, long time ago’. I do not think the bulk of tourists actually need archaeology to make a site visit-worthy.’ http://paul-barford.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/pas-atrtitudes-challenge-for.html

Matt K:

1st-‘I remember my first lecture as a fresh-faced archaeology student, young and eager, not yet disillusioned to the woes of my chosen career path, waiting for my lecturer to load his powerpoint. On the screen, two photos loomed large: a sexy determined Lara Croft, guns strapped to her thighs, alongside a dashing Indiana Jones shirt hanging open, whip in hand and fedora firmly in place. “This is not archaeology”, he announces firmly. It’s a phrase I find myself repeating on a regular basis.’ https://alifeinfragments.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/archaeology-grand-challenges-pt-1-so-wheres-your-whip/

2nd- ‘What sort of damage was accidental or deliberate? Was the metal hot when broken? Were they smacking it with a rock or carefully severing it? Almost no one has ever looked at this aspect. Over a century of archaeologists deciding objects had been “deliberately” broken and yet no one had ever worked out how.’ https://alifeinfragments.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/archaeology-grand-challenges-pt-2-how-to-destroy-things-best/

Kelly E: ‘Even though it’s coastal erosion we have to thank for the discovery of Zhenya the 45,000 year old butchered Siberian mammoth, I shudder to think how many comparable sites and specimens from coasts across the Arctic have already been lost. Sites across the circumpolar Arctic are being actively destroyed by climate change, such as Ukkuqsi (see here for a video of active erosion at this site), Walakpa, and Nunalleq.’ https://ossiferousarctic.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/grand-challenges-climate-change-and-unemployment/

Bill: What can Sci-fi tell us about Archaeology’s Grand Challenges.

Francis P: ‘One thing that does concern me is communication skills. I won’t say that the current generation of archaeologists are bad speakers and lecturers, as that would be a gross over-simplification, but nonetheless I’ve noticed that people have trouble sticking to their time-slots and over-running. There is also a tendency to speak in jargon and not to project the voice. If I could have £5 for every time I’ve seen a speaker address the screen, with his or her back to the audience, when reading from a PowerPoint screen, I’d be a rich man.’ https://pryorfrancis.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/publicity-and-benefit/

The Heritage Journal: ‘In particular, look out for a re-working of the Vietnam war quotation, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it”. We are confident a version of that will be voiced: “It was necessary to cause damage to the World Heritage Site in order to unify and enhance it.”’ https://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/blogarch-a-challenge-for-archaeologists-in-2016-defend-stonehenge/

Howard W:

1st- ‘I guess the greatest challenge of all is to work out if and when to stop blogging. What will be the moment when I give up? Is this still just an elongated experiment and when do I appraise whether it is worth my time? Am I really engaging in digital public archaeology, or simply cultivating digital hot air and/or talking to myself?’ https://howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/archaeodeaths-grand-challenges-1/

2nd- ‘Indeed, every mortuary archaeologist should be appalled that we find ourselves in this situation where Saturday-night TV in the UK is showing the ridiculous excavation of human remains which is tantamount to, and promotes, the looting of cemeteries and other sites containing human remains. What is most disappointing is what a wasted opportunity this programme represents: so much good work has been done combating the pillaging of sites for the trade in Nazi and other militaria and this programme could have illustrated the potential of good practice.’ https://howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/16/archaeodeaths-greatest-challenges-2-battlefield-recovery/

3rd- ‘Of course, balancing that with the physical, mental and emotional complexities and challenges of family life is never easy for any parent, and when illness hits, sometimes multiple illnesses of different kinds, life can be tricky and I find myself asking myself ‘what am I doing’?’ https://howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/23/archaeodeath-niggles-archaeodeaths-greatest-challenges-part-3/

Rob H: ‘However, I do believe that one of the drawbacks of the developer-funded system is that it has led to the belief that we can exist in a bubble, and don’t have to rely on public support: the planning applications will keep coming, and the work will flow. This is dangerously narcissistic, and the foundation of its core belief – that the planning system will rumble on unchanged, and continue tipping its hat to archaeology – is now looking decidedly shaky.’ https://incurablearchaeologist.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/weathering-the-storm/

Rebecca S: ‘At a recent conference, a fellow abandoned village nerd/colleague gave a talk on the Deserted Greek Village Project (check out their 3D models) The team of “guerilla archaeologists” spends 2-3 days at an abandoned site, using low-cost cameras and remote-controlled drones to create 3D models of the landscape, buildings, and artifacts. What struck me about this particular project was the way the team is connecting the abandoned village of Lidoriki with the individuals who used to live in it.’ http://rmseifried.com/2016/01/31/the-grand-challenges-for-archaeology/

Paul M: ‘Seinfeld provides a suggestive framework for archaeological story-telling that revolves around the recognition of ourselves that comes from a rigorous assessment of apparently banal everyday life. Like any narrative, Seinfeld evokes persistent themes: self-indulgence, neurotic relationships, and selfish angst emerge as a consistent, if bleak narrative thread that the series’ plotless stories refuse to speak out loud. Seinfeld’s plotlessness evades how its picture of everyday life confronts the experiences that are consigned to unexamined banality.’ https://paulmullins.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/the-archaeology-of-nothing-grand-challenges-and-everyday-life/

Lisa S: ‘There has been a long running idea (though recently this is changing), that the land surrounding Catalhoyuk was a big marshy swamp. This was based on a series of sediment cores that identified ‘backswamp’ deposits. One problem I always had with this was how we extrapolate from a small number of cores, to what is a very large landscape. How representative are these cores – are they telling us about the wider landscape, or something very localised?’ http://castlesandcoprolites.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/grand-challenges-of-geoarchaeology.html

Chris S: ‘That’s the system we work with right now. It’s tacked onto a bunch of bills and stuffed into the nooks and crannies of unsustainable institutions. CRM archaeologists are one more green light for the resource extraction and land use practices that are changing our planet’s climate in ways that will ensure mass extinction events. CRM archaeologists are also one more enabler of urban planning that reinforces structural violence across lines of class and race. CRM archaeologists are accomplices to maintaining consumption patterns that are built on child labor, slavery, and inhumane conditions in the Global South.’ http://www.godigahole.com/2016/01/21/a-grand-challenge-for-archaeology/

Rosemary J: ‘I see them as errors in fundamental thinking. If you start by assuming that sex is an unambiguous (usually, binary) attribute that remains stable for all human societies (let alone in a person’s own life) then you might be able to find some very narrow way to define “sex”. But sex/gender is more variable, fluid, and contextual than that. So knowing who “really” was male or female wouldn’t automatically unlock the gates to some great insight into human nature.’ https://ancientbodies.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/grand-challenges-for-archaeology-of-gender-and-sexuality/

Chris W: ‘We need to be proactive and constantly seeking out better, more efficient ways to get our jobs done. However, we need to do it in a way that serves our purposes as well. Budget in conferences, papers, publications, public talks, and whatnot if you’re saving your client money with your use of efficient tech. Don’t just low-ball to get the project. Show your client that you can make them look good by doing the archaeology justice. It’ll work if we all do it.’ http://www.digtech-llc.com/blog/265

Alice W: ‘Often archaeologists have been guilty of somewhat ‘fetishising’ new technologies and their application to our research. I’ve done it myself – when a new bit of software or technology comes out there’s always a giddying honeymoon period of being able to ‘play’ with some new tech. Don’t get me wrong, being able to explore new technologies for their potential application in my work is part of the reason I find such enjoyment in what I do, but issues occur when we let our enthusiasm for tech overwhelm our rational.’ https://digitaldirtvirtualpasts.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/grand-challenges-for-digital-archaeology/

David P:

1st- ‘A second problem is we tend to assume all population movement is some form of ‘migration’ and is (a) deliberate (b) long-distance and large-scale. Yet there are lots of other ways in which people might move from their place of origin. For example, there is forced movement through the slavery (for example Patrick’s initial visit to Ireland) and also both local and long-distance movement through other social mechanism such as marriage, internal colonisation or fostering.’ http://outlandish-knight.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/archaeology-blogging-carnival-grand.html

2nd- ‘What we are missing is any attempt to really explore the lived lives of rural workers (and I’d include within this category the population of small country towns).’ http://outlandish-knight.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/archaeology-blogging-carnival-grand_13.html

Katrin: ‘Terminology. This is a veritable quagmire. We have pictures, we have medieval terms, we have (very few) surviving textiles and garments… but we have no possibility, usually, to firmly link one clothing term to a type found or shown in the pictures. In addition, costuming history has traditionally taken specific old terms and uses them to address certain types of clothes or textiles, though this might be misleading, or even wrong.’ http://www.pallia.net/en/blog/2016/01/21/grand-challenges-in-archaeology/

Geoff:  ‘While watches are complicated, they are small compared to a building, which may have simpler engineering, but a lot more components, creating its own complexities for modeller and builder alike.  While a modern building might get away with a hundred standard mass produced components, most of the components in a prehistoric structure are bespoke and made to fit, which is time consuming and resource intensive.’ http://structuralarchaeology.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/a-blogging-carnival-grand-challenges.html

Elisabeth:  ‘Doubtless, the list of Characteristics of Paleo Places must be expanded beyond the original 19 to include discoveries that archaeologists and evolutionary psychologists are making, or to merely include new-to-me information that can be brought into my urban planning framework.  To that end, I would deeply appreciate any ideas that archaeology professionals may have regarding my Characteristics of Paleo Places.’ http://paleoplacesbook.com/2016/01/28/one-grand-challenge-for-archaeology-one-giant-leap-for-urban-planning/

Stephen: ‘We’re still out there inventorying data in the way that we always have. Unsurprisingly, we’re coming up with the same interpretations that we always have instead of saying anything new. We have no new research questions beyond what Sarah Herr once referred to as “disco archaeology”. There are plenty of my colleagues who think that this could be remedied with added level of nuance to discern greater differences, but I can’t help wonder if it’s not because our foundational theoretical framework (i.e., culture history) was just assumed to be correct.’ https://processarch.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/the-grand-challenge-for-crm-archaeology/

Annelies V: ‘Achieving these changes involve a transformation in the discipline’s own internal thinking process. We can no longer afford to do archaeology for its own sake. It isn’t like last century, these days there are far less wealthy amateurs willing to invest all their money in uncovering a mummy. The process is much longer, the methods more rigid and the cost higher. Archaeology requires collaboration, it requires justification and communication to a wider audience, not just journal publications and textbooks.’ http://nomadicwanderess.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/cocktail-party-archaeologist.html

Carl D: ‘who’s going to teach and guide this field? The places in the U.S. where one could go to get training in conflict archaeology were never numerous, but we’re losing them quickly. The places where we could go consisted significantly of the University of Nebraska (home of Doug Scott, of Little Bighorn fame, and some others), East Carolina (Larry Babits), Temple (Dave Orr), and South Carolina (Steve Smith). Of these, Scott and Babits have retired, and Orr and Smith are getting there. What academic program is poised to take this up now?’ https://cgdrexler.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/conflict-archaeology-in-north-america-the-grand-challenges/

Caroline W-J: ‘I’ve been reading a book that cites date ranges as uncal BP, cal BP, unspecified BP, years ago, 14C years ago, and cal BC; all in few pages of text. There are also a few uncalibrated original dates to play with. It is a nightmare to make sense of it all. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m sure there must be a better way. For now, all we can do is plead for people to use one standard throughout their work, explain clearly what it is at the start, and stick to it!’ http://www.mesolithic.co.uk/2016/01/22/dating-problems/

David G: ‘The industrial scale of looting at Mediterranean region sites from the 1970s has been highlighted by the revelations of the Medici conspiracy. Each lorryload of material that is returned from warehouse facilities in Switzerland represents 100s of archaeological contexts that have been destroyed and left (largely) unrecorded. Over 300 objects have been returned from North American public and private collections. Their acquisition in the first place reflects a passion for acquisition that was not matched by a professional desire to retain information.’ http://lootingmatters.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/losing-knowledge-challenge-for.html

David also submitted a guest post from another blog he runs. Terry L: “In flicking through An Inventory for a Nation, I was also struck by a quote from Roger Mercer, the Commission’s Secretary between 1990 and 2004, where he said, “Published Inventories have not ever really be a practicable, or, perhaps a desirable proposition.… By their nature, they seek to define, and as a result they tend to fossilise what must inevitably be a subject of constant reassessment”. As essentially a national collection for the antiquities of Scotland, this is an undeniable fact. Collections change; our understanding matures; different perspectives re-define.’ https://heritagefutures.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/terry-levinthal-guest-blog-on-inventories/

handyatmurlo: ‘I find myself in a unique spot as a high school teacher who has earned a masters in archaeology instead of education. I know others have done this (surprisingly I teach with one) but for the most part I find myself alone, coming up novel activities, and forging new paths in blending a language and archaeology curriculum. I have been focusing a lot of my efforts on bringing archaeology to high school students, a greatly different task from the college student (even though mere months sometimes separates them).’ https://handyatmurlo.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/grand-challenges-of-my-archaeology-high-school/

Alexandra: “How does ‘interdisciplinary’ research changes archaeology? This is a word which seems to appear a lot, but I am afraid I am still puzzled by what archaeologists really understand by interdisciplinary.” https://bodiesandacademia.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/my-view-on-the-grand-challenges-for-archaeology-blogarch/

Bernard M: ‘The 273 models available at http://sketchfab.com/virtualcurationlab, as of this writing, can be viewed in a wide variety of digital platforms. My intent with placing digital models on this Sketchfab site was to take all the work that my Virginia Commonwealth University students and I have been doing over the last four years and make our digitally preserved objects more readily available. These could be tools used to help other archaeologists identify their findings, educators could create object-based history lessons around them, and people could truly co-create and design their own exhibits or find other ways of expressing their interest in the past.’ https://vcuarchaeology3d.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/what-do-i-think-open-access-archaeology-should-look-like/

Jamie A, Elizabeth M, and Meghan B: ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House’ https://unstratifiedarchaeology.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/dismantling-archaeology-challenging-ourselves-our-ethics-and-our-priorities/

David M:  ‘It is this idea of distance, in a temporal-geographic sense, that I suppose is one of my grand challenges facing my own archaeology.  Writing in front of a screen offers precious little human connectivity as the tips of my fingers press into the plastic keys and dance across the keyboard.’ https://thesebonesofmine.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/dougs-blogging-carnival-the-grand-challenges-for-your-archaeology/

Katy: ‘Take flint knapping. It’s not something for grunting cave-men dressed in animal skins, so stupid they can only bash rocks together.  It’s a skilled activity, the principal way that modern humans and their ancestors made stone tools for hundreds of thousands of years.’ http://artefactual.co.uk/2016/01/24/potato-knapping/

Chris J: ‘Wherever scholars of the ancient Near East gather these days the topic of conversation invariably turns to The Situation. The Situation hangs like a spectre casting a pall over our entire field. The Situation both steels our resolve while giving our work an urgent sense of purpose, and makes us despair as to whether any of it will survive.’ https://gatesofnineveh.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/the-situation-a-post-for-the-grand-challenges-for-archaeology-blogging-carnival/

Hilary O: ‘Fog is now history but can London fog be archaeological? Or, in other words, I automatically filtered the stories I was hearing for research potential – for unanswered questions. You see, I’m looking for the next challenge.’ https://hilaryorange.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/conversations-with-strangers/

Charles M: ‘Consideration should be given as to whether the for-profit commercial model is the most appropriate for archaeological consultancies.’ http://charles-mount.ie/wp/index.php/archaeology-2025-development-led-archaeology/

Jess B: ‘Aside from the amusingly offended Canadians, the census painted a troubling picture of a discipline that is almost entirely white. The SAA has yet to conduct another census on the 1994 level, but its 2010 Needs Assessment Survey suggested that the number of minority archaeologists is slowly growing…’ https://bonebrokeblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/the-grand-challenges-for-archaeology-a-blogging-carnival/

Sam H: ‘One popular complaint was ‘inadequate access to data’, but it was directed at publication of data and analyses, so still no-one addressed destruction and deprivation of knowledge through looting (or iconoclasm). Perhaps they were resigned to the illicit trade being a chronic problem.’ https://conflictantiquities.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/blogarch-antiquities-trafficking-open-data-systematic-review/

Ulla: This cutting to the bone and beyond is not happening only in Britain. Just a few days ago the University of Helsinki finally announced how they plan to make the huge savings the shrinking statal funding will require. About 25 %of the administrative personnel have to go and apparently 4 – 5 % of teaching and research personnel. It is all packaged as a transformation of administrative services and restructuring of teaching and undergradurate degrees. The matter was not made better by the University’s translation error: instead of terminating contracts, they stated that they will ‘terminate… employees’. http://landscapeperceptions.blogspot.se/2016/01/liberty-equality-humanity-our.html

Detlef Gronenborn: ‘Generally, representatives of the discipline claim that particularly archaeology, with its long-term approach, provides data and analyses which would open pathways to a better world. But how realistic is this claim really, how influential has the discipline been?’ http://archaeologik.blogspot.de/2016/01/archaeology-today-archaeology-tomorrow.html

Detlef Gronenborn 2nd post: ‘These diverse and multi-disciplinary approaches will result in a turn towards a more scientistic approach to archaeology, somewhat opposed to the by now largely vanishing post-processual paradigm. This future paradigm might once, in hindsight, be termed “Neoprocessualism”.’ http://archaeologik.blogspot.de/2016/02/archaeology-today-archaeology-tomorrow.html

Tara C: ‘Academia is set up around publishing text-based journals, monographs and books. It is a well-known tenant of media theory that the medium one chooses to construct an idea or argument in has a profound impact on how that idea or argument can be structured, conveyed and received. It is totally possible to write about how a video-game was made, but I struggle to write in text about how the specific affordances of the media work in particular ways, and it is outright not possible to structure a game-based argument as a journal article. Video-games can be platforms for constructing and manifesting academic arguments, platforms which allow us to think, engage and receive discourse in ways which aren’t possible in other forms.’ http://blog.taracopplestone.co.uk/the-grand-challenges-of-my-archaeology/

Dimitri N: ‘Archaeology and the public. Where I work, in Greece, there is a tension between the official organs of archaeological practice and the public at large. Especially the rural public, where I work, tends to be suspicious and resentful of archaeologists who can threaten their livelihood by expropriating their agricultural land. The archaeologists, in turn, are suspicious of looters and looting. This is a difficult situation in which to work, because I want to have an open discourse with the local communities in which I work.’ https://englianos.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/my-grand-challenges-for-archaeology/

Grace: ‘I think the grandest challenge in my archeology (aside from trying to decipher my own handwriting) is figuring out where to draw the line between fiction and reality. Sometimes that also means figuring out where the line might be blurred. Delving into the historical archaeology of the commercial sex industry in North America has, for me, been nothing if not an exercise in trying to understand the gray areas.’ https://gakrause.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/grand-challenges-blurring-fiction-and-reality/

Jessica R: ‘So the Grand Challenge for my archaeology is this:  untangle my identity from my archaeology.  I will never not be an archaeologist.  It has irrevocably changed the way that I think and how I view the world.  It is a part of me.  But it is not all of me.  Archaeology does not represent the sum total of who I am.  I have other interests, other passions, and other goals.  And if I want to take some time to explore those, that’s fine.  I can be an archaeologist who only blogs, or only attends conferences, or only does any number of things that don’t require being in the field full-time.’ http://digthisfeature.tumblr.com/post/137824603008/what-are-the-grand-challenges-for-your

Martin L: ‘I rehearse this ancient history as a reminder that the contemporary view I often encounter that an archaeologist’s primary audience is a non-technical, popular, community one, that involving non-professionals in the process of excavation and recording, that digging and showing is more important than reporting and analysis, is a recent development, and one that has had an unwelcome effect on the profession at a time when resources are tight and hard choices must be made.’ http://10simplesteps.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/the-grand-challenge-for-archaeology.html

Kristina K: ‘But I’ll go a bit further and insist that, when we’re talking about physical bodies in the past, we bioarchaeologists bear a lot of the burden of this. Talking about sex/gender/sexuality in the past is clearly a topic of interest to the general public and to the media, and we’re just not doing it well right now — not in our published work, and certainly not in our public outreach.’ http://www.poweredbyosteons.org/2016/02/grand-challenges-for-bioarchaeology.html

And in case you missed Susan’s contribution at the beginning so go back and check it out.

If I have missed anyone please let me know and I will add a link. I think I have got everyone who commented or emailed me but there are over 60 entries by 50+ participants.

The end… probably not.

Several people have said that they are a little behind on getting posts out. So I will be adding to this list over the next few days. Check back in at the end of the week an there will probably be more posts. If you are just reading this and want to participate jump in and send me the link I will add your post.

For current participants, if you are inspired to write more than send me a link.

Added after posting:

Ashley R: ‘Archaeology at large needs to remember that we’re not stuck in this niche unless we want to be. We don’t all have to be pure academics. There’s such a thing as applied science too. There’s also such a thing as social mobility for a discipline. Until the 20th century, engineers were merely considered fancy construction workers. Doctors weren’t always well paid professionals—lest we forget, lots of women healers in the Middle Ages were burned for their quasi-scientific endeavors. Computer scientists had never been heard of. Basically, the most well paying, fundamental, and interesting jobs in modern society weren’t really societally impacing, recognized spaces until their disciplines pulled themselves up, got organized, got involved in something other than bickering amongst themselves and playing ego-games, and turned their discipline into something I am opting to call ‘active.’ https://adventuresindigitalarchaeology.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/the-activation-of-archaeology/

Caroline W: ‘I’m not sure where this leaves us. But I’m sad that archaeology can still come over as such a male dominated profession. In fact, thinking of people like Kathleen Kenyon and Isobel Smith, I’m sad that archaeology has ever come over as a male dominated profession.’ http://www.mesolithic.co.uk/2016/01/28/the-challenge-of-stonehenge/

Bill C: ‘Archaeologists have embraced the panoptics of surveillance society with greater attention to ever increasing measures of resolution than the ethical impact of watching – always watching – a site, local practices, or a region. People are talking about BUYING A SATELLITE to watch ruins in the Middle East. Drones to document looting. Lasers in the jungle somewhere.’ https://mediterraneanworld.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/grand-challenges-of-archaeology/

Kate E: ‘The grand challenge of my archaeology is drawing together all these people who don’t connect often, but have important contributions to make within public archaeology. From these many contexts, my colleagues gain rich understandings of how non-archaeologists learn about our work and participate in it. I dream of stimulating a sense of community among public archaeologists which will enrich our approaches to teaching and seeking outside collaborators.’ http://kateellenberger.com/disconnectedness-is-our-shared-challenge/

Kaitlyn D:  The most important contribution of our work, as I see it, is connecting the present to the past not through analogy as a substitute for direct evidence, but through the evidence itself, which is to say, by analyzing the same measures from modern and ancient settlements in the same way. In 1970, Fritz and Plog offered the sobering statement that, “unless archaeologists find ways to make their research increasingly relevant to the modern world, the modern world will find itself increasingly capable of getting along without archaeologists.” http://www.colorado.edu/socialreactors/2016/02/24/taking-grand-challenges-archaeology

Mark M: ‘These days I’m paid to do admin, not archaeology. But the past still has a habit of catching up with me. After all, archaeology is a vocation. One cannot simply ignore it when the money stops.’ https://farmingunearthed.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/a-grand-challenge-to-blog-or-not-to-blog/


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