Walking the Archaeological Walk: Walking and Thinking in Archaeology

Posted on March 13, 2020


This part of my series of posts on conference presentations, that I have filmed. This is another one from the TAG conference:

Session Info

The movement of walking is itself a way of knowing’ – Ingold and Vergunst 2016: 5 Much of archaeological practice takes place on the move. We fieldwalk and survey on the move, and phenomenological and experiential archaeologies have specifically embraced walking as part of the bodily engagement of these approaches. Yet while walking and movement is implicitly acknowledged as an integral part of what we do, it is less common to reflect on walking itself. Or to consider the impact it has on the way in which we, and the general public, come to understand and interpret archaeology. This is relevant as walking is not just a mechanical action; it is part of our engagement with place and one way in which the world is revealed to us. It can be political, is grounded in culture and affected by physical abilities and background. Where and how we walk is influenced by the present layout of the landscape, in turn affecting the way the landscape and archaeology is revealed to us. So how does the way we walk and think contribute to archaeological understandings of sites and landscapes? What about more static practices – does this diminish our understandings? How does directed walking around heritage sites affect the way the public engage with these sites? Contributors are asked to reflect on walking as part of archaeological practice, to consider less what walking around sites or across a landscape can tell us about past places and landscapes and more the impact it has (or has not) on archaeological interpretations, ways of knowing and the production of archaeological knowledge. Contributors may wish to reflect on walking as part of their own archaeological practice, or reflect on the walking of others, whether that be other archaeological practitioners or the general public.

Organiser: Kirsty Millican (Historic Environment Scotland)

Walk on the Wild Side: Moving through past and present environments


‘It is our habit to think outdoors…where even the trails become thoughtful’ – Nietzsche (1974: 332) This paper takes the form of a discussion, mirroring the way in which thoughts often evolve, develop and gain a temporary solidification whilst we are on the move. As we amble through the subject of environmental interpretation we will touch on a number of themes, but central to these is how the practice of movement (walking and running) informs our archaeological and palaeoecological interpretations about past environments, and equally how our professions influence our thoughts about the present-day landscapes that we move through. Experience is cumulative, recursive and often throws up the unexpected. Join us in a ‘walk’ through environments of the past and present, where the point is the journey, not the destination.

Benjamin Gearey (University College Cork) and Suzi Richer (University of York)

Walking Lochbrow: Experiencing a landscape through the feet


Walking forms a key aspect of the practice of the Lochbrow Landscape Project, an archaeological survey project based in Dumfries and Galloway. Since 2010, the project has been investigating the landscape and setting of a cropmark prehistoric complex using a variety of non-destructive survey techniques. From the outset a number of different forms of walking have been employed, ranging from the intense back and forth of geophysical survey to repeated walking between recording points for experiential survey, directed walking around the monument complex when taking visitors around the site to wider landscape walking. In their own way, each form of walking has contributed to the way in which the sites and landscapes which form the focus of this project have come to be known and understood. This paper is a personal reflection on the intimate connection and evolving perspectives that this walking has had on the author and the resulting interpretations of Lochbrow. It is argued that different forms of walking produce differing relationships and types of knowing. This in turn influences the archaeological narratives we create, in effect creating an understanding at least partially formulated through the feet.

Kirsty Millican (Historic Environment Scotland)

Walking Around or Walking Over? Wandering tourists and storytelling in the Ironbridge Gorge


One of the central performances of being a tourist is wandering – a leisurely, but expectant, walking practice where we allow ourselves to freely roam around a place taking in its sights, sounds, smells and textures. In wandering, the tourist gaze becomes mobile, and it is often mediated through related practices such as photography. This paper contrasts two different forms of tourist wandering in the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site (Shropshire, UK). The site is focused on the Iron Bridge and the Old Furnace: two monumental structures representing the industrial innovations of the 18th century. The former never went out of use as a Bridge, and today it is encountered by tourists who not only gaze at it but also cross over it. The Old Furnace, in contrast, was largely forgotten before its excavation in the 1950s and visitors today walk around it, following an ordered route along a path. These subtly different forms of walking, it is argued, create different spaces for knowledge creation, altering the visitor’s experience and understanding of this cultural landscape. These spaces encourage different perceptions of value to be formed, and allow different forms of storytelling to take place.

Coralie Acheson (University of Birmingham)

Don’t Walk That Way! Why heritage sites need psychogeography


By their nature, heritage sites often require constraints and controls on pedestrian access. Yet the freedoms of walking – and the attendant pleasures of pausing, ruminating, peering, questioning, imagining and narrating – are vital to the public experience of these sites. In this paper I will discuss how psychogeographical approaches, particularly those embraced by practitioners of counter tourism (Joel Henry, Phil Smith, Wrights & Sites), can be used to ameliorate issues of access and develop imaginative responses to physical and less tangible heritage. Since 2015 I have been developing the use of creative and attentive walking practices at heritage sites from the perspective of a psychogeographer and curious visitor, rather than a member of the archaeological community. This includes work with English Heritage at sites in East Kent, an HLF-funded project ‘Walking Heritage’ (2016), and ‘O what we ben! And what we come to!’, an interactive walking project mapping post-apocalyptic literary landscapes onto Medieval and Roman sites in Canterbury (Being Human Festival 2017). Drawing on these case studies, I will discuss how walking with psychogeographical attitude can be encouraged, creating playful experiences and an enriched engagement with heritage places and spaces.

Sonia Overall (Christ Church Canterbury University)

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