Global Perspectives on British Archaeology

Posted on March 20, 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

With the exception of a small number of world-renowned examples (Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall), the majority of British archaeological sites receive very little attention on the global stage. Occasionally some achieve momentary celebrity status as ‘globally important’, the result of significant fieldwork discoveries, but then sink back below the topsoil, real or metaphorical. Is there a way to escape this temporality – the archaeological ‘five minutes of global importance’ – and to transcend the miasma of localism to create a more sustained global engagement with British archaeology? Would it be desirable to do so? This session examines wider relationships between local, national and global archaeologies, approached through the lens of British Archaeology. Within an increasingly globalised world of education and research, there appears a pressing need to engage the British archaeological agenda as fully as possible with developing global currents. World Archaeology is a hugely active field of research for British archaeological institutions. In contrast, research on British archaeology sees little involvement of non-British research institutions. Surely a necessary component of the pursuit of World Archaeology is a World/Global Perspective on British archaeology. Key questions investigated by this session are as follows: What role does British archaeological heritage have beyond our borders?; How is it perceived and presented, and what is its impact within global educational and economic arenas?; How is the perception of the past amongst British communities informed by or reconceived through engagement with international perspectives on the past? The session relates to an ongoing AHRC-funded research project investigating innovative new ways to connect British archaeological heritage and associated timelines to a broader history of humanity. The session will include case studies from this project and present the findings of a survey of attitudes towards internationalising British archaeological heritage. We also welcome other contributions relevant to the session theme.

Organisers: Simon Kaner (University of East Anglia) and Sam Nixon (University of East Anglia)

Global Perspectives on British Archaeology

ver the summer and autumn of 2017, we toured our Archaeoglobe pop-up intervention to a series of important East Anglian archaeological sites with the aim of raising awareness of the international significance of these sites. This paper presents the results of the accompanying survey of attitudes to the need to internationalise British archaeology, results which have informed the formulation of guidelines for setting local archaeological findings in a globalised context. One major challenge has been to develop an appropriate theoretical framework for this endeavour, avoiding overly simplistic comparisons, and at the same time being sympathetic to concerns about globalisation. Revisiting earlier discussions of this theme and adopting a critical stance to global themes in archaeology as present (cf Lozny 2011, Hodos 2016), we propose a new framework for comparative archaeology that works at various different scales, and for varied audiences.

Simon Kaner (University of East Anglia) and Sam Nixon (University of East Anglia)

Globalizing Caistor Roman Town: Challenges and approaches

Archaeological sites in the UK are understandably most often considered and presented to the public in terms of relevant historical narratives that have resonance for a local and national audience. This paper uses the example of the Roman town of Venta Icenorum in Norfolk to examine some of the issues associated with presenting nationally important archaeological sites to an international audience. The Roman town has been traditionally viewed in the context of ‘Roman Britain’ (with its accompanying 19th and 20th century imperial baggage) and the Boudican revolt, which, although on many junior school curricula in the UK, has little relevance beyond these shores. This paper explores ways of bringing the site to wider global audiences (as physical and virtual visitors), through new technologies and new narratives. It also examines how trying to reach audiences from very different historical traditions forces us to challenge our own perspectives. Can we make a case for the importance of a regional Roman town that cuts across barriers of geography and historical tradition and can this also help us to cross boundaries of age, education and social class in more local audiences?

Will Bowden (University of Nottingham)

Digital Experimentation and Developing Innovative Digital Tools for Global Engagement in Archaeology

How can we use digital technology to make connections in global heritage? Increasingly archaeological projects and heritage institutions are using digital technology to both disseminate knowledge and connect with researchers and audiences. This paper will examine and review the achievements as well as the technical challenges of various recent digital heritage projects connected to the British Museum (MicroPasts, African Rock Art Image Project, Global Perspectives) and how they offer propositions for contextualising British and Global heritage using innovative digital tools. By experimenting with innovative digital tools, including 3D modelling, 3D printing, and AR/VR technology, we have been finding new ways of using and engaging with the data available in archaeological archives, museums, and cultural heritage projects. Using these digital techniques has widereaching implications for the way museums and cultural heritage agencies use their historical data and make it accessible to both communities and researchers globally. Archival resources are not only key educational and research resources, but also increasingly play an important role in possible reconstructions of endangered or destroyed heritage sites using digital technologies, focusing on gaining a first-hand experience of exploring archaeological sites virtually, particularly in connection to its endangered nature, artistic heritage, and importance to local communities.

Jennifer Wexler (British Museum)

Site Development and Utilization in Japan and the UK

This presentation examines site development and utilization practices in Japan and compares them to the United Kingdom. In particular, this presentation looks at sites that have reconstructed prehistoric architecture that is based upon site remains. Focused largely on Japan, this presentation will introduce some of the results of the author’s database project cataloguing sites and buildings throughout Japan (900 buildings at 350 sites). There are many different types of reconstructions, use of materials, and motivations for developing sites. These range from rebuilding monumental prehistoric structures to weekend archaeology experiences for school children to build houses. They may be made from chestnut and thatch or made out of concrete and steel. These buildings may serve an educational function in relating past lifeways or built as temporary structures to be burnt down at festivals. For the UK, the presenter has conducted fieldwork at West Stow and Flag Fen and will include additional examples from archive study. Comparatively, there are many more reconstructed buildings in Japan but there are very few examples in Japan where these buildings are being utilized for demonstrations or other interactive experiences for visitors, something that is much more common in the UK.

John Ertl (Kanazawa University)


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