HARP's year so far!

Post date: May 17, 2017 5:54:33 PM

What a great start HARP has had to 2017! Grace has been writing some interesting blog posts which if you haven’t checked out, I highly recommend you do. And we had a wonderful group in Cyprus in April with our Introduction to Archaeology, Bioarchaeology and Lithics courses! This year, we decided to run the Introduction and Bioarchaeology courses at the same time at the Lemba Archaeological Research Centre, which meant that we had a lovely group of 13 people studying and working on archaeological material. I thought I woulduse this blog post to go through a bit of what we do at each Cypriot course, and especially to talk about our new Lithics course.

Spring in Cyprus!

The Intro to Archaeology is really an introduction to archaeological field recording and artefact identification and recording. It gives participants the chance to learn the skills needed to record various features on a site and practice those skills while they develop a portfolio record of their work. This all sounds a bit dry, but at a time when the infrastructure projects (particularly in the UK) need qualified and experienced archaeologists, being able to show that you have the skills to identify and record archaeological featurescan give you the edge in the job market. The course is set around the Lemba Experimental Prehistoric Village which is beautiful and provides the perfect setting. Not only do we do on-site recording – drawing, photography, registers, and context sheets, but also post-excavation recording and artefact identification – drawing, photography and some analysis. Typically, we have had participants with a range of experience, some who have dug elsewhere and some who are new to archaeology. What is great, is that all of them have told us that they feel that they really get the chance to build their skills and to better understand that archaeological process through this course.

This year we had a really international group for the Intro course, from Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Germany and the United States. It’s interesting when people come from different disciplines and with different understandings of archaeology, based on where they have worked or studied. For example, archaeology in Australia and New Zealand actually has a lot in common with North American archaeology when dealing with the archaeology of indigenous peoples, though it differs in some key areas, sharing their understanding of archaeology from their part of the world, gives participants a wider view of archaeology globally. This is an important aspect of the discipline now, as evidenced by projects like Kate’s last year (www.globalarchaeology.ca) and conferences like this one in Cambridge.

The Bioarchaeology course again brought together a group of individuals from different backgrounds and countries… though this time with a bit of a North American leaning. We had a really lovely group of Canadians, Americans and Irish with us this year. Some came with no prior osteological experience and some with an introductory course under their belts, while others had done some osteological studies but had been away from it for a while. By keeping it to a small group, I am able to give the students a little bit more one-on-one attention and really give them the chance to ask questions and focus on things they have an interest in. We use archaeologically-derived skeletal material and the students have the chance to clean it, identify and record it. It’s highly fragmented and quite a challenge for the students to work with! The hands-on experience is interspersed with lectures and talks on the human skeletal anatomy and visits to interesting archaeological sites in the area.

With all the HARP courses in Cyprus, we try to introduce the students to some of the local archaeological sites and get experts in various material cultures to talk to the students about the practical side of their research. This year Dr. Lindy Crewe was able to give us a talk on pottery – how it’s analysed, what to look for and record, and some of the types of pottery on Cyprus. Dr. Paul Croft gave us a great talk on animal bones in archaeology, and what we can learn from the analysis of animal remains in terms of diet, cooking habits and herding or hunting practices. Sarah Douglas was also able to enrich the course with a discussion and talk on gender in archaeology and how we need to make sure we are keeping an open mind about what we interpret, and bring together biological data with material culture to help create a narrative. One of our participants, Marc McAlester, is a photographer and it was such a pleasure to have him explain cameras and how to take the perfect picture, either on site or especially in the laboratory. Finally, some of our students stuck around (or came out to join us) for an intensive lithics training week with Dr. Carole McCartney.

This was our first Lithics Course, but it won’t be our last! Carole was a great teacher, who has an unbelievable wealth of knowledge about lithics, local geology and the processes involved in making lithics. Using her own site, Ayia Varvara-Asprokremnos as the focal point, students had the chance not only to understand how lithics are identified, studied and recorded, but also to work with material from the 10,000 year old site,and learn about the earliest peoples on Cyprus. The students for this intensive lithics week got to learn how to identify, record and even make some of their own chipped stone tools. We had a fun excursion, river pebble hunting to find chert sources and then taking them back to Lemba to have a go at flint knapping.

As well as learning all about chipped stone, students had the opportunity to participate in some ofthe environmental processing of the samples from Ayia Varvara-Asprokremnos. This not only contributed to the overall processing of the site material, but gave students the chance to learn more about how environmental samples are processed and why.

All in all, it was a great 3 weeks in Cyprus this spring. Made truly enjoyable because of the nice group of students we had, who jumped in to every task and lesson with enthusiasm, energy and interest. So a big thank you to all who participated and contributed to the courses. The specialist and general skills acquired on these field schools will help students achieve their archaeological goals we hope, and make them more employable in both research and commercial excavation.

Next up, we have our Jacobites, Clearance and Scots project, where we get to return to the amazing Atholl Estates and stay at the Forest Lodge while we set out to survey more of the military roads in that area. If you are interested in reading more about this, check out the July/August issue of History Scotland where Ian and I have written an article about the work that has been done so far. Following quickly on the heels of the Jacobites project, we’ll be heading up to the Isle of Mull for another excavation season at Kildavie.

So it’s going to be a busy and exciting couple of months ahead and we’ll make sure to get a few more blog posts up here to keep you up to date with the latest and greatest of HARP’s 2017 field season. With the lovely start that we’ve had this year, I can’t help but be excited with what’s to come!