Buddy can you spare a dime?

Actually, better make that about eight million dimes at the current rate of exchange. We have been looking at where we go with the project from here. There is a lot of exciting archaeology to make sense of on and around New Laund Farm and we have the opportunity to do a variety things with it.


This is site K, excavated and surveyed last summer, where we think we have the remains of a temporary hunting or droving camp – judging from the stone tools and the pits Mike found on the geophysics.


And this is Fairy Holes cave, in the woods behind site K, which was used for burial in the Early Bronze Age and also visited in the Late Neolithic. The deep cave sediments here also give us excellent preservation of both pollen and animal bone.


Another piece of the jigsaw is provided by ritual monuments, like the timber circle inside the New Laund Enclosure. These are the holes which held some of the big posts just to the south of the circle entrance, which we excavated this summer.

Running the summer excavations is only part of the story, there is much more we could do over the rest of the year too. However, that would depend on having someone working full-time on the project which means we ought to be bidding for research funding to support our work. Funding like this is obviously in high demand and short supply so it is not enough just to say – ‘look at the cool stuff we’ve found, give us some cash and we’ll try to find some more.’

We need to think about bigger questions. For us, the big question has always been about memory, particularly what we refer to as social memory, hence the title of the blog. This week I have been doing some hard thinking and plotting, trying to tie down the research aims of the project into a nice coherent set of questions which can directly relate to the sites at and around New Laund. This is some of what I have come up with so far.

How did prehistoric people remember important places? In Britain during the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age people repeatedly visited particular places to hunt, farm, live, worship and bury their dead. These places included natural features like caves, monuments such as timber and stone circles and open air sites. How and why did they choose these particular places? Why did some places remain in use for very long periods of time? How did groups of people in preliterate societies manage to preserve the memory of these places? Is it even possible to distinguish between places which were coincidently used in different periods and ones which were genuinely remembered?

To answer these questions using the sites from our study area we also need some methods…

There are likely to have been three processes which were important in how a group remembered a particular place. These are how distinctive that place was, what kind of performances or activities took place at it and how it was transformed by those performances. Places can, of course, remain in human use for a whole range of reasons. To distinguish places which were genuinely remembered from those which were coincidentally re-used, we will follow three broad lines of enquiry.

1 How distinctive a place was will be studied by combining detailed survey and analyses of the modern landscape with as complete a reconstruction as possible of the changing past environment.

2 Performance can include any activity carried out by people which had an audience. For example, the performance of making and learning to make worked stone tools can be studied by looking at the scatters of waste material.

3 The ways in which people transformed places can cover a wide range of events including monument building, vegetation clearance, grazing, planting, woodland management and pit digging. These will be studied by combining archaeological excavation with analysis of pollen, charcoal and animal bone to reconstruct past environments.

Lots of these ideas are fairly shamelessly pilfered from the paper about social memory at Goldsland Caves I published in the Journal of Social Archaeology in June (‘builds upon previously published work’ is how I would express it in the funding application). People who have heard me speak about the work at New Laund this year will also have heard all about distinctiveness, performance and transformation before.

We hope to put all this across in such a winning way that a research council can be persuaded to employ a full-time research assistant to work on the project for the next three years. I took this outline plan to the research support office here so they could help me by working out how much it really costs to employ someone on a fairly modest salary for three years. This is not just obvious things like employer’s National Insurance contributions but also all the costs associated with physically finding room for a new member of staff in the university. It very quickly adds up to an eye-opening figure, if you find an on-line exchange rate calculator you can work it out for yourself from the first line of the post.



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