The Theoretical Archaeology Group conference was founded in 1979 to be a forum for new and cutting edge interpretive ideas in archaeology. Every year since then archaeologists have met up at one university or another at the end of December. Partly they do this in order to give research papers and hear new ideas. However, since all this happens at the end of December, TAG has also developed into an impromptu Christmas do for the whole discipline.
I have been going to TAG conferences off and on since 1990, so I have a fair idea of how it all works now. Getting there is often a bit of a trek. Coming back from Bristol a few years ago the weather was so festive that we had to drive up the ice-covered hard shoulder of the M5 at about 25 mph with Duncan leaning out of the passenger side of the minibus to spray de-icer over the windscreen.
This year’s conference was in Bournemouth at the start of this week. Once you are there, a good TAG will have some sort of central coffee drinking venue where people can meet up and exchange important gossip between sessions.
It should also have lots of interesting sessions on, but not so many that no one comes to hear the one that you are speaking in. Sam, Duncan and I were all in this nicely busy session ‘Theory begins in the grave’. Here am I answering questions about possible Neolithic mummies in caves after my paper on Tuesday morning.
Ideally, you also get to see a bit of the town where it is being held. I did my bit in this respect by getting lost on the way back from the town centre. I saw a lot more of Bournemouth than I had bargained for, but I did also get to see a dog fox on the path ahead of me as I found my way back up the hill towards the University.
Then there is the dancing. Senior academics with their hands in the air like they just don’t care in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The Urban Prehistorian is getting on down at the front in the red Hawaiian shirt.
Reasons to be cheerful, part 2. Emma was supposed to be examined on her research MSc two weeks ago but the great storms took the roof off Glasgow station and Kenny, the external examiner, couldn’t get down to Preston. We rescheduled the viva for today. After all the delays she had a very good viva and passed this afternoon. There are yet more pictures of us with plastic glasses of champagne on the UCLan Facebook page.