Developing Integrated Archaeology- Third Annual Student Archaeology Conference, Edinburgh 2015

On Thursday 11th and Friday 12th June I had the pleasure of attending the Third Annual Student Archaeology Conference at the University of Edinburgh. This offered me the chance to visit Edinburgh and my old department, as well as a much needed chance to catch up with friends that are still in Edinburgh.

The theme of ASA 2015 was Developing Integrated Archaeology and the papers presented were all fantastic. I can’t enthuse enough about the imagination, skills and knowledge that the speakers used and conveyed to the audience on such a wide range of interesting topics. As neither a student nor an archaeologist I couldn’t help but feel like a bit of an imposter, however everyone was friendly and welcoming.

My primary archaeological interest is outreach and communities. I was lucky enough to present on the Edinburgh Archaeological Outreach Project (which was a rather last minute change to the programme) which I volunteered with whilst I was at University and as a graduate, and I still follow the progress of the project. Bringing archaeology into classrooms and its pairing with education and the Curriculum for Excellence is a real passion of mine- which is what E.A.O.P. encapsulates. The project gives students a chance to enter classrooms and present their subject in a fun, engaging and tactile way to school pupils, community groups and at wider events such as science and careers fair. It benefits the schools they visit through free and accessible sessions introducing the pupils to a new and exciting subject through the resources we have. It also benefits the student volunteers as it builds their confidence, public speaking and ability to prepare resources. I am sure this project will go from strength to strength in the years to come.

There were so many brilliant papers that there won’t be enough room to go into them all. Dr Emily Stammitti (@archaeo_otter) gave a brilliant paper on her underwater archaeology community project- with a debate on the rhetoric behind community archaeology and how it should not just be for the community but in the community. Katy Firth (@cuckoo79) highlighted the importance of sustainability in community projects, and how they need the support and structure to carry on the great work after the community liaison officer or contact leaves the project. Teresa O’Mahoney (@archaeology4all) gave an eye-opening and sometimes distressing account of accessibility in archaeology for physical and invisible disabilities and how this needs to be addressed. Special mention to a friend Lisa Bird, who spent all conference furiously hashtagging and led her own session on #archaeology which featured a live twitter feed and a space for audience discussion- which was one of my favourite sessions of the conference. So simple, but so effective. #ASA2015 has a live feed of the day, and you can check out the ASA website for the specific programme.

We were also able to enjoy a lecture by Lord Colin Renfrew on the spread of the Indo-European language, and how- at a conference with the theme Integrated Archaeology– that often integration is very difficult. New genetic data was examined as part of the talk, and as geneticists and archaeologists have different understandings, skills, knowledge and agendas, integration is should be something that should be strived for now more than ever.

So the ASA trip, and having a week to reflect on this trip led to me making a few realisations:

  • My friends are clever. Really, really clever. Every time I hear them speak on their research I am completely blown away by their hard work and dedication. David, Mike, Tom, Lisa, Joe and Tristan- and even Katy and Maya (whose talks I didn’t get to see) – you are all amazing. I really need to up my game!
  • Archaeology students are the best group of people. They have so many diverse interests that makes for cracking pub chat but also that they sometimes bring into their academic work. Tara Cobblestone (@archaegamer) and Meghan Dennis (@gingerygamer) gave brilliant papers on videogames and how archaeologists and non-archaeologists engage with archaeological themes.
  • Archaeology is a fast changing discipline. The careers round table discussion featured Dr Andrew Heald (AOC Archaeology), Dr. Alison Sheridan (Curator of Early Prehistory at National Museum of Scotland), David Connolly (BAJR), Gaille Mckinnon (Centre for Anatomy & Human Identification, University of Dundee) and Dr. Simon Gilmour (Director of Society of Antiquities of Scotland) and it became clear that their paths to their current career points were rarely simple, and were never intended. It was also clear through the debate around the relationship between practical training and higher education institutions that there is still a fair way to go in establishing a system that makes sure archaeology graduates are equipped for the workplace. There are opportunities for students to gain these skills both within and out with university, but some students seem to lack direction and confidence in finding and utilising these opportunities to their advantage. Volunteering and visibility is important in archaeology, to help further gain the skills to be equipped for the workplace. Massive thanks to Tom Gardner for organising and charing this- was a really interesting and engaging way to finish off the conference.
  • I really hate rocket, but I really like free wine receptions.
  • The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland now have a really good deal for U26s and Students- which is a £20 annual membership fee. For someone who always perhaps felt excluded from the society due to inaccessible costs, I think this is a really exciting opportunity. As has been proven at ASA 2015, the students of archaeology are engaged and have a whole lot to offer to the Society, as well as the chance to learn from and engage with their peers and fellows of the Society. It is an easy process for joining; you need to fill in a form with two nominations from current fellows. It’s something I would recommend looking into.
  • I really want a job in archaeology, and my own Masters project and eventually a PhD… -website for the conference featuring the programme of talks

@ASA2015Edin – #ASA2015 for the live feed on this conference

@ASAConference – information on where the conference will go next and how to join the national committee. – Society of Antiquaries of Scotland joining instructions

Also my friend Tom spoke about his site in Belford, near Bamburgh, working on Micromorphology of Burnt Mounds. They have a great blog which keeps you up to date on the site, which as well as the prehistoric Kaims site, also features Anglo-Saxon archaeology at Bamburgh Castle and you should all check it out (beacause Northumberland ):


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