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London, United Kingdom

Macklin M.G.,Aberystwyth University | Woodward J.C.,University of Manchester | Welsby D.A.,The British Museum | Duller G.A.T.,Aberystwyth University | And 2 more authors.
Geology | Year: 2013

The relationship between climate change and the development of Old World riverine civilizations is poorly understood because inadequate dating control has hindered effective integration of archaeological, fluvial, and climate records. This paper presents the most comprehensive and robustly dated archaeological and paleoenvironmental data sets yet compiled for the desert Nile. It focuses on the valley floor hinterland of the Kingdom of Kerma (2400-1450 B.C.) in northern Sudan. Kerma emerged as a rival to Egypt during Africa's first "Dark Age" drought. In contrast to other irrigation-based agriculturists in Egypt and Asia, Kerma flourished during the environmental crisis ca. 2200 B.C. We have studied the stratigraphy and archaeological records of paleochannels across an 80 km reach of the Nile upstream of Kerma using optically stimulated luminescence to date when channels flowed and when they dried up. The dynamics of the local alluvial environment were critical in determining whether climatic fluctuations and changes in river flow represented an opportunity for floodwater farmers (5000-3500 B.C.), a hazard that could be managed (2400-1300 B.C.), or an environmental catastrophe that resulted in settlement abandonment (after 1300 B.C.). © 2013 Geological Society of America. Source

The site of Baker's Hole in the Ebbsfleet valley, Kent, is the best-known British Early Middle Palaeolithic (MIS 9-7) site, and has produced a substantial assemblage of Levallois artefacts. The history of this collection, however, has become confused over the years, with some suggestions that it was actually amassed through excavation. This paper reviews the history of investigations at the site, on the basis of archive letters and records, and demonstrates that it was clearly collected by quarry workers. This clarification has important implications for understanding human activity in the Ebbsfleet valley during late MIS 8/early MIS 7. © 2010 The Geologists' Association. Source

Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 645.60K | Year: 2013

Hoards of valued materials, particularly coins, are a common, and rapidly growing, class of discovery across the Roman Empire. While these are most commonly seen as having been deposited for safe keeping, other explanations for this activity are also possible. There has been little explicit discussion or research on why Roman coin hoards were buried, why hoards were not recovered in antiquity, or what they tell us when studied as a group. Six hundred hoards are known from Britain containing coins of the period AD 253-96, an unprecedented concentration, and they provide a key and under-used dataset that can shed light on a poorly known period of British archaeology and history. The British pattern of later 3rd-century hoards differs markedly from the rest of the western Roman empire, despite the political problems that affected Britain at this time being felt equally or more severely in many other European provinces. This anomaly merits detailed investigation and the results will have implications not only for interpretation of this specific hoarding phenomenon, but will contribute significantly to more general debates about hoarding behaviour in antiquity. Traditionally these hoards have been interpreted as having been buried with the intention of recovery but recent discoveries such as the Frome hoard have suggested the possibility that these hoards may have been ritual (or `votive) deposits. Ritual deposition is a common explanation for prehistoric metalwork, and many, if not all, Iron Age coin hoards. Can we show whether any of the 3rd century hoards were likely to have been ritual deposits and, if so, how many? If so, what are the implications for the use of their contents in studying monetary history or political history? We propose to ask the following research questions: 1. Why were coin hoards deposited in Roman Britain - and was this for similar reasons as other Iron Age and Roman coin hoards? 2. Why were so many coin hoards deposited (and not recovered) in 3rd-century Britain and is their date of burial the same as the date of their latest coins? 3. What do coin hoards tell us about the economic and political history of 3rd-century Britain? 4. How different or similar are 3rd-century British coin hoards to those from other periods of Roman Britain or other parts of northwestern provinces of the Roman Empire? 5. What wider lessons can be learnt about using coin hoards to understand the economic, political and religious history of the Roman Empire? The project brings together the expertise of the British Museum in the study of Roman coins and hoards and the academic strengths of the University of Leicester in Roman archaeology and their experience of investigating coin hoards in a landscape setting. The PI, Dr Roger Bland, is Keeper of Portable Antiquities & Treasure at the British Museum and has very extensive experience studying hoards; the CIs are Professors Colin Haselgrove and David Mattingly, leading experts respectively on Iron Age archaeology and coinage and on the archaeology and economy of the Roman Empire. Under their collective guidance and with input from expert colleagues, 3 RAs will study (1) the hoards from Britain and the wider Empire, (2) a landscape study of the hoard findspots and archaeological evidence for Roman Britain in the 3rd century AD; and (3) reasons for the deposition of metalwork in the Iron Age and Roman periods. The key outputs will include a monograph, at least 5 peer-reviewed articles, 2 conferences (the papers of which will be published), two exhibitions, articles for popular magazines and a web-based hoards database. The project will build on discoveries made by members of the public and reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme to provide a comprehensive study of coin hoarding in Britain in the 3rd century AD, set in a wider context, and will also address key wider questions relevant for understanding coin hoards in other periods.

Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 484.09K | Year: 2009

The ability of material culture to open horizons of knowledge and imagination beyond that transmitted through text is fundamental to contemporary museum practice. Interactive digital technologies, especially, provide new opportunities for reanimating ethnographic collections in exhibition and outreach contexts, in the field of museum and source community relations, and as a means of generating and connecting diverse knowledge networks around objects. Such technological developments necessitate a radical rethinking of what ethnographic museums and their collections are and do in the digital age.\n\nThis multidisciplinary project is concerned with innovating digital curatorship in relation to Sierra Leonean collections dispersed in the global museumscape. Extending research in anthropology, museum studies, informatics and beyond, the project considers how objects that have become isolated from the oral and performative contexts that originally animated them can be reanimated in digital space alongside associated images, video clips, sounds, texts and other media, and thereby given new life.\n\nIn partnership with the British Museum, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Glasgow Museums and collaborating institutions in Sierra Leone, a digital heritage resource is created that utilizes social networking technologies to reconnect objects with disparate communities and foster reciprocal knowledge exchange across boundaries. Whereas the practice of digital repatriation has become increasingly popular with museums, the reception of such initiatives by source communities has not been critically assessed. Thus, a crucial part of the project is to employ innovative participatory methods to pilot and evaluate the digital resource in Sierra Leone.\n\nAs well as its impact in Sierra Leone, the research will inform museum policy-making more widely, exemplify how museums can play a role in strengthening international relations, and provide a platform for future research and capacity building initiatives. The process and findings of the research will be publicized widely through a series of innovative dissemination methods, including a project blog and multi-sited exhibition.\n\nResearch Context\n\nWhereas Sierra Leone was once renowned for the vibrancy of its cultural traditions, including the varied music, dance, masquerade and storytelling practices of its several ethno-linguistic groups, the dominant image of Sierra Leone today is of a war-torn society held hostage by child soldiers and corrupt politicians. Despite six years of peace, infrastructure is only now beginning to return, and Sierra Leone remains one of the least developed countries in the world, with a literacy rate of just 35%. The disruptions of a decade of conflict have had a huge impact on cultural as well as economic activities. Alongside infrastructure- and governance-related development programmes, there is therefore an urgent need to reanimate Sierra Leones cultural life and heritage. The problem is that those institutions, such as Sierra Leones National Museum, which might lead such cultural renaissance, have themselves suffered from chronic neglect and have few resources and little expertise. At the same time there is a wealth of Sierra Leonean material culture and associated scholarship dispersed in the worlds museums. This project is concerned with exploring how these diasporas of objects and knowledges can again become meaningful resources for Sierra Leoneans who currently have no access to them.\n\nThe project not only investigates how the digitization of museum collections provides an opportunity for the virtual repatriation of objects, but also how remediating collections in digital space can reanimate them and generate more diverse knowledge networks around them - bringing together academic scholarship, for example, with indigenous knowledges in a way thatpotentially enriches both, while disrupting conventional knowledge-power asymmetries.

Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 445.15K | Year: 2015

This project will investigate the ways in which historic artefacts are tools for contemplating the past, for remembering collective practices of ethnic identity, and for contributing to cultural revitalization processes, particularly in areas that have experienced political and ceremonial suppression. The regional focus is the Sakha Republic (Yakutiia), Russian Federation, and the centrepiece of the project is a unique mammoth ivory model of ysyakh, the summer festival of the Sakha (Yakut) people, which has been in the collection of project partner, the British Museum (BM), since 1867. During the Soviet era, many Sakha cultural expressions, including ysyakh, were suppressed. Since the 1990s, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, cultural revitalization and attempts to establish political autonomy have generated considerable interest in these expressions and in the intersection of their historic and contemporary forms. Accessing Sakha historic artefacts, now scattered in museums worldwide, is key to these processes. While considerable work has been done in North America to link museum collections with descendent communities, there is virtually no scholarship regarding such projects in Russia. This project will thus be a model for developing inter-cultural relations between museums in the Russian Federation and beyond, and will contribute to better understanding cultural movements in post-Soviet states more broadly. Model of a Summer Camp depicts a scene from ysyakh and is the earliest known representation of this festival. Although it is regarded as a quintessentially Sakha work, few Sakha people have engaged directly with the model and it is not normally on public display. Through the exhibition of the model in project partner, the National Arts Museum of the Sakha Republic, Yakutsk, timed to coincide with the ysyakh celebrations of 2015, and associated archival and ethnographic research to explore its historical and contemporary relevance, we will: - explore the silencing of cultural memory during times of ideological oppression; - investigate the capacity of historic artefacts to support cultural revitalization; - examine the articulation of historic artefacts, cultural memory, narratives and silence and to ask how it might inform contemporary museum practice; - contribute to the professional development of museum colleagues in Russia and the UK through the exchange of curatorial expertise; - disseminate our research through a range of formats, e.g., scholarly and popular publications, conference presentations, two exhibitions, and a project website with educational resources in English, Russian and Sakha; - promote and strengthen relations between the UK and the Russian Federation through the first collaborative project involving cultural institutions in Britain and the Russian North. This project will engage stakeholders in the Sakha Republic, the UK, and internationally. The project team (Dr. Alison Brown, Dr. Tatiana Argounova-Low, and a postdoctoral Research Assistant) will work directly with contemporary artists utilising Sakha traditional forms, cultural practitioners, and ysyakh celebrants. Our research methods include archival research, artefact analysis, interviews, participation in ysyakh events, and observation and discussion of arts practices. The projects main societal impacts will be in the areas of culture and well-being. It also has the potential to influence museum practice. Beneficiaries include school, college and university students; artists; museum professionals; scholars in disciplines such as Anthropology, Museum Studies, Visual Culture, and History; the wider public with interests in other cultures and their artistic and ceremonial traditions.

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