This post is by Nancy Jardine.
History is dull as ditch water. Really?
Have you ever heard anyone say that before? I have many times but as I got older I found it very easy to disbelieve it. I would even go so far as to say that I probably veered a lot of my reading energy during my teenage years (1960s) towards subject matter that was nerdy and very unfashionable purely because it was history, or historical biographies, or historical fiction and because I was quite happy to buck the trends. Where I grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, during the 1950s and 1960s, archaeology was thought to be a very dull subject indeed and quite a closemouthed occupation. By that, I mean that when the experts conducted an archaeological ‘dig’ it seemed to be shrouded in absolute secrecy for a very long time till the results were finally published and available for public reading…by which time the dig details had died a dull death and had faded into the forgotten news archives.
I’m thrilled that for the last couple of decades archaeology has become a hot topic. I’m delighted to thank the use of innovative scientific technology, television, the internet and the general media for that volte face… and this post is full of links to demonstrate the ease of information transfer.
However, I do have to confess that back in the late 1960s, although I loved reading about archaeologists like Howard Carter, who hit the headlines with the 1922 discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, I didn’t actually fancy doing the boringly repetitive and back breaking digging that’s a necessary part of being an archaeologist. Whether the date is 1922 or 2022, that monotonous minute clearing away of soil is still a necessary part of any exploration of sites of interest but today even that process can be speeded up by the initial use of a small mechanical excavator. When I first saw evidence of this use I was horrified till I realised that the experts know just how deep in the soil to begin the painstaking clearance, particle by particle, and that what’s above that level can be quickly removed.
Since joining Facebook, I’ve liked a lot of ‘history’ pages and I get regular media updates of all sorts of interesting discoveries. Hardly a day goes by now without something amazing being found and I’m delighted to say that many of these have been closer to home in the UK, and even in Scotland.
I’ve written posts about interesting places in Aberdeenshire before on this blog—about local castles; and places like the ‘folly’ at Dunnideer but I’ve not written all that many posts about places associated with ‘Dark Ages’ history. On the way home from one particular Craft Fair at Insch, I went home the long way which took me past a site that I knew was being excavated by an archaeological team led by Dr. Gordon Noble.
Dr. Noble is associated with many current archaeological projects in Scotland and is associated with Aberdeen University. I’ve gone to a few local talks where he’s updated amateurs, like me, on what’s currently happening on the sites of excavation. The videos below show just how ‘open to the public’ archaeologists are now, and it gives some light on the fact that a lot of the sheer grunt work of painstaking excavation is now done by volunteer labour.
(I’m belatedly adding the URL in the hope that you can access via that in the US- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjgVmppibPQ )
What’s incredibly exciting about archaeological discovery is that for the last couple of decades the addition of scientific techniques like geophysical surveys/ resistivity surveys have provided much more evidence of ancient occupation. Some 22 watch towers and small Roman forts on the Gask Ridge in Scotland – now claiming the name of Rome’s First Frontier – have been identified… and this is only on a tiny stretch along the long line of Roman advance around AD 84 from the Central Belt (Glasgow to Edinburgh) to the north-east where I live. (You can find out about resistivity HERE. )
(and the URL for the video below is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1n1Zofmpus )
Dendrochronology and dendroarchaeology now make the likelihood of evidence discovery and dating a much more real prospect (Information on the techniques HERE. )
Tried and tested aerial photography, since the end of the Second World War, has been incredible in advancing the knowledge of ancient sites in Scotland and can still be a useful indicator of what is below ground, especially during dry summers. But anyone who knows anything about Scotland will also know that dry summers are pretty fictional and not to be relied on!
For me, the most exciting technology of all now being used for archaeological purposes is LIDAR. LIDAR isn’t a new technique. It’s been used since post Second World War for governmental uses but only now is it beginning to be used for archaeological identification of potential sites of interest. I wrote about LIDAR a couple of times on my own blog last year, you can read one of them HERE. The grunt work will be needed at a computer but the potential results could be amazing. (More information on how LIDAR works can be read HERE.)
All of these scientific techniques make the history much more easily understood by the average member of the public. Some TV programmes (in the UK and maybe worldwide) admittedly dumb down the knowledge level of a subject to make it more palatable and more sensational, but generally if a programme interests more people in the historical subject, then it’s successful.
I love the visuals that are now available. I really look forward to ‘shared’ items on Facebook about new discoveries and articles written about them. And I especially love when really clever people make 3D images of places I’d love to visit—if I travelled back in time. My Roman characters spend their time in Britannia but if they spent time in Rome itself they might have encountered the scene in this 3D reconstruction of the Mausoleum of Augustus. I can’t add this one directly to this blog but it’s definitely worth a click! http://www.realmofhistory.com/2016/03/10/3d-reconstruction-mausoleum-of-augustus/
Sadly, I’m not adding much to my WIP for Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series because newly read archaeological information means (like that about The Gask Ridge Project) I’m constantly changing what I’ve written because I’m not happy with what I already wrote. But I am slowly learning – a lot – and enjoying what the internet has to offer in new archaeology!
Do you love the visual history that’s now available via the internet covering all eras ?
Have a lovely weekend!
Nancy Jardine writes:
historical romantic adventures (Celtic Fervour Series)
contemporary mystery thrillers (Take Me Now, Monogamy Twist, Topaz Eyes-finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE 2014)
& time-travel historical adventures for Teen/ YA readers (Rubidium Time Travel Series).
Catch up with her at the following: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk http://nancyjardineauthor.com/ Twitter @nansjar Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG and http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G (for The Rubidium time Travel Novels.) email: firstname.lastname@example.org Amazon Author page for books and to view book trailer videos: http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere
Most novels are available in print and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble; NOOK; KOBO; W. H. Smith.com; Waterstones.com; Smashwords; TESCO Blinkboxbooks; and various other ebook stores.