Sep. 30th, 2012

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Apologies for the silence.  It's been a busy couple of days...

I've just returned from Edinburgh, where I was attending a fascinating conference devoted to the prehistory of the Tyne-Forth region, details of which are posted in the link below:-

Now, as you can probably imagine, modern archaeological studies have a tendency to focus on areas lying to either side of that illusory little line that divides Scotland from England (and that only got fossilised in its current form when the Scots lost Berwick-upon-Tweed just over 500 years ago...). This conference made a refreshing change in that it comprised a whole bunch of collaborative studies which considered the disputed 'border' territory in its wider, regional context.

Supposedly, they'll be web-mounting video-recordings of the speakers, so those of you who feel inclined will be able to experience the entire proceedings for yourselves.  There was plenty of food for thought, with presentations that included papers on the evolution of the roundhouse and changing settlement patterns within the Tyne-Forth region and beyond, with Rachael Pope and Strat Halliday proposing their views on long term change and questions of occupation versus abandonment in a Bronze Age/pre-Roman Iron Age context.

Highlights of the day were Alison Sheridan's engaging summary of the Neolithic in the Tyne-Forth region, and a fascinating paper by David Metcalfe on the different approaches to creating narrative used by archaeologists on the one hand and storytellers on the other. This latter paper was certainly a departure from the norm and, for someone who more often than not these days feels her allegiance pulled more to the world of creative writing than to archaeology, it was something I could really relate to. 

An honourable mention also goes to Kristian Pederson for his summary of the Palaeolithic (no, I'm not joking...) and Mesolithic in the Tyne-Forth region.  Back in the days when I studied at Uni, it was just assumed that prehistory began in the Mesolithic as far as Scotland was concerned, with any earlier periods of occupation erased by the last advance of the ice-sheets. It turns out, however, that people were hanging around right at the limits of the ice sheets in the immediate post-glacial period and that evidence of their activities can be found if you look hard enough, and deep enough, in the right places. 

A further honourable mention should be awarded to Jan Harding and Mark Lawson for their paper on the orientations of cup-and-ring radials and penannular motifs in Mid-Argyll and Northern Northumberland. Cup-and-ring markings never fail to fascinate, and it's a refreshing change to hear someone trying to actually ascribed meaning and context to the things.  Most of the time, they're just dismissed as 'ritual' and left neglected at the metaphorical back of the shelf...

Next week, I've got ANOTHER conference, so it's busy, busy, busy, I'm afraid!!!  Hope you're all keeping well - I shall catch up when I can!!


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