Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Hell-Fire Club interviews with BBC

I've been away with work and research, but still super enthused about the Hell-Fire Clubs! The media types quite like the story as there are lots of spooky myths relating to the club sites.
Read all about it here:

Hear all about it here:

Friday, February 5, 2016

Fun fieldwork with local Bristol school

We hopped over to Two Mile Hill School yesterday to do a spot of GPR and soil analysis, thanks to the team of Dept. volunteers - 2 first years, 1 second year, another PhD student Henry Webber, and our field tech. Phil Rowe.

It links into Bristol European Capital plans for planting and redesign of the space. Read the press release, and I'll post more info in future.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Almost done

The sands of time are slippery feckers. I haven't posted since November, and for good reason. It's been PhD writing season, the last hurdle before the final hurrah. This past month gave me the final piece of data I needed (laser scan outputs in a usable format), so I got my paperwork in order. Boom - submission mid next month, over 7 months early. I can't wait for the viva to be over. Whatever corrections come my way, I'll be happy. My topic is still a source of joy, but a part time PhD is a terribly long slog that needs to end. The sooner the better.

Plus, I don't like to post without pictures, so have some lovely pics of my quick trip to relaxy Lanzarote. Lots of caves and cocktails, great place.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Glastonbury fieldtrip

Last week we took the first year anthropology students to Glastonbury. Our archaeology expert, Dr. Stuart Prior, guided them through the archaeological context so they could understand the site's rich history. The region's legacy informs many aspects of everyday life and this was explored under various themes (food, ritual, commodities, etc.) - students were divided into fourteen groups and conducted their own research throughout the day.

I documented the experience and made a short video - check it out!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The wonders of Cornwall

Who knew that the cradle of Egyptian civilisation rests in Cornwall? No one, because it doesn't, but that won't stop the wildlife and dinosaur park from creating a display to that effect. Radically pointless.
Cufu of Cornwall
I finally got to visit Tintagel and only got moderately sunburnt. Besides the steep walks, it was magical.
So many steps....
It is stupidly pretty in all directions
Fally down walls aplenty
Smashing in summer, demented in winter
We took time to visit the picturesque town of Clovelly too. Along the pebble beach is a lush waterfall.
The view through Clovelly
You can run right under the waterfall

Capped off with sunset on the beach

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Big booms and salty tears

Shall we start with the big news, and get it out of the way? Only the little fact that our excavations on Hatteras Island have been covered by NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. Seriously, natgeo, the legends themselves hopped over to see what we've been working on, and they loved it.

In other news, we were back at Berkeley Castle yesterday to do a little filming with Dr. Ruth Farrar of SheExtreme.
The greatest joy of sound recording? You get to tell other people to be quiet and don't get in trouble for it ;-)

Meanwhile, the PhD is ticking along and progress has been made with significant rewrites and pushing myself boldly where I really don't want, but need, to go.

In June, I hosted my favourite ninja friends on a visit from Ireland. Last month, was full of ups and downs.  I helped out with the National Sustainable Schools SEED Conference, doing bits of filming for their online content. I got a chance to work with the Realising Opportunities students I am tutoring. A bunch of archaeology students led an interactive bonanza of archaeological goodness for all the family as part of the Festival of Archaeology. Unfortunately, the month also marked the passing of my ever-vivacious granny Nancy, a fine woman who reached the grand age of 97 with all her own teeth and a wicked sense of humour. Card shark, messer, shenanigans-instigator... we will miss her forever.

Tierney Towers will probably be very quite for the next couple of months as I gradually build a cocoon filled with papers, books and calcified tears - that's right folks - the final months of the PhD are upon me and I am rightly TERRIFIED!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sustainability and cake

My sustainable development education role at the University means a lot to me. I've been working at it for over 3 years and, while it's not archaeology *my one true love*, the subject is worthy of the attention it is starting to get nationally. Plus, I'm constantly finding new and exciting ways to re-assess archaeology and anthropology by reflecting on broader issues of ESD (Education for Sustainable Development). So, you can imagine my surprise and glee when I got nominated and then shortlisted for a Sustainability Award, part of a larger annual Awards programme run by the Bristol Students' Union.
You can see all the categories and shortlisted people here:

This comes quick on the heals of the accreditation received institutionally as part of the NUS's "Responsible Futures" initiative, in which thirteen other universities participated. We were delighted to have all our hard work acknowledged. For us, this wasn't some tick-box exercise or agenda-laden league  table. It was more important as a means of showcasing the large-scale team effort and successes across the whole institution and the Students' Union, and also serves as a transparent benchmarking trial.
Read the Uni's press release on this student-led social responsibility and sustainability scheme:
There won't be a cake left in sight.
In other news, things are moving along nicely at Berkeley with all my engagement projects. Today brought a massive burst of joy onto site when legendary archaeologist and BAJR leader, David Connolly, gave us £100 to spend on cake to thank the community of Berkeley for their participation in the Town Museum project. We're just winding down on the project now, but the feedback we've received so far has been immensely positive. Critically for me, the students have seemed to love it too, learning and developing an arsenal of transferable skills.

Tomorrow's task - buy all the cake.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Berkeley 2015

Most of May has been taken over by prep for Berkeley and then getting back on site. It's the 11th year of excavations and the new batch of freshers are learning the ropes. I'm in my third season or leading engagement efforts that site alongside the digging. You can see an overview of my plans here:
The Public Archaeology 2015 project is pretty awesome, so I would encourage you to check it out - a new project is covered every month! I'll be posting more on Berkeley over the next few weeks.
Miniature castle in front of the real castle. Well meta. Xzibit would be proud.
The Town Museum project was my pet project for this year, and it has made quite the impact on the local community. Read more here - University of Bristol press release:
We even went on site on Bank Holiday monday to give free tours *commitment* 
We've been experimenting with 3D artefact and feature imaging, social media, pubic engagement and focusing on student transferable skills development.... busy busy!
Follow us here: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Back in time at Berkeley

We are gearing up for another student-training and research excavation at Berkeley Castle, starting from 18th May. While going through the archive I found some pics back when I did some digging in the churchyard in 2011 (new toilet pipe was going in, so glamorous). Don't forget to catch up with us during this season- facebook - twitter - blog.

They keep us working fast by threatening diggers with machinery (not really, they are all very lovely)

A difficult spot to dig, I can promise you!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Where spelunking and speleology meet

Not really, but I love those words, spelunking and speleology. Rolls off the tongue better than "archaeological site recording at a listed artificial commercial cave site".

I was recently back at the Hell-Fire Caves to make some additional notations to my laser scan data. Thanks to fellow PG Charlie Goudge for bed, board &; survey assistance (and photos!). Her granny joined us half way through for a visit, which was a first. More fieldwork should feature grannies.

The more times I'm in the "Childrens Cave", the creepier it gets

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dig Hatteras

Since late March, I have been helping out on Prof. Mark Horton's excavations on Hatteras Island, North Colony. The site is tied to the lost colony of America, so there is lots of excitement and intrigue. Catch up on the project here:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spot the stupid

There are places on the internet where people have trawled through Google's scanned books and collated the traces of the people who scanned the books. Sometimes, a single purple digit, or a shadowy hand, a curled page or a strange reflection.
Today was the first time  I found a super clanger example. Someone, somewhere was scanning a book and I think they may have been drunk or hungover. Just look at the state of this - they weren't even trying.
I've added some useful sarcastic text to help you spot the gaffs

Play at home or with friends "spot the stupid"

It even happened, less frequently, on text pages

Partial focus on the tip of a digit

Even the fingers look like there is something wrong with them

Angles are just a concept. Sideways is best.

I really do recommend a glance through "The Art of Google" to see some much more spectacular examples:

You can also scroll through the example I found, learn about Cistercian Architecture, and play "spot the hand":

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Autodesk is amazing

Just downloaded a host of Autodesk programmes for free via the University's licensing agreements with the company. After only a few minutes, I had my 3D laser scan data of the Hell-Fire Caves in an accessible format. Whoop whoop. Too much excitement. Some of the views even look quite painterly and pretty.
The British Geological Survey (BGS) were kind enough to send me the raw data over the last couple of months (thanks Lee!) (following our fieldwork last year) and it's been an interesting learning curve getting a handle on data that so massive!

A painterly view of the Hell-Fire Caves laser scan data using Autodesk

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Patronising Poet

Those eighteenth-century dudes really knew how to make a lady feel special. Paul Whitehead, famed for his associations with the Hell-Fire Clubs was no exception. He cared so much for the fairer sex that he wrote a song, literally addressed to the ladies. *player*

My favourite bits are from the first and last stanzas:
Bright eyes were intended to languish, not stare,
And softness the test of your sex...
But, if Amazon-like, you attack your Gallants,
And put us in fear of our lives,
You may do very well for Sisters and Aunts,
But, believe me, you'll never be Wives, Poor Girls...
Read the full poem here. If you aren't familiar with old type formatting, just imagine most of the "f"s are actually "s".

Look at him, pointing out how to be a "lady"

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Christmas stone circles

As one does when back in the home country, I spent Christmas with the family. And what better way to start the festive morning, than with a quick trip to some awesome stone circles at Grange, Co. Limerick.
The locals keep an eye on the site and you pay a small fee at the gate to enter

Friday, December 19, 2014

Student Rock Art

Did you ever wonder what would happen if you asked your students to express their own narratives in the style of ancient rock art? I did. And there was a point to it.

The exercise allows them to express any story, be it their adventures at the weekend, travel experiences, a fairytale, or a soap opera issue. Whatever they like.

They draw the image(s) and then swap with their peers. The group tries to figure out what the story was about. It can be much more difficult that you might think, and misunderstandings are almost guranteed.

Students quickly see that even within their own broadly culturally homogenous group, interpretation is fraught with difficulties. Which leads them to understand how tricky interpretation of (particularly prehistoric) material can be.

Plus, it's lots of silly fun! The prefect lesson to finish off the term before the holiday break.

Check out the first batch of uploaded images here:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stanton Drew fieldtrip

Just a short drive outside of Bristol are the beautiful stone circles of Stanton Drew. I accompanied Prof. Mark Horton and our enthusiastic third years on a fieldtrip that introduced secondary school students from Merchant's Academy to the world of Archaeology.

It was cold and windy, but nothing could dull Mark's excitement as he raced through thousands of years of history in just an hour. Students got hands on with the stones, climbing on top of the monuments and seeing the scale in person was quite impressive. They were amazed to hear how far away the source of the stonework was, and surprised to hear that it was once filled with timber posts. They ventured their own ideas on interpretation, and I must admit we were very impressed with some of their ideas - a bright bunch this lot!
Pof Mark Horton
Merchant's Academy students at Stanton Drew
As the sun set we headed to three stones behind the Druid's Arms pub. One appears to have fallen down over the ages. Mark tried out some experimental archaeology and his idea that the semicircular shape could have acted as a sound projection (video footage, below). Great fun and especially engaging as it was interactive. We also have plans to try and get students from the school to come on site to Berkeley during the summer.
Mark Horton laughing in front of a giant straw Minion... of course

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Teaching Archaeology & the Media

This year, my supervisor and I were very excited to receive funding from the University of Bristol to conduct some innovative teaching approaches on concepts around "Archaeology and the Media" including social media. The first two sessions took place over the last couple of weeks and student feedback was very promising.

The aim of teaching was to provide students with competencies, strategies and ethics in how to deal with media channels, journalists, social media, etc. (I wasn't teaching them "how to do a tweet"!).

I've adopted a crowdsourcing activity I saw at a HEA workshop earlier this year and mixed up my lecture delivery style with interactive elements. Students responded to both the break of lecture (*brain relief*) and the chance to discuss and hash out what they just learned in small groups, and then bring it back to the larger group.

It's difficult to prove, unless I tie this in to examinations, but I think this process helps with retention of information. It's well understood that we only retain a small precentage of what we hear and write down, but by bolstering this with discussion and reflection, learning is reinforced immediately. By interacting, students also feel more involved, and participation can enhance enjoyment and enthusiasm for the subject.

In addition to one of the lectures, I was also given blocks of seminar time to further develop ideas grounded on the case study of the Berkeley Castle Excavations social media project. I created a loose frame within which the students were encouraged to work independently and collaboratively, at their own speed, following their own interests, with me placed to provide direction and support as required. Again, this was highly effective and many students commented on how they enjoyed this relaxed environment where any idea was welcomed. The added bonus was that students became even more encouraged to join the social media team this summer (hooray!).

In the coming weeks and months, I will be further developing my approaches and writing up my findings. After the summer excavation period, I will produce a report for the University which will contain a model of my approaches that can be lifted and applied to a wide range of subjects (especially those that conduct fieldwork) - this will be made available freely once internally approved. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Remembering the Great War

Back in May/June, the University asked me to plan and manage the Colston Research Symposium: "Remembering the Great War: Perspectives from the Local to the Global". We invited the finest speakers from across the land, see below, and the attendees were just as important!

Hosted at Wills Hall on 23 October, the atmosphere was excited and expectant. Check out the social media buzz, along with photos:

Afterwards, we travelled the Wills Memorial Building, up to the Great Hall to hear from Sir Max Hastings on "Catastrophe 1914". The massive room was packed to near full capacity as hundreds of people sat for the powerful talk.
Dinner at Merchant's Hall, Clifton, Bristol
I was fortunate to then be invited along with speakers and select guests to Merchant's Hall for a very fine dinner. All in all, a very long, busy and rewarding day!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

extra archaeology content

If you haven't already, check out my instagram account. I trawled through my archives and found some super archaeology pics from my travels in Sri Lanka, Greece, France, Spain, Mexico, Ireland, the UK, Japan and beyond:
Plenty more to come!