It was a full house last week for Dr. Silvia Bello’s presentation on prehistoric cannibalism. She began by defining cannibalism, highlighting the difference between funerary de-fleshing of individuals and evidence of eating flesh, which could possibly look the same in the archaeological record. She particularly showed evidence of human gnawing on bones can be instrumental in implying that humans were being eaten. Through analysing the micromorphology of human cutmarks Bello also showed it was potentially possible to differentiate between butchered (cannibalised) bones and bones that were cleaned when not wholly fleshed. She suggested that we separate cannibalism into certain classes, particularly into “necessity” cannibalism and “choice” cannibalism, and gave archaeological and historical examples of each. Finally Bello encouraged us to think not of cannibalism as such a taboo as it is an integral part of cultures around the world. We thank Dr Bello for a fascinating research topic, which this blog does not do justice! You can find out more about her research here.
On Thursday 6th October honorary research fellow Dr Imogen Wood came to talk to us about her project on Gunwalloe, a coastal archaeological site in Cornwall. The site has been used as a fieldschool for our undergraduate course in past years. Gunwalloe has a long history, with occupation from the early bronze age up to the 12th century AD. The project is a particularly good example of a community archaeology project, as artefacts such as pottery and bone have been visibly eroding from the cliff for many years. We look forward to seeing further work on this fascinating project, which has a fantastic further ten years of funding!
We were honoured to welcome Professor Stephen Oppenheimer back to the department to give a research talk on the 29th September. He spoke about genetic migrations around the Sunda shelf, which he described as the main conduit for coastal migrations from Africa to E Asia and Mainland SE Asia to Island SE Asia and Oceania over the past 70k years. He explained that some genetic events correspond with changes in climate and sea levels, which likely forced migration dispersals.
You can read more about Professor Oppenheimer’s research in many of his publications.
Our first PGtips of the term was our annual Ground-Breaking research showcase! This excellent event has many 5-minute presentations from current PhD researchers on their thesis topics, aimed to introduce new PhD and masters students to the research going on in our department. There was such a good turnout that we ran out of wine!
First our PGtips hosts Ethan and Malene welcomed us to a new academic year, explaining that usual sessions have two 20 minute presentations rather than the quick fire overviews students would be seeing today. Presentations began with Emily Johnson speaking about her research on bone fat processing and butchery at the time of the first dairying economies in Neolithic central Europe. Brice Girbal followed with an overview on his near-completed work with crucible steel production in India. Jemma Singleton continued the Indian theme with a description of her work on Neolithic rock art in India. Belinda Tibbetts then spoke about her research on infant and maternal health through analysing skeletal remains. Ethan Greenwood retook the stage to present on the Roman iron industry in the Weald. Elspeth St. John-Brooks, one of our joint AHRC SWW DTP students usually in Reading, showed us some of her work on soil geochemistry. Sabine Martin moved the presentations in the direction of the Palaeolithic with her talk on vein quartz tools. Finally, Alice la Porta presented her research on Neanderthal tool technology, finishing our session by showing us some of her experimental spears and arrows.
Many thanks to all of our researchers for kicking off this academic year so well, and thanks to all who attended. PGtips runs roughly every three weeks – if you’re a student at Exeter who is interested in presenting email Malene Lauritsen (email@example.com), or follow our facebook group.
Next Thursday (22nd September) will be our annual Ground-breaking Research Showcase, where current PhD students will be giving 5 minute presentations on their theses. This is a great chance for new and current students to immerse themselves in the research happening in the department and to meet their colleagues. There will be presentations on zooarchaeology, metallurgy, human osteology, experimental archaeology, and more!
The session starts at 16:30 and is expected to run for around an hour. Join us in Laver 218 (second floor, at the front of the building) for research, drinks and baked goods!
In an additional research seminar on Wednesday, Dr Christian Wells from the University of South Florida spoke about his fascinating interdisciplinary work on the site of former sugar cane plantation Betty’s Hope in Antigua. Betty’s Hope was one of the largest and oldest sugar cane plantations, active from 1651-1944. The land of the plantation is today owned by descendants of former slaves, but has become eroded and degraded, possibly because of the monocropping of sugarcane over such a long period of time. However, farmer ethnographies say it was only after independence in 1981 that soil began to be unproductive. Part of the aims of the project are to discover the reasons for the degradation in soil productivity so the present farmers can benefit from this knowledge.
As her second research seminar in two days, Dr Ruth Young joined us for our departmental seminar on Friday 4th March to talk about Landlord villages of the Tehran Plain: Historical Archaeology in Iran. The project looking at Landlord villages was in collaboration with Hassan Fazeli Nashli at the University of Tehran. It was concerned with the material culture of the recent past, particularly of the ‘ordinary’ people (and especially women) in the walled villages of the Tehran Plain. As the mudbrick villages are slowly being melted by rain it was also an important aspect of the project to record and situate these villages in an historical and ethnographical framework.
On Friday Dr Nadia Bartolini from the Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage project (AAFH or Heritage Futures) came to talk to us about the theme of Managing Material Transformations within the project. AAFH is a four year AHRC funded project involving UCL, the Universities of Exeter and York and Linnaeus University (Sweden). The wider project aims to develop a broad, international and cross-sectoral comparative framework for understanding heritage in its most expansive sense. Its goals centre on sustainable heritage management, encouraging sharing of knowledge across domains and creating toolkits that can be used in management briefings.
This week’s seminar was a very informative presentation on the shell-keeps of the UK. Robert Higham, an Honorary Fellow of the University of Exeter, led us through the details of what makes a shell-keep and the vast array of keep architecture found in the UK. Prof Higham revisited many of the shell-keeps recorded antiquarians and refined the list to those that met all of the architectural criteria, reducing the historiographical list of roughly 120 down to 20 surviving examples. These shell-keeps appear to be a design that is particular to the UK, with the majority being constructed by the ‘wealthiest of castle owners’. There is no evidence for timber precursor structures and the shell-keep is essentially an Anglo-Norman high status structure.