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2010 Rhind Lecture 1: “Confessions of a freelance” by Professor Martin Carver

First of the 2010 Rhind Lectures by Professor Martin Carver entitled “Design versus Dogma: reflections on field archaeology”.

Design vs Dogma: Reflections on Field Archaeology

The Rhind Lectures presented by Professor Martin Carver, University of York
Friday 23rd April to Sunday 25th April 2010

The relationship between what we want to know and what we do in the field is a fascinating one and, like many another relationships, is always changing. I look back at some of the big names in archaeological investigation – Kidder, Petrie, Willey, Wheeler – and reflect on how things have developed since I came into the business (rather late in life and from another profession).  I find that in both the research and commercial sectors we have got ourselves locked into traditional practice – much of it uncreative.  For me archaeological investigation is about enlarging the experience of the planet, and so needs that partnership of science and imagination we call design.  There are lots of attractions in standard methods, applied routinely, but it’s time to liberate archaeological talents with a robust design procedure that matches objectives (what we want to know) with the terrain (what survives from the past) and the social context (what the ethical and economic framework allows).  In the next two days, I scrutinise these factors and arrive at a solution (Saturday), and then follow its implications, world wide and in Scotland (Sunday).

The Lectures
The purposes of archaeological investigation in the field, its methods and the circumstances in which it is deployed, have diversified radically in recent years. Half a century has passed since Mortimer Wheeler gave his Rhind Lectures on ‘Archaeology from the Earth,’ so it seems a good moment to reflect on what the international academy, the profession, government and society want from archaeological fieldwork, and how their diverse agendas might be addressed to the mutual benefit of all.

The Lecturer
Martin Carver is emeritus professor of archaeology at the University of York, Editor of Antiquity and the author of Archaeological Investigation (Routledge, 2009). He has undertaken or advised on field projects in England, Scotland, Sweden, France, Italy and Algeria, including numerous commercial projects and major research campaigns at Sutton Hoo (Suffolk) and Portmahomack (Easter Ross).

The 2010 Rhind Lectures were presented in the Royal Society of Edinburgh Wolfson Lecture Theatre and recorded by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland using Camtasia software, and produced as MP4 files available to view and download from Screencast and now YouTube