07 June, 2013
Theoretical structural archaeology is about understanding the evidence of ancient built environments, and previously I have written about the importance of those sites ‘frozen in time’ by some disaster preserving buildings and content in situ.
For the Roman world, Herculaneum and Pompeii give us that unique insight, a level of detail, unimaginable in conventional archaeology, which has become central to our understanding of the period. While we are familiar with plaster body castes, dramatic reconstructions, and looming clouds of volcanic death, quite what this really means to archaeology, archaeologists and everybody else is a lot more complex, nuanced, and interesting.
A Serous insight into the archaeology of the built environment [and why it’s important].
In the latest edition of Ideas Roadshow, Howard Burton gives us an extraordinarily insightful interview with Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill about the world of Herculaneum present and past. This is a subscription service, so they want your money, but in return they offer an opportunity to spend quality time with interesting people talking about what they know best. Professor Wallace-Hadrill effortlessly blends the latest insights into the archaeology, with its long and complex relationship with local society, down to the present day issues of conservation, presentation, and exploration. [This is a Preview - but at the moment you can watch it for Free!].
While the individual problems of the site are those familiar to most archaeologists in some form, the scale and range of issues at sites like Herculaneum make it something of a macrocosm for archaeology as a whole; it is the subject at its most potent, complex, and deeply entangled in the wider issues of society. If archaeology is to endure in these difficult times, it is important that what archaeologists do in the widest sense, as well as how they think, is readily available to be understood at a level beyond that of the average the television documentary.
The Ideas Roadshow is presented in an interview format, so you are obliged to listen and think about what is being said without the distraction of images or the need of a visual narrative. I enjoyed it for free, it presented a rare opportunity to get an insight into not just Herculaneum, but also archaeology on an executive level, where it is very “real”, and concerned with contemporary issues. The Professor is an archaeologist with passion, and he is intelligently and unobtrusively interviewed about things that I found interesting, but this is not a review, just a recommendation.