14 July, 2018

Understanding Hadrian's Wall at The Twice Brewed

There is a deep and abiding connection between archaeology and the pub, so it is appropriate that I should be giving a series of presentations in The Twice Brewed Inn; archaeology is coming home.
Understanding Hadrian’s Wall - a Mystery Solved 
A Free Presentation
5-6 pm Tuesdays & Thursdays
The Tap Room  
The Twice Brewed Inn, Bardon Mill, Hexham, 
NE47 7AN 
014346 344534
So this is an ideal opportunity for anyone interested in Hadrian’s Wall to go to a pub with its own Brewery, and as I understand it, an almost infinite supply of beer, although it’s best to book if you want sit-down dinner. Sadly, anyone wishing to base their summer holiday around this opportunity has probably missed the bus as they are fully booked.
It is an ideal venue to find people who have already made the not inconsiderable commitment to walking the Wall; while there is much to see and appreciate, visitors will find hard to get an coherent overview of this important World Heritage site.  Guide books will tell you about baths, barracks and where to find the naughty carvings, but will shy away from explaining the big picture for the simple reason there isn't one, at least one that is agreed upon or makes any sense in the real world. 
This is the best kept secret of the Wall; the academic community has no coherent explanation of what happened on this frontier during the reign of Hadrian.
Luckily, there is a local archaeologist on hand to help you understand The Wall, using computer modelling, engineering and soil science; the traditional Roman literary sources will still a mention, but it's surprising how much soil and how little Latin turns during an archaeological excavation.
Pro bono archaeology 
Giving a paper at a conference, one can take it as read that the participants know about the main pieces of the jigsaw and how they are currently arranged.
However, in explaining the Wall to anyone who is interested, it is easy to take local knowledge for granted, and forget to explain small but important ideas.   As a result, my 1st real slide is a Wall 101 which has been generated by points made and questions asked by previous participants.
However, the aim is a give an insight into the issues at the heart of Wall Studies, at a level that is normally only encountered at specialist academic conferences and postgraduate study.  I have also the particular problem of having to explain the Wall in terms the conventional academic narrative, ideas many people are not familiar with, – only to then debunk this framework point by point.  This is further complicated by the need to explain how we ended up with such a clearly dysfunctional set of ideas in first place.
Equally, you never know who you are going to meet in The Twice Brewed; it is a pub, so there is a risk you may encounter stray academics, so the research and its presentation has to better than what is currently sold to students or there would be little point in me turning up.
Realistically, what is being offered for free, has to be as good or better than what you are expected to pay for.  if you want to understand archaeology, ask an archaeologist; if you want to know how to teach, ask an academic.
It is important that students of the subject appreciate this difference; the ability to read and remembering is different process from thinking, it being the latter, that forms the key skill set of an archaeologist.  There is no reason why this subject need be complicated or difficult; inaccessible vocabulary and ideas represent either an inability to communicate or a lack anything substantive to convey.
Work in progress
 I spent much of a previous life training people in the use of specialist computer and telecommunications applications, sometimes it was the head of IT for a major corporation, sometimes it was someone just coming to terms with using The Mouse; in both cases the end product should be same, an appropriate understanding of the system.
The presentation is called Understanding Hadrian’s Wall, because the aim or outcome is an understanding, a resolution of a puzzle, hence a Mystery Solved.
From each interaction, I learning how to improve the presentation of these ideas, invariably adding information, which, usually, required the loss of something else or the production will reach feature length proportion.
Since my last encounter with academic system at the Reading the Wall conference at Newcastle, it was subsequently made clear to me nothing I produce will ever be accepted by a university.  If, 10 years ago they were prepared dismissed my work as worthless without the courtesy of reading it first, realistically, they are going to bothered now; incorporated engineering and soil science in my PhD was always going to put beyond the ken our new intellectually streamlined Universities.
Save ££££££ and £s
I have been working on a book. In my circumstances, it would be pointless producing to product designed to be sold to the students [which I am judged incapable of teaching] and I am not prepared to dumb down to a level where it compatible the existing commercial narrative.
Copying out other peoples research in your best handwriting is what is academics are for, archaeologists exist to recover and interpret data, converting soil and other materials into text so that scholars can understand it.
The problem that I have encountered during background research is that peer review is a meaningless concept in a subject like archaeology; its academic method can encourage the constant reproduction of fundamentally inaccurate information that undermines the credibility of many worthy aspects of the enquiry.
The presentations, which I started in May, have become an interactive way of developing a narrative structure to convey apparently complex ideas in an accessible and interesting way.
I would like to thank those who have already taken the time to attend and interact; this has proved a very positive feedback loop allowing me to continuously improve the presentation.
So, for just a little over an hour of your time, I can debunk for free an archaeological course that you would be charged hundreds, even thousands of pounds of real money for; Pro bono archaeology - why pay more?
Mystery Stories
Archaeology naturally lends its self to a mystery or detective narrative, which has the addition advantage of injecting a bit of tension and even jeopardy.
However, while it is difficult to sustain, it does allow for a cast of characters to introduced, the Romans, Hadrian, Nepos, the Natives, even the landscape, and you can present the existing narrative as the open and shut case put forward by the local constabulary in chapter 1, soon to be demolished by subsequent revelations.
The principle point of divergence from a detective narrative is the need to make viewer aware of their own preconceptions and expectations, rather than manipulating them in the interests of the plot.
There is a resolution, a mystery solved, but it is not a plot twist, and the coming revelation should be evident a long way off.  It involves a detailed examination of just three pieces of the puzzle, and ultimately debunks a couple of baseless [peer reviewed] myths, which is a generally positive contribution to knowledge, although it is clearly negative for those stakeholders with a commercial interest in merchandising the existing narrative, myths and all.
So that’s Tuesdays and Thursdays at The Twice Brewed, between 5 – 6pm; you are guaranteed a presentation of quality content not available anywhere else – for Free …. And there is beer and good food, what more could you ask for...



1 comments:

Gagana Vaijayati said...

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