SkullThis is a short blog entry aims to:

  1. to propose a new derogatory remark bespoke for archaeological discussions and uses,
  2. outline a couple of working definitions while encouraging its widespread use beyond these,
  3. describe some of the recent instances that prompted me, personally, to invent it and mutter it to myself.

This may seem to be a very negative blog entry, and the word might be a problematic spin-off from other unfortunate and negative words in the English language. However, this blog entry is actually meant to be a positive one and substitute ‘tard’ for ‘wit’ or ‘head’ if you prefer. Also, please be assured, dear reader, I don’t want to have to use it regularly at other individuals, groups or institutions. Still, I do get angry occasionally, and if muttering this word helps me to get through the day, have sympathy.

Troweltard/Troweltardery noun

Defintion 1: individuals and/or groups who do not recognise or respect and/or actively insult and disrespect, the value of archaeological enquiries and investigations.

Definition 2: individuals and/or groups who actively disrupt and denigrate archaeological research.

Definition 3: individuals and/or groups who have archaeological expertise and knowledge but flagrantly squander or deprecate themselves and/or archaeological research.

Definition 4: individuals and/or groups who simply get right up my nose by bleating about how little we know rather than positively promoting how we refine and enhance our disciplinary research and its interdisciplinary endeavours.

Troweltard/Troweltarding/Troweltarded: verb

Definition: to actively work as, dabble in, or even observe and fail to prevent, acts of flagrant, obscene and/or public troweltardery.

Troweltardacious/Troweltardic: adjective

Definition: to be, or be like, a troweltard

Troweltardly: adverb

Definition: get the idea?

Illustrative Uses:

“S/he is a complete and utter troweltard”.

“Do I look like a troweltard?”

“Respect archaeology you troweltard!”

“The council’s consistent troweltardery in refusing to fund museums and art galleries must be stopped”

“The company are a bunch of troweltards who fail to acknowledge their participation in the destruction of key heritage resources”

“The student is a third-year and yet still doesn’t seem to understand basic archaeological methods and theories: what a troweltard!”

Possible Applications

Applications might be many and varied.

We can all be troweltards at times. In fact, I have to confess that I feel like a troweltard much of the time and seek to make amends.

Academics can be particularly odious troweltards. Museum and field archaeologists can also be troweltards, for example, by denigrating academic or voluntary amateur research as ‘not archaeology’. Students can be troweltards as well. Large swathes of the British public can be troweltards.

Even animals and plants can be troweltards: I love badgers but they are well-known as large annoying troweltards. Tree roots are incredibly troweltardacious and they know it!

Perhaps, even trowels can be troweltards (for example, if wasted in bricklaying rather than archaeological excavation). Equally as a fan of WHS trowels, Marshalltowns are inherently a bit troweltardic.

Perhaps even past people were troweltardacious too. Can we conduct an ‘ archaeology of prehistoric and early historic troweltardery’? or ‘Troweltards in Roman Britain’ in which we explore feckless disregard for ancient remains across time and space?

Still, I’ll focus on one example of utter, bare-faced troweltardery that got my gander up. Recently, a colleague at another university relayed to me a very depressing scenario where she was in a meeting with senior academics who were not archaeologists discussing her career and future research plans, only to find her presence and her career ignored by these two individuals who went on a diatribe between themselves about how fruitless archaeology is as an academic subject. What absolutely, complete troweltards!

Having said that, archaeologists and heritage professionals themselves can be worse troweltards, denigrating their own subject with short-sighted obsessions with our own failings and obsessing about petty feuds about the validity of methods and theories.

If you don’t like archaeology, fine. If you don’t fully understand what archaeologists do and you aren’t interested to find out, then fair play. But don’t go around pretending to be an archaeologist or insisting on passing only negative judgement on archaeological research: that ain’t good! Fringe archaeology is stacked high with gross troweltardery by the way. Politicians are regular and insidious troweltards.

We’re all supposed to be archaeologists now, so really, there is no excuse for troweltardery and trowelwittery. And yet it is everywhere, choking us from inside and outside the discipline.

So don’t be a troweltard (or indeed a trowelwit or a trowelhead). Instead, respect and love archaeology and all it stands for!