Today, I represented the University of Chester’s Department of History and Archaeology at the 2nd University Archaeology Day, held at the British Museum (#UAD2018).

With stalls from 29 HE institutions teaching archaeology at degree level, and a range of commercial organisations and national societies and organisations, this was a successful showcase of what a wonderful, fascinating, diverse, engaging, exciting, subject archaeology is today. And archaeology is also a widely useful degree too, whether studied as a single honours degree, or a combined honours with a further subject.

At the BM today there were also c. 26 talks about different archaeological projects and research going on around the world and around the UK involving the institutions present. I presented mine about Archaeology and The Walking Dead’: the subject of another blog…

IMG_0822I got to talk to a wide range of prospective students wishing to learn more about archaeology and thinking of pursuing archaeological degrees. I promoted the undergraduate programmes at Chester. I also got to discuss postgraduate degrees we offer at the University of Chester, including the unique MA Archaeology of Death and Memory.

I must say it was also good to talk to the professional archaeologists and fellow academics, many of whom brought along student volunteers. In other words, it was a networking occasion as well as one to promote the subject to the next generation of thinkers and researchers in archaeology.


From an Archaeodeath perspective, it was very interesting to see how human remains and mortuary contexts were widely deployed to engage potential students. Among the staff, there were replicas of key hominin fossils, human remains, artefacts from funerary contexts, as well as photographs of gravestones and other mortuary monuments on promotional material (posters and leaflets). Many of the talks had mortuary themes too!

My favourites were the University of Reading osseous pens and white chocolate skulls, and Bournemouth University’s hungry hominin… My Chester stand and MA leaflet also highlighted mortuary archaeology: representing me using human remains in a class with 2nd-year students from a few years back on the poster, while our undergraduate leaflet shows 3rd-year students on the Human Remains module working in our archaeological lab.

I’m not fully comfortable with the gratuitous use of human remain in promoting archaeology and archaeological courses. We need to think critically and carefully regarding their deployment. Still, death sells archaeology, not simply because of the macabre and popular, but because, as my talk outlined, dealing with mortuary remains is among the most immediately engaging dimensions of present-day archaeological research addressing what it means to be human and mortal. Context is key here, and human remains out of context become very problematic, and the same goes with replicas, chocolate skulls and bone-pens.

I confess I cannot wait to see what unfolds as the next University Archaeology Day – venue, size, and character. I’m certainly going to be helping Chester identify ways of better communicating the aspects of our degrees that are distinctive from others, as well as the many ways our degree programmes match the quality of our competitors.