As the year comes to a close, I’d like to review my academic activities for 2018 via this blog-post. Obviously 2018 had its fair share of academic failings and frustrations – unsuccessful grant applications, delayed projects, unexpected additions to my workload – and the realisation that every year is busier than the previous one with less remuneration (after inflation etc) and no additional rewards for increasing responsibilities in teaching, research and admin. Also, I haven’t conducted any excavations or other fieldwork, continuing a pattern of the last 5 summers: I’m simply not able to organise such large logistical enterprises with the work and personal circumstances I find myself in. Still, I will inevitably focus on the many positive highlights of my archaeological activities.
Most of my activities are covered in my blog. Indeed, I’ve written 220 blog-posts this year on a variety of archaeology and heritage subjects: from 14 to 23 per month.
Indeed, the blog itself is a major endeavour of public engagement and academic discussion that I’ve put significant work into. Together, the blog-posts from 2013-to the present they have attracted over 104,000 views (presumably it will be 105,000 by New Years Day), from almost 52,000 visitors during 2018: this is up slightly on 2017. This is surprising since I’ve deliberately restricted my postings on more controversial topics this year, including Brexit, Trump and Viking warrior women, which have previously gone ‘viral’ (at least by my standards).
I’m proud to announce that 2018’s most-viewed Archaeodeath new blog-post is entitled: Gresford’s Medieval Monuments, with over 4,000 views! This is a surprising and unexpected ‘winner’ in terms of views, but I’m grateful it has attracted such widespread interest in a local Welsh church and its medieval monuments. 4,000 views is equivalent audience to me delivering 80-100 local society talks/academic conference presentations about these monuments. This post alone, if exceptional in its popularity, indicates the merit of this form of digital public archaeology. However, the strength of the blog is in the range of topics relating to the archaeology and heritage of death and memory that I’m able to tackle, not simply the popularity of the most-viewed post.
This is shown by the second-most viewed new blog-post of 2018. In second place, with 700 views was: The Mother of All Ditches! Offa’s Dyke at Chirk Castle. Here, I was pleased to announce the preliminary exciting findings concerning Offa’s Dyke of CPAT’s excavations at Chirk Castle in September 2018.
The third-most viewed new blog-post of 2018 is one of 2 posts about ’80s music videos: the five I identified from the early ’80s featuring archaeological sites and monuments.
The fourth-most viewed new blog-post of 2018 is again about Offa’s Dyke at Chirk, but relating the striking low water-levels of the 18th-century ornamental lake revealing the submerged monument.
The fifth-most viewed new blog-post of 2018 is a simple site-visit: my brief exploration of a unique 9th-century barrow-cemetery at Heath Wood, Ingleby, Derbshire: a cemetery of cremation graves linked to the movements of the Viking Great Army.
In addition, a range of previous year’s blogs have also been extensively viewed and perhaps read. Most-viewed in 2018 but written and published in previous years is my discussion of the funeral of Helga from Vikings Season 4 part 2.
This range of popular posts should indicate the character and efficacy of the blog. But what of the range of my activities in 2018? Well, you can search yourself by theme, but the range topics I’ve addressed year is extensive, including the following overlapping themes:
- calls for papers and reports on my publications in mortuary archaeology and the archaeology of memory, including my journal articles on early Anglo-Saxon mortuary houses, the ‘Smiling Abbot’ early 14th-century effigial slab, and my work on the public archaeology of death for an AP special issue;
- my various conference and workshop presentations on death, burial and commemoration, including co-organising the 40th Theoretical Archaeology Group conference.
- my public talks and outreach activities relating to my research, including a day field trip with the Chester Archaeological Society around the Vale of Llangollen and attending the Heysham Viking Festival; University Archaeology Day, and my TV appearance on the BBC4 documentary Beyond the Walls In Search of the Celts;
- field visits and outdoor adventures with family, students and on my own to sites, monuments and landscapes linked to death, burial and commemoration from prehistory and early historic times, including: Bryn Celli Ddu; the Rollright Stones; Belas Knap; Heath Wood, Ingleby; Harold’s Stones, Trellech; Offa’s Dyke, Wat’s Dyke and many many more;
- my research and activities related to the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory, including discussions of Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke;
- my research and activities related to Project Eliseg and its landscape context;
- medieval and post-medieval monastic, church and churchyard monuments, as at Cilcain, Gresford and Caerwys, including churchyard crosses at Trelawynd
- post-medieval and contemporary sites of memory, memorials and deathscapes including:
- 18th/19th-century gardens and their ancient allusions, including Biddulph Gardens, Plas Newydd, Llangollen and the Maharajah’s Well, Stoke Row:
- 18th-21st-century cemeteries in the Netherlands and the UK;
- woodland cemeteries;
- war memorials;
- ash-scattering sites;
- memorials at sites of deaths;
- Millennium monuments;
- memorials to football disasters;
- mining disaster memorials;
- commemorative plaques on railway trains;
- clone memorials;
- public sculpture;
- commemorating legends, including Gelert’s Grave and Richard II at Flint Castle;
- holy wells, including St Winifride’s Well, Holywell;
- modern megaliths.
- human remains, mortuary remains and art at museums and heritage sites, including churches and digital environments, including:
- debating the display of human remains;
- debating the display of animal remains;
- cenotaphic and artistic allusions to death;
- the Dead Normal and Memento Mori exhibitions;
- ‘failed’ heritage;
- gendered representations of the human past in museums;
- the displays of human remains and mortuary material cultures in the RMO, Leiden.
- representations of the medieval past in public spaces, including airports and along Offa’s Dyke;
- portrayals of historic mortuary practice in TV shows, including Star Trek: Enterprise, Deadwood, Peaky Blinders, The Walking Dead, Vikings and The Last Kingdom;
- death in The Walking Dead comics;
- ’80s music videos filmed at heritage sites;
- reflected on overall progress in my academic career and initiatives, including marking with emojis;
- a miscellany of posts on mortuary archaeology and material culture.
Of course these blogs only give a partial representation of my academic activities. It conceals much of the actual and ongoing research, teaching and administrative duties I’ve conducted during this calendar year. Still, fell free to navigate my blog for this year and previous years, and you get a sense of how death-related subjects stalk my waking hours.