In addition to my Friday afternoon walking tour ‘Death and the City’, on Saturday morning I presented a 45-minute talk entitled ‘Viking Warrior Women and the Public Archaeology of Death’ as part of the BBC History Magazine’s History Weekend. My abstract was:
This talk introduces the ‘public archaeology of death’ in its many guises and its many faces. I focus on recent research and public debates regarding ‘Viking warrior women’ to highlight the ethical challenges archaeologists face in digging, displaying and debating new mortuary archaeological research in the digital age.
I reflected on the unparalleled public engagement success of the Hedenstierna-Jonson et al. research on Bj581. It reached wide and new audiences worldwide with dimensions of Viking-period archaeology. It foregroudned many collaborations and synergies with other fields, including bioarchaeological and aDNA research. Yet I also explored the interpretative and ethical issues surrounding the original 2017 AJPA article reporting on a reinterpretation of Birka chamber-grave Bj581 as occupied by a ‘female warrior’, its follow-up Antiquity article in 2019, and the various receptions and responses to each, including two television documentaries.
I presented a review my previous blog-posts and their contents, and contextualised this in relation to broader themes regarding the digital ethics and popular cultural reception of of mortuary archaeology in the 2010s. I suggested that mortuary archaeology’s public engagements have never before been so successful, but also that there remain key areas of debate and query regarding what constitutes ethical practice in digital public mortuary archaeology (DPMA), from what we write, how we write, how we envision our stories, and where we publish them. See my 2015 publication with Alison Atkin on aspects of this ongoing discussion.
I got some good questions, some fabulous feedback, and also a chance to sign some copies of my books!
The Department had a great stand at the BBC History Weekend. Together with other fascinating history and archaeology talks by colleagues and students both in the main programme and the free fringe event, this was a superb showcase for the Department of History and Archaeology within the city of Chester. Thanks to the BBC History Magazine for liaising with colleague Professor Tim Grady and former colleague Dr Clare Hickman and making this event a mutually beneficial success.