I’ve blogged about the archaeology of the pandemic lockdown situation in multiple regards over the last 3 months, summarised here. Most recently, I’ve reviewed how the lockdown has drawn attention to aspects of our contemporary landscape that are already locked down: places in limbo between habitation and ruination. 

Complementing that, here I want to document some further material manifestations of the lockdown from the perspective of an archaeologist. These fall into three broad camps:

  1. official and regulatory material cultures;
  2. rubbish and wear;
  3. emotive art and material culture.

Regulatory material cultures

I refer here to official signs and traces, mainly denoting lockdown-related restrictions and social distancing. By definition, during the lockdown our landscapes have shrunk, grown smaller with restrictions on travel. So inevitably, I haven’t witnessed some of the common traces of lockdown activities. For instance, in 3 months I’ve refused to go to big supermarkets and used local shops instead for shopping, and home deliveries to supplement. I have rarely been to other public places. So I haven’t seen many of the signs and barriers positioned around larger shops that many have recorded. For a more balanced view, check out the Viral Archive. Still, here are some examples of closed playgrounds, parks and guidance on the uses of rubbish bins, in addition to those already shared on an earlier post:

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Here, a local church explains its shift in arrangements for religious worship during lockdown:

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Another subset are heritage sites which are closed and yet fully accessible: here Erddig House and Gardens and Caergwrle Castle.

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Another subset of interest to me are those explaining access restrictions at cemeteries. Here, two local councils take fair and pragmatic steps, allowing access to places of death, burial and commemoration but within clear parameters.

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I’ve also noticed less formal attempts to regulate behaviour:

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Rubbish and wear

The lockdown has seen as massive increase in dog-fouling and fly-tipping, and also casual littering. The flagrant disregard for bins already full, seen above, is one example. Here are a few of many more, including full rubbish bins and domestic waste thrown onto dumpster cages:

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In addition, I’d point out examples of excessive walking in areas never previously so regularly used. This is evidence of government-sanctioned daily exercises, here around the perimeter of a playing field in dry weather:

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Emotive art and material cultures

My third category are emotive art and material cultures expressing gratitude. These often appear on private residences. I’ve noticed innumerable rainbows and ‘Thank You NHS’ messages in windows, upon walls and pavements created by kids. I don’t want to photograph many of these, but here are a few that are so prominent they cannot be seen as but for widespread public consumption. In some cases they given a Welsh flavour with an adapted flag! Again, for many more, check out the Viral Archive.

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I’d like to add to these a range of nursing homes, businesses, schools and places of worship expressing thanks to the NHS and other key workers during the lockdown. First, schools:

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Then, churches and chapels:

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A nursing home:

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A pub:

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And a garage:

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There are also a host of chalk expressions of gratitude:

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There are also those intersecting with the VE Day 75th anniversary associated with signs and war memorials. In one case this led to the awkward breach of etiquette of a Union flag placed under the NHS flag in Hope churchyard.

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Beyond homes and buildings, votive painted stones are a further way in which emotive art and material cultures have populated country parks. I will return in future posts to present two special concentrations of such painted pebbles.

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So I’ve identified 3 broad categories of lockdown landscape material culture. Many are ephemeral and will soon disappear once the lockdown is over. Yet perhaps they will set the precedent for future pandemic lockdowns, providing the template for regulatory signs and symbols, shifting patterns of walking and the disposing of material culture, and a host of material expressions of affinity and gratitude focused on key workers.

I should add a fourth category of lockdown landscape material cultures, but these are utterly personal. I said above that landscapes have shrunk. Yet, in other ways, landscapes have expanded: I’ve visited sites and landscapes proximal to my home that I’ve never regularly visited before. So in addition to the categories above, I want to flag up some other material cultures of lockdown: things I wouldn’t otherwise regularly encounter. These are personal and cannot be readily captured here in photographs, but walks, cycles, and my repeated encounters with these friendly alpacas stand as examples among many.

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