Since early May, I’ve been experimenting with using TikTok as a distinctive platform to extend my Archaeodeath empire. Here’s how it is going.

My TikTok adventure follows hot-on-the-heels of my YouTube channel which kicked into action in April 2020. In 11 weeks, I’ve posted about contemporary memorials and material cultures (including lockdown ‘monuments’ and the the ‘Topple the Racist’ dimension of the BLM movement), historic cemeteries and tombs, medieval churches, grave slabs and effigies, early medieval archaeology including Gotlandic picture stones, Pictish symbol stones, Vendel-period metalwork and early Anglo-Saxon death rituals. I’ve also posted some ‘spot the archaeology’ videos at various locations in my neighbourhood. Some videos simply introduce some basic or key concepts and terms in mortuary archaeology. On top of these, I’ve also done some fun videos about wildlife, from alpacas to bees. Most ‘TikTok’ of all, you’ll find a few lip-syncs – since that’s part of what TikTok is all about – fun and engagement.

Now YouTube is moving slowly but surely and has attracted a discerning 225 subscribers thus far for my longer posts. For the first 10 weeks, TikTok had been doing the same, gaining c. 400 followers.

However, last week, one of my posts went ‘viral’ (for me at least). There was nothing particularly special about this video: it was a response to a question on an earlier post musing about why early medieval claw beakers have claws? This follow-up video has at the time of writing garnered 35.2k views and 4598 likes within a week! Also, the interactions with informed and thoughtful comments by viewers have suggested further reasons why claw beakers have claws. In short, with people viewing this post and my others doing well too, I’ve jumped rapidly to over 1000 followers.

A lot of people seem to be interested in the archaeology I am researching, which is nice! So, in short, the TikTok experiment seems to be paying off in terms of modest but demonstrable public engagement for the archaeology and heritage of death and memory. The followers seem really polite, curious and engaged, and I’m not (yet) experiencing any of the negativity, trolling and abuse from a (small minority) of other academics I’ve faced on Twitter in recent months. So I feel very positive about both YouTube and TikTok!

I’ll try to update my blog at other key milestones, as and when they occur.