The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns have been a challenging, stressful and exhausting time for archaeological educators and researchers as well as students! Simultaneously, the inability to visit archaeological sites, monuments and landscapes and restrictions on teaching face-to-face have prompted a host of innovations in teaching and public engagement using digital technology.

One initiative I’ve developed is a YouTube channel for Archaeodeath to augment my existing Archaeodeath WordPress blog. This has become a rich resource for both showcasing my research, providing additional teaching resources, and serving as a venue for digital public engagement regarding the archaeology and heritage of death and memory.

The specific prompt for this initiative was the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, it served as a means of translating a planned public day conference into a digital format rather than cancel the event. I began by rapidly creating two playlists linked to the 2020 ‘Special Offa’ digital conference. It was initially planned as a public day event with over 100 people registering to attend and learn about the latest research on Offa’s Dyke and the Anglo-Welsh borderlands. However, rather than cancel or postpone the event in response to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, we decided to transfer and adapt the event for online delivery for which the Archaeodeath YouTube channel was key.

First, instead of a morning of talks in the village hall of Trefonen, Shropshire, we created a digital event via YouTube and the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory website: “Special Offa: Communities and Offa’s Dyke Digital Conference. Likewise, instead of the planned afternoon’s walking tour, I recorded a series of videos and created a digital version via YouTube and social media: Trefonen Special Offa Tragical History Tour

Subsequently, the YouTube channel has grown steadily, with new videos shared via the Archaeodeath Twitter and Facebook accounts. It now enjoys modest but sustained views of 50-200 per video and 5-25 likes on most videos. With over 600 subscribers, the channel comprises a series of playlists:

Let’s Talk Random Archaeology

The channel isn’t static and I’m busy developing new ideas. For instance, in August 2021 I set up a brand-new and separate playlist as a quick and easy way to create a podcast which I might later develop and share via other podcast platforms. It remains an ongoing experiment in itself, exploring themes linking Archaeodeath with Archaeolife, we are calling it ‘Let’s Talk Random Archaeology’. What’s different about this playlist is that it is a collaboration and a series of conversations with University of Chester graduate Afnan Ezzeldin. Now an English teacher in Tokyo, Japan, Afnan remains an enthusiastic advocate of archaeology having gained a BA(Hons) Archaeology degree in 2017, successfully completed our MA Archaeology of Death and Memory in 2018. Afnan also co-edited with Dr Caroline Pudney and myself the open-access edited book Public Archaeology: Arts of Engagement (Archaeopress, 2019) and authored a chapter in the book about the public archaeology of video games.

What’s LTRA all about? Honestly, we haven’t decided yet, and we are keeping it ‘random’ on purpose. Still, our intention has been to produce one episode per month, each exploring a theme in the archaeological study of the human past and the significance and context of archaeology in today’s world. After all, YouTube is packed with content without the speakers appearing, so we are going to do this theme behind the scenes, focusing on what we say rather than what we look like.

In terms of content, we have started out by using this playlist to explore the many merits and benefits from archaeology degrees at a time when the humanities, including archaeology, are heavily mischaracterised and openly under attack from sectors of UK society.

Here is the link to the entire playlist: WATCH IT HERE.

The first three episodes are conversations between Afnan and myself about undergraduate Archaeology degrees.

The fourth and fifth videos explore Master’s degrees and specifically tackle the University of Chester’s MA Archaeology of Death and Memory. These two episodes include special guests in the guise of former and current MA Archaeology of Death and Memory students Ashley Alvarado, Scott Bound, Sammy Clague and Willie Pohl:

We are extremely grateful to archaeological illustrator John G. Swogger for providing our avatars of Afnan and myself so as to allow listeners to focus on what we say, rather than how we look.

What will we do in future videos? We hope to next take on archaeological careers and current debates in the world of archaeology, using the long-form conversation with occasional special guests as a fun, engaging and versatile medium to talk ‘random archaeology’!