art and archeology

Last week was the summer school at North Uist, based at the arts centre in Lochmaddy, and hence the long gap in blog updates. The title was ‘Art and Archeology – Creative Pasts, Kindling Creativity’, a joint venture between Becky, the archeologist and Dennis, the fine art tutor. It was intriguing and exhausting and involved lots of talking and was very good indeed. A bit of  shock for me, coming at it from several weeks of solitude, but I met some lovely people and had lots of interesting conversations.Here’s an extract from the course details

During this summer school you will engage in a range of approaches to a series of archaeological sites and landscapes in Uist. You will begin by learning ‘conventional’ archaeological recording techniques; planning, describing and photographing. You will then explore a range of creative responses to this work. We will ask whether the archaeological approach can provide a footprint for the playful and the creative and if so, how far you can take it. We will also ask how an artistic approach can inform our understanding of the past. The focus of the school is to promote discussion and debate through interaction between those with an interest in art and those with an interest in archaeology.

I had lots of questions at the beginning, and probably more at the end!

1- when does archeology begin? can it be yesterday?

2- what is art / who is an artist?

It seems the answer to (1) is yes, archeology begins whenever the past does, so yesterday or even 5 minutes ago.The answer to (2) is, nobody knows…

The format was that we spent the first 3 days visiting sites and taking part in survey work, drawing scale plans, measuring, taking photos and even scraping with trowels! Along with endless discussion about what we were doing, and why, and as everyone had a very strong opinion about everything it was sometimes a bit overwhelming. The last two days were based in the art studio, where all sorts of creative responses emerged. More on that soon

exposed section of possible Iron Age ‘wheelhouse’, at the coast
intent on scraping the layers of the midden

4 thoughts on “art and archeology

  1. as a young anthropology student one of the first study tasks was to record the contents of a friend’s fridge and make a pertinent comment about that person. This was part of a larger training in methodological observation which, to my surprise, still serves me to this day. This ability to step outside one’s own shoes and see the world from other perspectives is useful and, often, very informative. So it would be with archaeology I imagine. Of course the next thing is both communicating what you may have found and being ready for the “feedback”. Happy days.


    1. I am confused about the difference between anthrop and archaeo – ologies. It seems to be mainly that one looks at living people, the other at dead ones. I just hope nobody wants to make a character assessment based on my fridge… (I actually left it completely empty – what does that say???)


    1. strangely enough, I abolutely loved it! I met a really interesting group of people, nearly all who lived on the islands and were very friendly and welcoming and happy to talk endlessly about all sorts of things like the significance of overlaying rectangles on top of circles, the importance of middens and burial chambers, what it means to live on a tiny island (one of the brochs we visited was built in the middle of a loch. And string, of course. But it was also exhausting to have all that engagement, and I had to have a few days of total isolation to recover…


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