This is a feature where I interview book bloggers about their non-bookish passions. For more information, click here!
Surprise, it’s the return of Bloggers Beyond Books! It was put on the back burner last month because I needed to settle in and work out a proper schedule for my posts, but it’s back now! I’m really happy to be interviewing my friend, Rinn of Rinn Reads, about… Archaeology! Or archeology if you prefer that spelling. :) Expecting games, weren’t you? Surprise again! Join us as we talk about Indiana Jones, obscure (and odd) religious figures, and Horrible Histories!
Welcome to the blog, Rinn! Thank you for being here to tell us about archaeology. My only contact with archaeology seems to be either through museums or through Indiana Jones. In your own words, how would you describe archaeology?
Ummm… AMAZING! Obviously. But really, I find it truly amazing to hold an object and think that someone actually used it thousands of years ago. It’s fascinating to try and fit the pieces together, think of stories as to how this object ended up here, or what those marks mean or why something was burnt etc. I’d say it’s like the past is a big puzzle, and the job of the archaeologist is to find the pieces and work out what goes where, in order to make up the ‘big picture’. And also it’s TOTALLY like an Indiana Jones film. In fact, when you study it, they make you sign a disclaimer to protect them from any legalities in case you get squashed by a boulder or possessed by an angry spirit or something. Honestly.
Haha! I only hope you have an awesome whip to aid yourself in your archaeological forays. How did you get into it? What did you see or watch that made something click and go “Yes, this is what I want to do.”?
You know, I’m not really sure. I’ve just always been completely fascinated by history and archaeology from a young age. I think part of the reason was the frequent trips that my family would take to Bristol Museum, where I grew up. It’s amazing, and I just remember being pretty much in awe at all the skeletons, fossils, gemstones, and EVERYTHING else. That, along with the zoo and the library were my favourite places to visit as a kid (and they still are today…) I was also given some of the Horrible Histories books by Terry Deary when I was about seven, and that really opened my eyes up to history. I actually chose archaeology as part of my degree without knowing much about it: it looked like something practical to go alongside ancient history. But once I started studying it – I really knew that was what I wanted to do, and how did I not even think of it after all those hours, days and weeks at the museum?? ;D
Terry Deary! His books made me appreciate history more than my elementary school lessons did. The Bristol Museum does sound amazing! Where have you gone to study archaeology? Have you ever gone anywhere so remote and far from modern civilisation?
Well I studied at the University of Reading, and every year they hold an excavation and field school (for university students and other people who are interested) at a town called Silchester, which is on the Hampshire/Berkshire border in south-east England. So I spent three summers there – it wasn’t remote remote, but we were living in the middle of a field, which was about a mile or so from the village itself. And the village only had a corner shop and a pub (which we visited pretty frequently…). We lived in tents, there were portaloos and solar showers for the brave, the rest went to a leisure centre a couple of miles away to use the communal showers there. We ate in a giant marquee, and food was shipped in from the university. Sunday was always barbeque night though! So whilst it wasn’t totally remote, it was certainly different… Unfortunately I haven’t done any digs abroad. I’m a bit rubbish when it comes to heat, so as much as I would love to take part in an excavation in Greece, Rome or Turkey I’d probably cope really badly, and just melt. Haha!
Pubs and alcohol seem to be the favourite spot of people doing fieldwork, haha! It does sound pretty remote though, compared to say working on something right next to a village. Remember to stay hydrated! What would you say is your favourite part of doing fieldwork? Aside from finding artifacts and playing triumphant music, of course.
My favourite part is how truly passionate everyone is. Obviously, people are only there because they WANT to be there, and in my experience everyone absolutely loves it. I don’t think it’s a career you just end up in without really thinking about it or planning it. I’ve found that archaeology is full of incredibly enthusiastic people – and classics is as well, actually. I love that we’re all getting excited over the same things, like a unique find or the history of one particular area. It reminds me of the book blogging community in a way: we’re all here because we love talking about and reading books, and sharing that with other like-minded people. Well archaeology is the same, we can geek out about pottery, coins or even soil in some cases, and you can guarantee there’ll be someone else there also getting excited about the same thing.
It’s great to excited over the same things, especially with people who share your passion! Have you ever come across something in your fieldwork that got you really excited? Like, you unearthed something, and it was suddenly cause for immediate celebration.
I don’t tend to actually do the digging… so nothing, sadly :P I’m more interested in finds, so processing, cleaning and recording whatever has been dug up. The less dirty work… plus you get to actually see what something should look like, rather than the big clump of mud it is when it first comes out of the ground! There have been loads of objects found at Silchester that I love, but none by me. My favourites are the figurine of Harpokrates and an intaglio of Minerva. The figurine is exciting because Harpokrates was actually a bit of an amalgamation of cultures. He was a Roman god, but he was also the ‘child’ of Serapis (a Greco-Egyptian god and also the guy I did my dissertation on!) and Isis. When it came out of the ground, it looked like a hammer covered in mud. Imagine cleaning off that ‘hammer’ to reveal a religious figurine, especially of a god that has not been recorded in that particular place before! Plus I love ancient religions and religious imagery. The intaglio was found during my second year there, and our shirts for the season ended up including the Minerva design. For anyone that doesn’t know what an intaglio is, basically it’s the decorative part of a ring. This was probably used for seals or to sign documents. It is TINY – no bigger than 1cm tall, but someone CARVED that detailed image on there by hand. Crazy! Other cool things that people have found include coins (these are surprisingly uncommon, and I love coins) and a whole dog skeleton. The dog was tiny, and it was an adult which completely contradicts the views of them having these big hounds for hunting etc. Imagine a Roman or Iron Age Briton carrying a little miniature poodle around! ;)
I can imagine it, and I am giggling! I can just imagine a big important meeting but one person’s little dog won’t stop yapping, haha! I had no idea that there were religious figures that were amalgamations of cultures. Regarding ancient religions and religious figures, do you have any favourites that you’d like to tell us about?
Well I pretty much love ALL ancient Greek and Roman religion. There are so many myths and legends, so many different gods and deities. The gods were pretty ruthless and didn’t exactly set a great example for the people, but they sure made some interesting stories… Since I spent a whole year researching and writing about him, I’ll have to say that Serapis is one of my favourites. He looks like your typical representation of Zeus, except he has three what look almost like dreadlocks on his forehead. There’s still quite a lot of argument about why exactly he was created – some think he was created by Ptolemy I to unite both the Greeks and the Egyptians, others believe he is a combination of the gods Osiris and Apis and the cult was adopted by Romans, and later Greeks. I also love the goddess Athena – Greek goddess of wisdom and strategy. She’s stoic, calm and collected, and you don’t hear all these tales of her doing ridiculous things like Zeus and Hera. Another interesting part of ancient religions is how utterly strange some of the gods were. For example the god Priapus. He is um… unique. I won’t go into details, but I’ll let you look him up for yourself :P
I looked up his Wikipedia page, and everything seemed normal up until I read what exactly he’s god OF, and when his picture loaded. (Dare ye Google? Beware of NSFW content!) Then I started laughing! All this is really fascinating. Where was all this when I was taking history in school?! Haha! If you had a chance, would you go back in time and visit the Greeks and Romans? Or would you go somewhere (somewhen?) completely different?
HAHA AND THE STORY ABOUT THE DONKEY. Poor donkey. Apparently he also has a church in Scotland… so you know where to go if you ever feel like a bit of Priapus worshipping. I actually answered a similar question to this recently (I was asked where I’d go in the TARDIS :D). I would go to Troy at the alleged time of the Trojan War, since there is so much debate about what actually happened, who really existed etc. Obviously I’m not expecting there to be any Olympian gods hanging around and helping out, but it would be amazing to see if people like Paris, Hector, Achilles and Agamemnon really existed, and whether they are anything like we believe they were. I mean there’s so much debate over it – it really happened, it didn’t happen, it happened in this layer of Troy, it happened within this decade, etc etc. I guess the same could be said for any major historical event that needs clearing up – go back in time and check it out ;) Or maybe go and see if the theories of the area around Santorini being Plato’s Atlantis are correct? History has so many questions that we need to answer with a time machine!
If I ever go to his church, I will probably not put those pictures up with the rest of my vacation pictures, haha! And to see if they were as hot as the movies depict, of course! ;) Studying history with a time machine would be a great way of getting kids to like it more. So, do you have any resources for other history enthusiasts? Maybe some mythology sites or archaeology sites?
Hmm, let’s see. ArchaeoSoup is a great site, I follow them via Facebook and as well as posting updates and news on archaeological discoveries, they post a lot of fun videos and photos. The website owner actually does a lot of school talks and things, so there’s some great resources for younger budding archaeologists too :D Or if you’re a pottery/finds nerd like me, Potsherd is basically a really cool interactive map/database of pottery from Roman Britain. Maybe that’s a bit specialised though :P HeritageDaily is another great one for updates on archaeological discoveries! I’m actually supposed to be a contributor on there but I have yet to write anything… :/ And just in case any of your readers have not yet experienced the AMAZINGNESS that is Horrible Histories – I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Horrible Histories series of books by Terry Deary, which were excellent in themselves, but then the BBC did a series based on the books and it has produced some amazing songs <3 Here are some of my favourites: Boudicca, Dick Turpin, Spartan High School Musical, Charles II: King of Bling, Evil Emperors. Actually I could just list them all – but you can find them all on Youtube, along with loads of other HH clips :)
Oh wow, loads of links! Thank you! I’m also happy to see Horrible Histories there! Okay, we’re almost done with this interview. Do you have any other non-bookish hobbies that you’d like to mention here?
Well, you know I love video games :D Although sadly that will have to take a backseat when I go off to university. I like photography and studied it at school, but I don’t really go out on as many photography trips as I used to – I should really change that! I have to say I’m not a very interesting person, the only other thing I can think of is learning languages – or more specifically Dutch at the moment. I’m not sure how well that’s going, but let’s say I definitely won’t be fluent any time soon ;) Basically my free time is spent blogging, reading, gaming and fangirling.
I’m sure that you’ll learn so much faster when you go over there, because the best way to learn is through immersion. Okay, for this last question, is there anything you’d like to say before this interview ends? Plug your blog, break out into song, anything! This is your space!
Well I’d like to say thanks for having me, Ana! <3 I love your blog and you are an AWESOME blogger & friend! And also to anyone out there who wants to chat about archaeology, books, video games or maybe discuss scholarly topics such as the beautifully sculpted face of Michael Fassbender, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on Twitter (@RinnReads) or elsewhere :D
Oh, Rinn, you are too kind! Wasn’t that just a treat, dear readers? Rinn’s love for archaeology just makes the whole thing come to life! :) Be sure to check out her blog, as she has amazing posts and features. I’m a big fan of this AMAZING recommendation post for fantasy titles! Till next time, dear reader!