A Terracotta Army Warrior Arrives at the Institute of Archaeology to Mark our 80th Anniversary

In recognition of the Institute of Archaeology’s 80th anniversary (we were founded in 1937), the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, Xi’an, China, has gifted a to-scale, replica terracotta warrior to the Institute. It is a c.1.8m high exact facsimile and weighs about 160 kilos. This gift marks our special relationship with the Museum, and our collaborative research of the Terracotta Army Logistics project. The project is led by Xiuzhen Li (Senior Archaeologist in the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum and Institute Honorary Senior Research Associate), as well as by Andrew Bevan, Marcos Martinón-Torres and Patrick Quinn at the Institute.

We were invited to select our own warrior and in keeping with our egalitarian principles, we chose a lower ranking official holding a halberd, rather than a ‘general’. Both life-sized copies and the 3rd century BC originals of the terracotta warriors are constructed in the same way. Each figure was built individually from bottom to top, step by step: feet, hollow legs and torso, and solid arms and head (Fig. 1), and then details sculpted, particularly the facial features. Some of the figures even bear the name of producer or overseer (Li et al. 2016). After firing in the kiln, the original warriors were painted with bright colours.

Figure 1 

Shiao Ma, who sculpted our terracotta warrior, comparing its head to that of Thilo Rehren, Professor of Archaeological Materials and Technology, Institute of Archaeology (Photo Weidong Zhou).

The Institute’s copy was made using local loess clay just as the originals were. Patrick Quinn’s recent research (Quinn et al. 2017) on the ceramics of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum indicates that both the clay and the sand temper for the c. 7,000 sculptures, 25,000 bricks and countless other artefacts were procured close to the site. Technological links between the various types of ceramics may indicate that the raw materials were processed centrally and then distributed to different local workshops, suggesting a highly structured system of labour organisation.

After Shiao Ma moulded and sculpted the pieces of our warrior (Fig. 1) and Weidong Zhou took charge of firing in the kiln (Fig. 2) and the colouring was checked, ‘our’ warrior was carefully packed for travel. The warrior’s journey was plotted over its 50-day sea voyage across the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean and North Sea to its arrival at the port of Felixstowe. It was then couriered to the Institute (arranged by Fiona McLean) and on arrival was carefully unpacked by Dean Sully, Sandra Bond and George Davis. It currently awaits secure, permanent display in the Institute’s foyer, and an official ‘opening ceremony’.

Figure 2 

Weidong Zhou (right) supervising firing in the kiln (Photo Weidong Zhou).

The Institute of Archaeology accords very grateful thanks to Director Hou of the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum for his generous gift and to Xiuzhen Li for her immense support and help in organising this endeavour and the marvellous gift (Fig. 3).

Figure 3 

Director Hou of the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum and Xiuzhen Li, Senior Archaeologist in the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum and Institute Honorary Senior Research Associate, with the finished warrior, prior to shipping to UCL Institute of Archaeology (Photo Tianzhu Zhang).

Quotes and Music to Celebrate 80 years of Global Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology

Both the Institute of Archaeology and Archaeology itself have been the source of inspiration and enjoyment for many. To capture this spirit and to celebrate our 80th anniversary we have been compiling a collection of quotes about the Institute and a Spotify playlist!

Current staff, students and alumni have been asked to contribute to a collection of 80 quotes for 80 years. A selection can be read below, and the full list of quotes (with photos) will be published on a dedicated website and across our social media channels before the end of 2017.

“Coming to my last year at the IoA, I can truly say that I’ve enjoyed every minute here – time really does fly when you’re having fun! I have gained so much, and each year has offered up different challenges and experiences. The IoA has become a place for me to share my passion for archaeology with others who feel the same way, and I’ve definitely come away with friends for life” Abbie O’Gorman, BA Archaeology 2017.

“At UCL Institute of Archaeology I found a place where I could develop and exercise my particular skills, and try to pass them on to others. Two students’ comments sum it up: (1) ‘I took up archaeology to get away from this sort of stuff’, (2) ‘you can’t retire, you’re an institution’ Clive Orton, Emeritus Professor of Quantitative Archaeology since 2008; Institute staff 1979–2008 (including 1983–86, when I worked for the Museum of London but was based at the Institute).

“The Institute of Archaeology is where I figured out archaeology is interesting enough to spend a lifetime messing about with it. It’s also where I met most of the people I’ve worked with in the last decade – and interesting people working on interesting subjects makes for great gossipy footnotes if you plan on writing a book.” Brenna Hassett, Scientific Associate at the Natural History Museum London and author of Built on Bones: 15,000 Years of Urban Life and Death (Bloomsbury, 2017); graduated 2011.

“My time at the IoA really shaped my life. I learnt many of the life skills I needed to achieve what I wanted out of a career. I have friends, memories and a greater understanding of the world that will last a lifetime thanks to all the staff and students who make the IoA great.” Lewis Glover, BA Archaeology and Anthropology 2012; Diplomat at the U.K. Mission to the United Nations, New York.

“For any archaeologist with a longing to unravel the human story, the Institute of Archaeology will always feel like home. In these walls I have found myself building mounds with the Mississippians, scrutinising Roman sewage and resurrecting dead languages. We must respect our past to secure our future and the Institute’s climate change, ancient genetics and plant domestication research all give me the power to facilitate a solution for modern crises. The Institute marks the beginning of my journey.” Rosalyn Christian, Current 3rd Year BSc Archaeology Student (graduating 2018).

“The IoA was home for five years and I’ve used the skills I learnt there every day since I left. Turns out that a PhD focussed on nineteenth century cemeteries is good preparation for the Civil Service.” Matilda Duncker PhD, graduated 2015; Community Health and Social Care Project Manager, Bath and North East Somerset Council (Civil Service Fast Stream).

“I came to the IoA having dropped out of a different degree at another university. Having spent some time on an excavation, and met some IoA people there, I decided to try my luck and talk my way in to the Institute. Luckily, with the help of the wonderful staff I got in, and didn’t look back. I had the most amazing three years and a huge amount of fun!” Jo Warren, graduated 2011; Heritage Officer, Brent Museum & Archives, London.

A Spotify playlist has also been created and curated as a light-hearted way to mark the 80th Anniversary. Alumni and current staff and students have suggested one song or piece of music that marks their time at the Institute. Again the playlist will be completed and published by the end of 2017. Here are some examples:

  • Stuart Brookes (IoA Alumnus & Leverhulme Trust Research Associate): The Jam – Going Underground.
  • Robs Symmons (IoA Alumnus 1998 & Curator at Fishbourne Roman Palace): Christy Moore – Don’t forget your shovel.
  • Heather Armstead (IoA Alumnus & UCL Social and Historical Sciences Faculty Prize and Medal 2016): John Williams – Raiders of the Lost Ark OST.
  • Gustav Milne (Honorary Senior Lecturer IoA, Director of the Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) and CITiZAN): The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (unofficial song of the TDP).
  • Charlotte Frearson (UCL Alumnus 2005 & Recruitment/Outreach Officer at IoA): Pearl Jam – Evolution.
  • Jennifer French (Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the IoA): Interpol – Mammoth.
  • Steve White (IoA Alumnus & Archaeologist at Archaeology South East): From The Ashes – Fools Chain.

University Archaeology Day 2017

Archaeology, as everyone who participates in it is aware, is a brilliant subject that can be inspiring, rewarding, and highly multi-dimensional, with lots to offer a prospective student, whether or not they are looking for a job in the heritage sector. However, it has been clear for some time that not enough potential students are aware of the many facets of the discipline and the opportunities it can open up. Nationally, undergraduate recruitment has been in gentle decline for some years and the discipline faces a range of challenges, including the loss of the AQA Examination Board A-level Archaeology programme (see e.g. Barker et al. 2017). Thus the inaugural University Archaeology Day (UAD) was held on June 22nd 2017, at UCL, as part of University Archaeology UK’s efforts to address these issues.

The day was organised by members of staff at the UCL Institute of Archaeology (IoA) but very importantly involved almost all of the other university departments that teach archaeology across the UK, as well as a wide range of heritage organisations. The event was inspired by the highly successful London Anthropology Day, currently organised by the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI), who also supported the UAD, as did the Council for British Archaeology and Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. The day aimed to provide a showcase for all UK undergraduate archaeology degree programmes, highlighting the diversity and appeal of the subject to prospective students, teachers and parents, and seeking to expand the pool of potential applicants for archaeology courses. The event combined space for individual departmental stalls with a programme of talks and activities to give attendees a flavour of the excitement of archaeology, to pass on application tips, and highlight transferable skills. It is important to stress that the ethos of the University Archaeology Day was fundamentally collaborative. While each department was invited to present their programmes and facilities to their best advantage, underpinning the philosophy of the day was the simple adage that ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. Improving the health of the discipline first, so that all departments can benefit, was the guiding principle, bringing archaeologists from universities and other organisations together to champion our discipline collectively, and all it has to offer.

The University Archaeology Day ran from 10am to 5pm on the 22nd of June, was free to attend, and comprised two main elements. The first was the exhibition area (Fig. 4) located in the South Cloisters at UCL, with representatives from each of the 25 participating university departments available to talk to people throughout the day. Several other heritage organisations also had stalls, including Archaeology South East, the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN), Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), the RAI, Rescue – The British Archaeological Trust, and the Thames Discovery Programme. Many contributors brought artefacts and demonstration materials, including VR headsets and other interactive displays, as well as promotional literature, while live reports from selected on-going excavations were streamed into the exhibition area during the day. The second element was the programme of 45-minute workshops; each participating university was able to present a talk or other form of activity in several parallel sessions throughout the day, held in several of the teaching rooms at UCL. At the end of this programme, between 4pm and 5pm, a plenary session involved Janet Miller (MOLA), Anna Welch (CIfA), and Katie Bisaro (UCL Careers) talking about the benefits of an archaeological degree in a wide range of employment. Each visitor also received an information pack with details of the day’s events and a list of participating institutions and entry requirements for their programmes. Over 100 visitors attended the event. By comparison, the longer established London Anthropology Day (running since 2004, and held at the British Museum) currently attracts around 400; in the 5th year of that event, in 2008, there were 220 visitors (Basu 2008). This gives an indication of the scope for growth but also the relatively significant success of the inaugural year of the UAD.

Figure 4 

The exhibition area at the University Archaeology Day (Photo Lisa Daniel).

The University Archaeology Day received massive support in a range of ways from across the archaeological community. Financial backing came from the partner universities, the UCL Institute of Archaeology, and the Widening Participation (WP) Team at UCL. Several staff and students attended from each university and each heritage organisation was also well-represented, while volunteers from the UCL Institute of Archaeology helped enormously with the running of the day, and many IoA staff took a turn on the UCL stall. Numerous acts of kindness made the event happen, but specific thanks go to Jennifer French for her logistical support both before and during the event; Ian Carroll for providing artefacts for the IoA display; Stuart Brookes and Barney Harris, who contributed artwork and designs for the publicity materials; and Mark Roberts and Ian Cipin, who were out in the field (in Sussex and Israel respectively) and live-linked to the event. Sue Hamilton, as IoA Director, backed the event from the outset (the initial idea being conceived at the 2015 staff away-day), while from our partner organisations, Emma Ford (RAI) provided much advice on setting UAD up, and Kate Welham, Mike Heyworth (CBA) and the University Archaeology UK (UAUK) Steering Group also gave their wholehearted support for this initiative. In terms of feedback, the comments we have received from visitors and from university/other organisational representatives have been almost universally positive. Visitors highlighted the range of activities and talks and the generally smooth organisation of the event, and other participants enjoyed the chance to meet a range of potential students, as well as colleagues from across the sector. There is widespread agreement that the event should become an annual fixture, and this year’s organisational team are already looking forward to UAD 2018!

UK Archaeological Science Conference 2017

2017 marked the 30th anniversary of the UK Archaeological Science (UKAS) conference, a biennial meeting which brings together archaeological scientists from across the UK and abroad, and in April of this year UCL’s Institute of Archaeology was privileged to host the conference for the very first time. Taking place over four days, the conference welcomed over 190 delegates, representing around 70 institutions from 20 different countries, making it one of the largest and most international UKAS gatherings in the history of event.

The UKAS schedule consisted of 70 oral and 64 poster presentations, spread across six thematic sessions: People, Landscapes and Environments; Globalisation and Connectivity; Subsistence and Consumption; Populations and Lifeways; Procurement and Production; Animal-Human Interactions. Research presented was as wide-ranging as ever, covering both methodological developments and their application to archaeological research, spanning every corner of the globe, over time periods stretching from the Middle Palaeolithic to the post-Medieval. UCL Institute of Archaeology was well-represented with staff and students contributing 15 presentations to the proceedings.

Thanks to sponsorship, social events were held throughout the conference including a wine reception at the UCL Grant Museum of Zoology (Fig. 5), a conference dinner at Goodenough College, and a drinks and poster reception in the UCL South Cloisters. Tamsin O’Connell (University of Cambridge) gave the after-dinner speech reflecting on the 30-year history of UKAS, and the contribution the conference has made to the growth of archaeological science. Participation in all social events was free for attending delegates, which provided a fantastic opportunity for researchers from all backgrounds and career stages to engage with one another.

Figure 5 

Delegates at the UK Archaeological Science (UKAS) conference at the welcome wine reception hosted in the Grant Museum of Zoology (Photo Jen Tripp).

The conference closed with the awarding of student and early career researcher prizes for the best oral and poster presentations, made possible by our sponsors. Prizes were awarded to Laura Adlington (UCL), Magdalena Blanz (University of the Highlands and Islands), Ana Curto (University of Kent), Christopher Dunmore (University of Kent), Tom Gardner (University of Edinburgh), Katie Hemer (University of Sheffield), Isabella von Holstein (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), and Megan Wong (Simon Fraser University, British Columbia). In the closing session, it was announced that the next UKAS conference will take place in 2019, hosted by the University of Manchester.

Stressed Out: UCL Institute of Archaeology Conference Competition 2016/17

Since 2007, the UCL Institute of Archaeology has run an annual conference competition, open to all members of the department, students and staff. The idea behind this competition is to create a platform in which new and innovative archaeological ideas can be discussed and developed; this is facilitated with a grant of £2000. For a summary of winners of this competition from its inaugural year through 2014, please see Whitehouse (2014).

In the 2016/17 competition, the winners were Dr Carolyn Rando and Dr Marija Edinborough for their conference entitled: Stressed Out – Debunking the stress myth in the study of archaeological human remains (Fig. 6). The conference focused on the concept of ‘stress’. The word ‘stress’ is a now quite common part of modern vernacular, but the true or correct meaning of the concept can be difficult to tease out. It is used to indicate anything from the physiological response of the body to an event, to a psychological one (emotional distress), but, clinically (in the medical community) the meaning is quite specific and refers to the Selyean Stress Concept – colloquially known as the ‘flight or fight’ response. Here, the body responds in a very specific way to ‘threatening’ external agents, via neuroendocrine responses, which, while beneficial in the short term, if experienced over a long period of time can cause enlargement of the adrenal glands and lymph nodes, as well as gastric ulcers (amongst other problems).

Figure 6 

Dr Marija Edinborough (left) and Dr Carolyn Rando (right) during the closing comments at the Stressed Out conference. (Photo Kate McGrath).

The study of archaeological human remains has co-opted this notion of ‘stress’, but it has remained poorly defined, is often misused, and, as noted by Hillson (2014, 204) ‘the word has ceased to have any clear meaning in bioarchaeology’. The purpose of this conference was to address this issue directly by re-considering the use of this term in human remains research and to start a dialogue regarding how to define better what we mean when we say ‘stress’ in archaeology. This was accomplished through a two-pronged approach: a dental anthropological perspective and a palaeopathological one. Firstly, the structure and function of teeth have been widely used in inquiry into either ancient or modern human populations to address numerous research questions. Given the complexity of tooth formation processes, study of developmental defects of teeth can provide a general snapshot of ‘life-history’ in an observed population, or an individual. Secondly, the examination of disease (and disease-load) in past populations is of significant importance, as it can provide answers to large scale questions about human activity and behaviour.

This somewhat controversial conference topic proved extremely popular, so, over the 19th–20th of May 2017 over 150 delegates and volunteers took part, with participants from all over the world. Keynote speakers for this event included: Professor Simon Hillson (UCL Institute of Archaeology), Professor Tony Waldron (UCL Institute of Archaeology), Dr Daniel Antoine (British Museum) and Dr Albert Zink (Institute for Mummy Studies, EURAC Research). The most prominent topic of papers and posters revolved around enamel hypoplastic defects (typically line-form depressions across the tooth indicating arrested enamel development) which have often been considered indicators of ‘stress’. Primarily, discussions focused on exploring the relationship of these defects with external (and internal) stressors; the prevalence of defects across time/space; and attempts to explain what we are actually observing (i.e. when is a defect a defect). Secondarily to enamel defects, so called ‘non-specific’ stress indicators were also well discussed. These indicators, including, for example, cribra orbitalia (porosity in the upper region of the orbit – eye socket) and porotic hyperostosis (porosity on the bones of the cranial vault), Harris lines (radiopaque lines potentially indicative of growth), and periosteal new bone (bone formed by the periosteum – the membrane that covers bones – often due to pathological stimulus – see Waldron 2009) are all highly controversial and proved as such with lively and engaging discussions across the second day of the conference. Despite the many opinions and approaches to dealing with this topic, it was generally agreed by all that we (collectively) need to be clearer about how these various indicators are related to the environment and human behaviour, and to be precise in our language when discussing them.