This year I have a two week slot in the “Science in Archaeology 2” program that is part of the Minor “Archaeology Today: (Digital) science in Archaeology”. In my section of the course we have covered three key topics this year: humans and fire, humans and animals, and humans and domestication. For each topic there was a lecture and a discussion component, and students got to present their favourite scientific paper on one of these topics.
This year discussions have been particularly fun as we have such a broad range of students taking the minor. In addition to the ‘usual’ archaeologists we have, among others, historians, data science and environmental science students from a range of universities across the Netherlands. So regardless of your background if you are interested in archaeology then maybe this minor is for you…
Two of our field days for the University of Amsterdam (UvA) BSc Palaeoecology course took place in the heathland around Hilversum. This region is particularly interesting for exploring past environmental change because it includes glacial topography from the Saalian glaciation (c. 300,000-130,000 years ago), evidence of polar deserts from end of the last ice age (c. 20,000 years ago), and ancient soils which contain evidence of past landscapes during the Holocene (last 11,700 years). Furthermore, burial mounds and other earth works provide evidence of the thousands of years of human habitation and landscape modification.
During the excisions we visited the local geology museum (Geologisch Museum Hofland) to get an overview of the landscape, collected data to characterise the local vegetation, and discovered buried soils containing evidence of landscapes during the medieval period (c. 1500-500 years ago), the mid-Holocene (c. 5,000-6,000 years ago) and the end of the last ice age.
When Jennie Dennett of BBC Radio Cumbria heard that we were taking Cumbrian dung beetles to Glastonbury, she immediately got in touch to find out more and invited us to give an interview at their studios in Carlisle. Our activity “How Gross is Your Festival Kit” gave her an idea – drawing presenter Mike Zeller away from the studio under the pretence of a meeting, a member of the studio team took sneaky swabs of his kit and posted them to us at the Lancaster Environment Centre. We duly plated them out and incubated them to see what’s population the BBC Radio Cumbria studio.
On Friday, we arrived at the studio with some nasty-looking growths on agar plates, which we were able to produce on cue when Mike asked us about the activity.
BBC Radio Cumbria videoed the whole thing and have posted it on Facebook here.