First Review for Built on Bones!

So, I spent this week doing a lot of things. One of my favorites was freaking about my photoshopped proximity to lifetime hero author Neil ...

Monday, 7 March 2011

Blogging is either dangerous or a grind. Discuss.


Week 2 of the carnival and it's been a lot of fun trekking through the archaeo-blogs. It made an awesome distraction from the viva (let's never talk about Chapter 9). I honestly didn't realise how many voices there were; nice to meet you Dirt, John Hawks, The Horde from MSU, Dig Girl, Publishing Archaeology, Sara PerryWhere in the hell am i?, and Electric Archaeologist. For a round-up of responses, see the Call to Arms by MS. I have a serious issues with hitting the tl,dr wall, so I'll just briefly summarize: we all blog to talk to some sort of public. We're either trying to convince them to buy us (value what we do!) or we're sort of broadcasting an internal monologue to a swift-responding army of peers. It's worth pointing out that a journal I just submitted to has a ONE YEAR electronic preview thing going on, and that's after the 6 month submission process; I might as well blog because by the time anything gets published we'll ll be too busy riding hoverboards to notice.

on with it, getting: Question 2 (foreshortened for dramatic effect)

 Beyond the general problems that come with performing as a public intellectual, what risks do archaeologists take when they make themselves available to the public via blogging? What (if any) are the unexpected consequences of blogging? How do you choose what to share?


I am totally into this week's topic; the phrasing makes me immediately want to talk about all the things I'm not allowed to share. Or do. And when you do bones, that's a lot of things.

  • first and foremost: no pictures of bones unless okayed by curating authority
  • no pics at all of Post Med (I'm in the UK, that's from 1550 AD on) stuff -- a relative could be alive, and offended
  • no video, pictures, or any sort of recording of 'behind the scenes' mystery areas where analysis takes place
  • no visible dead people through windows, bars, etc. (this apparently only applies in countries which are not your own, and Bristol--download their rather interesting explanation of why they hid the mummies here)
  • no digging or displaying dead people dating from whenever major (or, extremely fringe) local religion has decided people are likely to be their coreligionists
So, if I were to accidentally say, post a blurry 'hipstomatic' picture of my friend in the British Museum working on some bone scraps from a rescue dig in Sudan, I would come in for a serious dressing down. If a friend who makes awesome films were to accidentally catch a shot of a post-med Londoner's skeleton backstage at MoLA in his short outreach and education videos, he would have to stop and re-edit the whole thing. If respected public figures (you've seen them on tv! now guess who they are...) can get barred from using whole collections because they disregard these rules, you can imagine the sort of trouble blogging can get you in.

Even aside from the bones issues, there are cultural patrimony and heritage law issues to consider. Egyptastic might be funny, but there is a real reason for this T-shirt:


Egypt has very strict reporting laws designed to prevent looting and antiquities smuggling. This site was originally set up to be the public face of my work on an excavation that has now been sort of 'bokra' d (that means 'tomorrow', but it means it in Egyptian. That makes a lot more sense if you have spent time in Egypt.) until various things situate themselves. Like a new director of the SCA. If I were to post an up-to-the-minute review of finds and trenches, I would rapidly find myself in a Mubarak time-share condo situation.So yes, it's all a bit delicate. I wonder what other issues people have?

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Trivia (personal)

archaeologist. dental anthropologist. yes, that's a real thing. Author of Built on Bones, available in February 2017 (UK), May 2017 (USA) from Bloomsbury.

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