archaeological imagination

Model T Ford at the Palace of Fine Arts


I was at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco this morning to welcome the arrival of the Historic Vehicle Association of America in their 1915 Model T Ford – culmination of a 3600 mile drive from Detroit following the tracks of Edsel Ford who made the same road trip a century ago. He […]

formless – Dubuffet and hylography


Last year Paul Noble and I explored his remarkable world of Nobson New Town [Link]. Our conversation became [In Parenthesis] a kind of inventory or dictionary of topics in the way that form emerges in Paul’s drawing [Link] Here’s one of my initial reactions [Link]: In Nobson, buildings and structures give form to letters; things […]

car collection – connoisseurship and archaeology

Stutz Blackhawk Boat Tail Speedster 105

This is one of a series of comments on the 8th biennial symposium “Connoisseurship and the Collectible Car” held at the Revs Institute for Automotive Research in Naples, Florida in March 2015. [Link] The symposia at the Revs Institute bring together people passionate about collecting cars, passionate about thinking deeply around questions of conservation and […]



Tate Modern, London – I have just been to the exhibition Conflict – Time – Photography [Link] The topic is how photographs connect with traumatic events and experiences, how they document such events. Here’s the review in Time Out by Freire Barnes – [Link] As we look back over 100 years since the end of […]

Helen Shanks – an archaeological sensibility


Helen has just launched her web site – Ceramics connecting quiddities, material engagement, deep history, hylography, the skeuomorph – the life of things – see some recent comments – [Link] [Link]

why antiquaries matter


There’s a great article by Peter Miller in the current Chronicle of Higher Education on How Objects Speak – [Link] Objects loom large as other gods seem to fail. The enormous global success of Neil MacGregor’s History of the World in 100 Objects, which started as a radio program, no less, spinning dramatic tales of […]

Get Carter – then and now


“Get Carter” (Mike Hodges 1971) – Michael Caine’s finest movie role. Set in the North East of England. Visiting one of the locations – Blyth – once the biggest coal port in Europe, shipping 7 million tons in 1961, from these great wooden staithes, now gone, but for the jetties. Another archaeology of the contemporary […]

a pilgrimage in search of deep time


Jedburgh, just off Dere Street, Scottish Borders. On the Berwickshire coast at Siccar Point James Hutton found an exposure of the sandstone, shales and greywacke, with the strata of the sedimentary rocks lying at an angle to each other – what is now called an unconformity. Another, inland at Inchbonny by Jedburgh, is now known […]

forty years on – restaging – return – nostos


I have just received the wonderful photo book of Mike Pearson’s new work – The Lesson of Anatomy 1974/2014. On 5 and 6 July 1974, the newly founded Cardiff Laboratory for Theatrical Research (later Cardiff Laboratory Theatre) presented The Lesson of Anatomy: The Life, Obsessions and Fantasies of Antonin Artaud in the Sherman Arena Theater, […]

Nobson Newtown – In Parenthesis


The great exhibition of Paul Noble’s work opened at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen at the weekend – [Link] An endlessly growing cosmopolis 14 June – 21 September 2014 This summer Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen will exhibit Paul Noble’s Nobson Newtown, an ever-growing cosmopolis on which the artist has worked for eighteen years. The vast drawings […]

ruins – thoughts on the aesthetic


An exhibition currently at the Tate in London is exploring British images of ruin since the 18th century. Ruin Lust, an exhibition at Tate Britain from 4 March 2014, offers a guide to the mournful, thrilling, comic and perverse uses of ruins in art from the seventeenth century to the present day. The exhibition is […]



I am back at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam for Design Column #5 – [Link] [Link] Previous Design Columns – [Link] [Link] [Link] Ideas that make a difference Every three months the Design Column at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen focuses on a news item in the form of a small exhibition. The column is […]

Paul Noble – artist | archaeologist


Sjarel Ex (Museum Boijmans van Beuningen) has introduced me to the extraordinary, the wonderful work of Paul Noble [Link] [Link] [Link] A paradigm of the archaeological imagination. Paul has been drawing his Nobson Newtown for a number of years. I could just about tick every one of the categories in my blog. I will have […]

design as exchange

foto 2 sea chair

Design values in globalism – the vitality of return and exchange Here is my commentary on the design exhibition currently running at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam [Link]. My previous commentaries – [Link] [Link] Design Column #4 The circle is round ‘The World is Deglobalizing at Breakneck Speed’ – so read the title of a […]

Richard III found? – why it matters


It’s all over the news today – the claim that the 500 year old body found by archaeologists under a parking lot in Leicester UK is that of Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England who fell at Bosworth Field in 1485, losing his throne to Henry Tudor. For much of the popular press […]

Ben Cullen


On the anniversary of the untimely and sudden death of Ben Cullen in 1995. [Link] [Link] [Link] I dedicated my book, The Archaeological Imagination [Link], published in April, to Ben. It is seventeen years today since he died. Uncanny. I wonder what I would say to him about the book, that might reveal how much […]

the archaeological uncanny


Gabriel Moshenska has sent me his recent and very neat article about the archaeological uncanny in the ghost stories of MR James. Gabriel is quite right, I think, to highlight the connection between Freud’s unheimlich, ghosts, and the haunting persistence, sometimes malevolent, of the past – MR James made much of the curses that can […]

an archaeology of the contemporary past


Today I’m in the Clark Center at Stanford, hub of the Bio-X Program – bioengineering and more. Steve Quake (Stanford Bioengineering and Applied Physics) is hosting a meeting of The Human Document Project – [Link] With us are Laura Welcher (Long Now Foundation), Tim D. White (Palaeoanthropology, Berkeley), Michael Fischer (Anthropological Sciences, Canterbury, UK), Andreas […]

Jacquetta Hawkes and the Personal Past

Hawkes - A Land

Christine Finn’s wonderfully sensitive documentary about Jacquetta Hawkes was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 yesterday – [Link] [Link] Truly, a human past. Here are my earlier comments – [Link] Jacquetta Hawkes from Michael Shanks on Vimeo.

Gary Devore on Fellini Satyricon


Gary (Devore) is currently presenting a superb commentary on Fellini Satyricon – that sumptuous marvel of a movie – [Link] In a daring and masterful tour de force, the director has violated every cinematographic rule by producing a film with no pace, no psychology, no stars, and no story. Gary has opened my eyes to […]

chorography – then and now


Chorography – a workshop at Durham University July 10 2012 – [Link] Summer fieldwork. I am less focused on the excavations at Binchester this year [Link]. I am pulling together my long-running research into the region – the English Scottish borders. How do you tell of such a place? All that is there, and has […]

Bill Rathje


Bill Rathje died last Friday. Inventor of garbology, pioneer in anthropological approaches to contemporary material culture, expert in ancient civilizations, prescient, daring, and, above all, a great and warm person, larger than life. He had been ill for a long while, but I always thought he’d get better when his doctors found the right medication, […]

Mark Bradford


We made it at last today to the Mark Bradford exhibition in San Francisco at SFMOMA – [Link] Exhibition website – [Link] Maybe it’s about … tracing the ghosts of cities past. It’s the pulling off of a layer and finding another underneath. It’s the … details that point to people saying, “We exist; we […]

Jacquetta Hawkes – antiquarian

Jacquetta Hawkes - National Portrait Gallery

This morning Christine Finn interviewed me for her new BBC documentary about Jacquetta Hawkes (1910 – 1996). So much more than an archaeologist, Jacquetta Hawkes was a fascinating latter-day antiquarian. This is why her academic archaeological colleagues tried so hard to make her marginal. And she was a woman. Hawkes was notorious when I was […]