About Michael Shanks
Archaeologist at Stanford University in California.
My special interest in ancient Greece and Rome is the basis for my fascination with all manner of archaeological themes – the history of art and design, long term patterns in history, and heritage, a word that points to our current and somewhat overwhelming concern with what we have inherited from the past.
I have researched the design of beer cans as well as ancient Greek perfume jars, prehistoric landscapes and ancient cityscapes – the great stone megalithic monuments of Atlantic Europe, the city states of the ancient Greek world in the Mediterranean. I have advised the Mayor of Rotterdam on cultural policy, write a design column for Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in the Netherlands, and am currently a director of the Revs Program at Stanford – promoting the study of the history of the automobile as a key component of contemporary car design.
And I do what most people associate with archaeology – dig up the past – as part of the team excavating the Roman town of Binchester in the rolling hills of the English border with Scotland – the place that Ptolemy, the ancient geographer, called VINOVIUM (“On the wine road”).
What holds all this together? – the magical presence of the past, in its ruin and decay. Because archaeologists don’t discover the past – they work on what remains.
We are all archaeologists now – fascinated by what is left of the past, our own memories and experiences, recent times as much as the ruins of ancient civilizations – working on what remains, caring about the past with a view to the present and the future.
Above all, perhaps, I am currently enjoying a renewed childhood with my children Molly and Ben, who forever remind me of how to be fascinated by the most mundane of things.