Pachacamac is one of the most important sites in the Americas.
Dating back to the early first millennium AD, Pachacamac rose to prominence when it became an oracular site and pilgrims travelled there from all over the Andean area to receive benedictions and healing. Four distinct cultures have been defined at the site, of which the Ychsma polity is the main focus of the aptly named Ychsma Project, based at the Free University of Brussels.
I am currently analysing the remains of over 100 individuals buried in a mass grave around a thousand years ago, and which we excavated in 2012. Although, with maybe 80,000 burials at the site, there are many more to come.
The site of Quesna is in the Minufiyeh area, to the North of Cairo, in the Egyptian Delta. The Delta was the breadbasket of Egypt, flooded annually by the Nile and inhabited for over 100,000 years. This particular site is known primarily for the large number of Hellenistic and Roman interments to be found there, along with a series of mausolea, tomb structures and a falcon gallery, which contains thousands of mummified falcons. The project is run by the EES and has been used to foster links with the Egyptian academic community through training schools for local inspectors and students. The site - rather unexpectedly - also yielded the remains of a mastaba tomb dating to the 3rd-4th dynasty (around 2600-2700 BC). While extensively looted, this very rare find contained a tiny ceramic seal fragment bearing the name of the pharaoh Khaba, a rather shadowy figure from the very earliest period of Egyptian history.
This is an extremely early and important site in the Egyptian Delta, dating to before anything 'typically' Egyptian (pyramids, hieroglyphs and the like) appeared in the archaeological record. The Predynastic (roughly equivalent to the Neolithic period elsewhere) is characterised by small villages with increasingly complex links between them, and then further afield, as societies become increasingly settled and more reliant upon agricultural produce rather than foraging.
The site was excavated before and into WW2 by a German team, and again forty years later. The EES-backed project is carrying out survey, preservation and some excavation work, and has come up with a range of remains including burials, which are the focus of my study.
Early Iron Age Site in the Tugela Basin,
This is an Iron Age site in the Natal area of South Africa. The area was extensively used for cattle herding, with kraals (farmsteads) and associated architecture that is very difficult to spot to the unpracticed eye. The site was previously excavated some forty years ago and is now being re-dug by Dr Gavin Whitelaw and colleagues, of the museum of KwaZulu-Natal .
I took several UK students to South Africa in 2017, and worked on the excavation and analysis of human remains found at the site. These offer a particularly rare and very interesting insight into the lives of Iron Age populations of South Africa, and their trade links to surprisingly distant places.
The exhumation of Timoteo Mendieta Alcala, murdered by fascist thugs in 1939, along with 24 other people who were hauled from their homes, imprisoned, beaten up and shot, and dumped in a mass grave. The Spanish government has done all it can to prevent their exhumation, under the impression that the ‘pact of forgetting’ - invented in the 1970s after Franco died - is a better idea. We had to go to Argentina to get the permission in a higher, more humane court. I went along with some of my students to exhume the bodies during the Summer of 2017.
Adam always used to say that if he had been dropped down a different chimney he would have been a historian or an archaeologist. As it was he listened to his father, and spent an eventful 35 years in the City. He was – especially in the eyes of an itinerant archaeologist – a Proper Grown Up. Yet he was too good at his job to take it seriously: he once went long on a stock because it reminded him of his daughter’s name, for example. By the time I met him he had been ill for some time, and was determined to fill every unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, embracing everything that life had to offer. The time he didn't fill with work was filled with good food, good wine, good books, good company, good travel, cycling, archaeology, history and myriad other passions. He was mad about his family – he was raised by one strong woman, and married two others – and lived for his kids, about whom he could talk for hours. He was utterly indifferent to public opinion: the cycling community will miss his spectacular spandex collection, for instance, while his scruffiness on the various excavations I took him to was positively legendary. And who can forget his bizarre experimental dancing, or the time he prayed on his knees in front of Margaret Thatcher’s portrait in the NPG? Yet while those who knew him will chuckle over these and numerous other foibles, nobody needs to be reminded of his real legacy, that heart of gold that beat beneath his scruffy exterior. He was made of unshakeable principles, quiet passions and a will of iron that sustained him through life, and lives on in those lucky enough to have known him. His absence leaves a larger-than-life hole, and, frankly, it makes one grumpy that we have been deprived of him. It isn’t fair. We know that the world is poorer for having lost him. Eulogy writers are forever having to cast around, looking for anything positive to rescue from the embers of a life lost. But if you were to distil all that we hold dear about Adam, the most common element you would find says it all: kindness. Just kindness. He was the personification of generosity of spirit, tolerance and amused forbearance in the face of life’s tragedies and comedies alike. People could sense it in him; complete strangers would turn and confide in him within minutes of meeting him. He saw something praiseworthy in absolutely everyone, from city boys to teenage Canadian archaeologists, Peruvian labourers and even feckless bioarchaeology lecturers. He was an invisible crying tree for everyone. And that is not a bad bequest, in itself. Losing someone reminds us that life is finite, and however immortal we may feel, our time is limited. So don’t wait to take kindness, thoughtfulness and charity out into the world. Do it now. And while you’re there, start at home: be kind to yourself. Tell those you love that you love them. Indulge your passions, whatever they may be. Don’t listen to the doubters. Be gentle to yourself and your dreams. Make your life extraordinary. When you’re looking at that wine list, choose one a few lines down from where you normally would. And when you do that, raise a glass. And remember.
“We might not be the ones to change the world. We might not belong to the few that put a ding in the universe. We might not be something the whole world would celebrate. But...In the little corners that we live; in the lives that we’ve played a part in, we should be nothing but unforgettable.”
~ Nesta Jojoe Erskine
“I want to die living. And I want to be remembered as one who lived with purpose, joy, and feeling. I want to spend my time learning what goes into a whole and happy life, then building that life the best I can.”
~ S. Goodier