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Democratising Archaeology in Britain

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

 - Nelson Mandela


In our pilot programme of work, we aim to interrogate and explore how we can include the voices that may have been disfranchised in the past and acknowledge those that should be heard, so that we can account for Britain’s rich diversity and global heritage. As an academic department, it is our responsibility to broaden our discipline to make it inclusive to all. Expanding beyond a Western approach to teaching is part of this process and finding ways to use British archaeology and heritage as a stepping-stone for our students to gain a more global understanding of the human past.

We also want to examine the ways in which archaeology continues to shape and reinforce inequalities in Britain and elsewhere, especially those that have a potential to impact society. While archaeologists cannot change the world on their own, they can certainly use their skills to better understand the complexity of contemporary societies, and encourage social transformation.

As part of our programme of work, we are currently considering the format, mode of delivery and content of a First Year core module ‘Archaeology in Britain’. This module acts as an introduction into the vast world of archaeology, helping students understand the sheer range of the discipline. It not only engages with how archaeology and the past is perceived in modern society, but also supports students in understanding how archaeologists work and think.

This module covers a wide chronology, ranging from early prehistory to modern Britain, allowing students to start exploring a wide range of different archaeological approaches, evidential bases and methodologies. Each one of the approaches will raise specific questions and challenges. For example, the process of re-examining Mesolithic Britain will be quite different from doing the same for Roman Britain, or during the Industrial Revolution. Although Britain is an island, its communities have never been isolated from the wider world. Understanding the archaeology of Britain by necessity involves addressing issues of migration, technological change, identity building, empire and social difference. This module provides a powerful lens through which to view some of the wider processes and practices.

We hope to expand our effort across modules in the future to make our programmes more diverse and inclusive, and to encourage broader training collaborations with communities and colleagues across the world.

As part of these first stages of thinking, we could use your help.  We would like to gain multiple opinions, ideas, suggestions and feedback from as diverse and audience as possible and invite you to tell us what you think is important and essential to a module called ‘Archaeology in Britain’: what should it look like and what it should do?

We look forward to hearing from you.