Mini-series: Archaeology for all

In this post, Dr. Alex Hale and Kristian Pedersen, Archaeology Teaching Fellows, showcase a new course at the Centre for Open Learning, ‘Archaeology: accessing past lives’, which was developed with inclusivity and accessibility at the heart of its design… 

In September 2019, we are delighted to launch a new course at the Centre for Open Learning (COL), Archaeology: accessing past lives, through which anyone can engage in archaeology. With an emphasis on accessibility and inclusivity, we hope to demonstrate that any location or object can be examined through archaeological perspectives, methods and theories, and that archaeology is relevant to us all.

When designing and planning the course, we spent time with community groups (special thanks to the Royston Wardieburn community), existing students at COL, archaeological organisations, and the University’s Disability service. In doing so, we unpacked perceptions of archaeology (and archaeologists!), and identified key skills closely linked with archaeology that are extremely difficult to develop, due to lack of practical opportunity. The video below shows some highlights of the evolving COL and Royston Wardieburn partnership:

This research led us to design and develop a course that is flexible in delivery, and one which we hope will leave participants with knowledge and practical experience of key archaeological skills and an understanding of how to examine archaeologically any place; urban, suburban or rural.

Our motivation to design this course came from COL student feedback that opportunities to develop archaeological skills were few and far between. People keen to engage in archaeology described being prohibited in their exploration of archaeology, as many of the skills needed to develop projects were regarded as the preserve of professionals. We also wanted to address the perception of archaeology as a ‘closed’ discipline, and engage communities in exploration of their surrounds.

The enthusiasm of the Royston Wardieburn community strengthened our aim to develop a course that could be taken by absolute beginner, keen community participant or, indeed, archaeology graduate looking to develop some key skills.

In addition, training communities in archaeological studies is beneficial to the discipline. More of more community excavations are unfolding, and amateurs are the most likely to identify and report finds to various agencies. By educating individuals and groups, the likelihood of sites and finds being properly identified and investigated increases significantly.

From our visits to community groups, we realised just how much interest there is in local places, events and our changing world. Archaeology applies a broad range of methods and approaches, which can be developed as part of a course such as the one we developed.

This course is deliberately designed to be flexible in terms of location and timing. Our first offering will be based in Holyrood Park, and we hope the next course will be based in the Scottish Borders in 2020. Thereafter – who knows, but it would be very good to be able to offer the course for free, in areas which are largely underrepresented in terms of this sort of opportunity. We are also excited to have developed a course that aims to broaden people’s ideas of what archaeology is, and how we can apply archaeology to a much wider range of places.

Archaeology: accessing past lives will be open for booking this summer. 

Alex Hale

Dr. Alex Hale is a Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Open Learning. He completed my PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2000 and has had an active research career in Scottish archaeology since. Alex teaches a range of courses at the Centre for Open Learning, from ‘An Introduction to Archaeology’ to ‘The Archaeology of Graffiti’.

Kristian Pedersen

Kristian Pedersen is a Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Open Learning. Much of his research concerns the Stone Age, particularly that of the lands surrounding the North Sea. Kristian teaches a number of courses including ‘The Vikings’, ‘Early Humans’, and ‘Neanderthals’.