5 Minute Guide to Archaeology on the Internet

And the DigVentures “dog cam” too—yes, a camera strapped to a happy dog on a dig!

This post might seem like preaching to the converted, the Internet-confident, the Web-proficient—but feel welcome to steal and share this with your friends, local societies and community groups who may not feel so comfortable with social media. Sharing is good, postage is expensive!

Social-Media-IconsThe vast selection of information, news and people-networking available on the Internet can seem daunting and it isn’t always easy to know what’s best, what other people rely on, who does what, and where. The heritage and archaeological world is no exception—the wonder of the Web is both a miracle in terms of what we all have access to, and yet frustrating by its sheer vastness. In this 5 Minute overview are some of my favourite places, and ones that let you discover other useful locations, tools, and people.

This is not an exhaustive (or exhausting) overview—it is an adaptation of something I did for friends at my local archaeological society. It’s never easy to put your hand up and say you don’t understand this world of social media. So, if you’ll forgive me skimming the subject, I do hope this is a helpful use of five minutes. Drop me a comment if I need to correct or embellish something. I think we’re all still learning—because this world is constantly changing too!

Microwave or Internet?

The Internet?

There are the strange names, some of which give a hint as to what they’re for, some rather bizarre—do you know your Ning from your Wiki, Bebo from MySpace, Facebook from Linkedin, Blogger from YouTube from Flickr, Tmblr, your washing machine and microwave?

Cartoon by Don AddisMany of these strange things, largely brand type names, have different types of users, age groups and social profiles.

Not to worry, many of the strange names make sense when their origin is revealed—none are rude!

To make a long story very short, these are most of the Internet resources that serve the archaeology and heritage sectors—and the principles apply to every other walk of life:

Websites and Wikis

  • Websites | virtually every organization in the world now has a website. They’re essentially “static” places that provide information to read, download as files, and about how to do things and who to contact. Websites are a “shop window” but they’re not “interactive”. You’ll rarely see “dialogue” or exchanges between people. Some individuals have their own websites and there are increasingly easy-to-use (and generally free) ways to create and manage your own website. Generally, the only chargeable elements are if you want your own “domain” name like <your name>.org or .com or .co.uk, for example www.nationaltrust.org.uk and if you want a Web design company to host and manage your website.
  • A URL | (Universal Resource Locator) just means a web link that will begin http:// or https:// (secure). When a website or link is broken, you see “404 Not Found” in your web browser. Somebody probably messed up, their computers failed or the page was taken offline (or your Internet connection isn’t working).
  • Wikis | wiki actually means “super fast” in the Hawaiian language! These are websites you can create using your web browser. What makes them unique is that they are websites that anyone can contribute to or change. So, for instance, Wikipedia is a vast online encyclopaedia with content created by everyone and anyone, but they are generally well “policed”, very informative and reliable.

Blogs and Microblogs

  • Even Bill might get confused?

    Even Bill might get confused?

    Blogs | and blogging start to make information more interactive still. “Blog” is short for “Web log” and you can think of it as cross between a website, a diary or journal, your own newspaper or noticeboard. The difference is that you make “posts”—like entries in a diary or postcards from a holiday—that can be read in chronological order with pictures, even video, and links to information. What’s more, people can leave comments (if you allow them to), subscribe to your blog to get posts by email or share a post in social media (see below). They’re also very easy to create and the “how to” videos and instructions are very good. The most popular and free blog tool is WordPress (look out for Francis Pryor’s below—the new chief archaeologist on Time Team). Blogger is another blog tool recently acquired by Google.

  • Twitter | and isn’t it in the news an awful lot these days! Think of Twitter as a “mini” blog or “micro blog”. The key thing about Twitter and Tweeting is that the content is limited to 140 characters—probably why so many famous people get into trouble. Again, it’s free, immediate and interactive. Most users tweet from their mobile phones and portable computers. People that do it in a court of law get into big trouble. Not everybody tweets, including me!
  • Tumblr | sits somewhere between WordPress & Blogger and Twitter but isn’t limited to 140 characters. It’s a micro blog popular in the realms of fashion, photography and pop culture—increasingly with politicians and celebs—and is a way to share multimedia posts that include pictures and video.

Social Media and Networking

Keep calmThe remaining Internet type things are all about staying in touch with people and being able to share things quickly and interactively—whether messages, news, pictures, answers to questions—with friends or groups with a common interest. It’s about community. Here are the main ones you’ll find in archaeology. All are free but require you to register, like you do for an email account. Sometimes joining a group will be open, sometimes there’ll be a “manager”. Messages from sites like Twitter and Facebook can also be displayed on websites (see the CBA one below), and website links can be shared in social media messages.

  • TeacupFacebook | connects mostly young professionals and students as well as an increasing cross-section of the community. It lets people share instant messages either privately or with bigger groups—and their friends too. For example, Team GB had an Olympics Facebook page that was shared far and wide with their pictures and messages. You can “like” group sites or something somebody shared, like a joke, a news story or just what somebody’s been up to. It’s easy to upload photographs and share photo albums—which people can “like”, comment on, and share with their friends. Some people use Flickr to share their photographs—same kind of thing.
  • LinkedIn | is a social networking site developed specifically for business professionals who want to build relationships, meet new contacts and market themselves. It’s free, you register for an account and set up a personal profile—a bit like a CV online although you can control how much people see. If you do a Google search on my name “Spencer Carter” you should see a LinkedIn profile, amongst other bits and pieces | I’m not the hydraulic marine equipment provider, by the way!

Other Bits

  • MySpace | is a social networking site popular with people who like sharing music, pictures and videos. Bebo tends to cater for teenagers. Ning is an online tool that lets people create a social networking site. Google+ is Google’s competition with Facebook, but essentially the same principle. YouTube is probably the most popular site for sharing videos.

And that’s really all there is to it—the rest is generally just about different names for the same or very similar things, or places to store and share documents like Dropbox and Scribd—all free!

  • I also use MailChimp—another free Web tool that helps manage subscription lists, email-based communications or marketing campaigns—all safely, legally and securely. Again, there are other free and competing web tools that do this. Personally, I really like MailChimp’s humorous help tips and error messages, and their very fast, friendly support response.

Some Favourites

CBACouncil for British Archaeology | CBA have just re-designed and re-launched their website. It’s a great place to read the latest news, find links to other information and resources, even download back copies of their research reports. What you can’t do is ask a question on the website. So CBA have a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page that anybody can follow and (with an account) interact with.

PH logoPast Horizons | One of the best online magazine sites covering the latest national and international archaeology and heritage news with occasional in-depth articles. Look on the right side of their homepage for a great list of blogs. They maintain a database of current archaeological field work opportunities around the world. Great for students looking for practical experience and volunteers seeking a new challenge. They also have a well stocked web shop selling quality archaeological equipment to a world market. This link looks like a website, but it’s actually a WordPress “blog” site. They also have a Facebook page—where humorous archaeology cartoons are often shared!

HeritageDaily | Another favourite archaeology news vehicle that you can sign up for either via Facebook or to receive emails.

DigVenturesDigVentures | Your chance to work with some of the best field archaeologists in the land on some of the best archaeological sites in the world. Join them and take part in a groundbreaking, game-changing archaeological experiment as a key member of the team. Whether you’re digging on site with them or checking in from the other side of the world, with DigVentures you can share the excitement of discovery as it happens, knowing that without your support, it wouldn’t have happened.

» And here’s the “dog cam” video on YouTube! Enjoy…

In The Long Run | Francis Pryor’s blog on archaeology, rural life (he’s also a sheep farmer) and the lessons of history. You can enter your email address and receive his regular posts in your mailbox, although his WordPress blog site doesn’t allow comments.

Saxon Princess Excavation Blog | Steve Sherlock’s blog about the Loftus excavations and Saxon jewels at Street House (North-east England). Notice how the “posts” are grouped by calendar month in the side menu. If you leave Steve a message, he sees that and approves it to appear in the blog.

Spencemicroburin.com | My own informal blog about Mesolithic archaeology in northern England and some ongoing projects. It’s a blog where you can register to receive post alerts by email. Under “Stuff to Watch” you’ll find more links to favourite things—sensible, entertaining and humorous. Again, notice on the right-hand menu area how “posts” are archived by month and by category (meaning subject). You’ll also see the community of “followers” and the blogs I follow.

 Spence

Teesside Archaeological Society | eNews | August 2012

TAS Programme Autumn 2012

Download the TAS Autumn Programme

The latest edition is out—packed with news and events!

  • Conferences and events
  • Thornborough Heritage Trust
  • 5 Minute Guide to Archaeology on the Internet
  • Fieldwork
  • Bookshelf

Love the rich, distinctive heritage of north-east England

Spence