About Spencer Carter

Born in North Yorkshire, I studied archaeology at Durham in the late 80s. Since then I have worked as a Sales Operations professional for a plethora of global corporations. I have been “mom” and conscience to thousands of sales people, designed and improved processes, built customer service teams across 85 countries and every conceivable culture. I am now on a career sabbatical to re-engage with my passions for prehistory (especially the mesolithic period), cultural heritage management and the joinedy-up bits between academics, the public and communities. I also like walking on hot volcanoes, melting shoes.

Feel the heat | It’s a cremated Mesolithic colleague

◊ Dear Microburins,

OA_Some_cremated_remains_by_typeExciting news reported on social media today. Despite a few questionable media-focused soundbites, Oxford Archaeology have reported something important. Expected to be Bronze Age, cremated (or at least burnt) human bones – a proportion of an entire body – have been AMS-dated to around 5600 cal BC on a developer-led commercial excavation at Langford, Essex. With so few related finds in the UK and Ireland, and even our Doggerland neighbours on the other side of the North Sea basin, generalisations are still as risky, as are any specific conclusions drawn. However, whether or not we are looking in the right places for the deceased, this adds to the record in a valuable way. I suspect the true value will still take us Mesolithic archaeologists many generations to fathom, but good work!

Spence

Image courtesy of © Oxford Archaeology.

Charting Chipeling | Kiplin Hall archaeology exhibition opens 3 April

◊ Dear Microburins,

I’m pleased to announce here that an archaeology exhibition opens on Good Friday at Kiplin Hall near Catterick, North Yorkshire and runs until 28 October.

One-thousand-and-one finds will be on display tracking the prehistory and history of the hall and its estate from the Mesolithic to WWII. This was a fantastic community dig to be involved in last year, truly cross-community, generations and backgrounds, including students from Maryland University. Hopefully there’ll be some great pictures from the inaugural open evening event just before the public launch (my esteemed professor will be there, so I’ll need to prep!).

The monograph on the 2014 excavations is due later this year with Jim Brightman, Solstice Heritage, pulling together the specialist reports, including the prehistoric flint and chert lithics by you know who. My favourite find, however, remains the racing pigeon leg-ring with serial number from the 1960s found in proximity to gun cartridges.

Originally one of Easby Abbey’s monastic granges, Kiplin Hall is a gem of a stately home, trust and volunteer-run, with fantastic grounds, a huge lake, walled garden—you can often buy the lush produce—and plenty to see in a tranquil setting a few miles from the A1 near Brompton-on-Swale and Scorton. A watching-brief excavation in January this year, in a pipe trench, also seems to have revealed evidence for the pre-Jacobean manor’s demolition deposits.

Spence

Swifterbant Stones | Two whopping volumes and a lithic analysis framework

◊ Dear Microburins,

SwifterbantIt’s big, it’s two whopping volumes, it’s got a full lithic typology and analysis protocol (vol 1 appendix) — we’re liking that already.

Swifterbant Stones: The Neolithic Stone and Flint Industry at Swifterbant (The Netherlands) by Izabel Devriendt (Groningen 2014).

“In this research the stone and flint artefacts of the site Swifterbant are analysed. Attention is focussed on the Neolithic occupation phase of the prehistoric creek system (c. 4300 – 4000 cal BC) where archaeological traces were found on several levee and river dune sites. This study shows that there is a larger variability in site types than originally presumed. It is established that these sites are all part of one settlement system in which they all had a different function. This thesis comprises a monograph on the research history of the site and the different aspects of the lithic research such as typological analysis, technological attribute analysis, raw material analysis and use-wear analysis, in combination with a detailed inventory (catalogue). All this leads to new insights into the use of lithic artefacts. The importance of stone tool morphology, the selective gathering of stone tool blanks or the use of two different fl­int production sequences are but a few of these interesting aspects. Other topics concern tool function, mobility, raw material access and use, cultural markers and social identity. In combining the results from this research with that of other Swifterbant sites a better understanding of the different aspects of prehistoric stone and fl­int industries is gained.”

Oxbow Books > Swifterbant Stones

Spence

Island Mesolithic | Late Mesolithic microliths from Isles of Scilly

◊ Dear Microburins,

TAS_Bulletin_19_2014_CvrWhile my head is down in editorial work – Teesside Archaeological Society’s annual Bulletin journal with 70 pages of regional wonder and CBA Yorkshire’s FORUM YORKSHIRE archaeological journal volume 3, my last as editor – I came across the AHRC-funded project “Neolithic Stepping Stones”, June 2011 to September 2014.

This builds on recent discoveries and more prospecting along the western coast of the British Isles and includes Late Mesolithic microliths recently discovered on the Isles of Scilly:

 

Isles of Scilly | Neolithic Stepping Stones Project (University of Reading, AHRC)
Stepping stones to the Neolithic: Islands, maritime connectivity and the ‘western seaways’ of Britain, 5000-3500 BC’ looked to five island groups and the surrounding seas for answers. These were the Channel Islands, Isles of Scilly, Isle of Man, Outer Hebrides and Orkney. “Another exciting find came from the Isles of Scilly dig, which unearthed a stash of around 50 microliths, tiny flint tools from the Mesolithic (pre-Neolithic) era. Rather than being of British design, these are in Belgian and northern French style. “That was very unexpected,” says Garrow. “It tells us that people were sailing between northern France, Belgium and the Isles of Scilly around 6000 BC. It’s a very good sign of pre-Neolithic maritime contact.”

Another outcome of the project is a book co-authored by Dr Garrow, Dr Sturt and post-doctoral researcher Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark. ‘Continental connections: exploring cross-channel relationships from the Mesolithic to the Iron Age’ (Oxbow) will be published by March 2015.

Scilly_microlith

One of the 57 Mesolithic microliths found at Old Quay in 2013 (photo: Hugo Anderson-Whymark).

The team have also produced a series of web resources drawing on the research, including a western seaways navigation game that works within Google Earth. And they used social media throughout the project – having such geographically dispersed participants made Twitter the perfect way to transmit updates.

Microburin’s Sites and Finds page has also been updated.

Spence

 

Bifacially speaking | TimeVista Archaeology is alive

TimeVista_Logo_BW2◊ Dear microburins, It’s been brewing for a little while. Spurred on by successful paid work through this year, a burgeoning human network on LinkedIn, the time seems right to make a full commitment to archaeology. Now’s the time to draw a line between the past career and the palpably exciting prospect of doing what I’m passionate about. It’ll be an experiment, for sure, and I’m certain there are going to be some difficult moments.  TVeye_sq1Nor does this all mean turning my back on twenty-odd years in the private sector. I’m seizing the chance to mesh together the skills and experiences gained in operational and project management with those of commercial archaeology. This is surely reflexive change management, difficult though I am as the patient / customer / opportunity. Procrastination is too easy. I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t give it a try, extraordinary as it feels. So, TimeVista Archaeology is the new professional shop front, leaving microburin as the informal loud hailer, perhaps conscience. There’s much still to do: I need to sort out my CSCS safety card (deconstruction skills), Chartered Institute for Archaeologists application (peer review or die) and, if I’m to engage with activities to support prehistory in the national curriculum, I probably need a good vetting too – there’s a kid still inside this yellow-hatted archaeologist, which is a start. Of the many realities of being in one’s forties is to realise (a) there’s no such thing as grown-ups; (b) it’s OK not to like jazz, allegedly; and (c) apostrophes’ and, commas are very important indeed. That leaves me to thank you for your Microtalksupport, to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a rewarding, peaceful 2015, until next I holler from behind the spoil heap. ♦ Spence | “good with archaeology”

TimeVista_Web05

Mesolithic silly season | Seals in the Tees

Dear microburins,

Mesolithic Spence (or The Mighty Microburin as DigVentures labelled my dorsal face, ha!) is back in London. The digging season, I’ve been away pretty much since June, is complete so that I can focus on commitments around the festive season: a few lithics reports to finish, fieldwork to write up, two journals to edit, somebody important to hug, readiness for the Teesside Archaeological Society (TAS) AGM in January, an endless list although the phone still rings with offers of commercial work. That’s good news. Clear the decks! My formative commercial presence, embodied in a website, is also nearly finished as I sit eying up mam’s rum-laden Christmas cake, exuding its rich and mind-altering odours, on the almost-too-high-to-reach (a legal high?) shelf. Heavens: I’ve already procured the Wensleydale cheese to accompany it.

TeesProjectLast week in the north-east was jam-packed and rich with opportunity. The River Tees Rediscovered HLF Landscape Partnership project kicked off its heritage & archaeology steering committee with a great scoping and idea-sharing session at Tees Barrage (literally in the barrage’s south tower) overlooking a seal, yes in the Tees, with a whopping fish in its mouth.

Saturday last saw the equally compelling AASDN (Durham and Northumberland Arch & Archs) day workshop, supported by CBA North and TAS, focused on the planning process and building stakeholders around ‘heritage at risk’ advocacy. It was fantastic to meet old friends, some throwback blasts from the past, and to make new friends too. I’ll write more about both very soon. I also wish all the candidates good luck for the Local Heritage Engagement Network officer (LHEN) at the Council for British Archaeology – interviews underway. Congratulations too to Tara-Jane Sutcliffe on her new role as Antiquity’s operational editor. I know she’ll be missed at CBA after a compelling and energised tenure there.

Durham day workshop on the planning process and heritage advocacy. I’m hoping we can do a Teesside-based follow-on session in 2015.

 

Meantime, my friend David Mennear, aka These Bones of Mine blogger, published another excellent post about the Bradford Uni Lithics Lab and lithics use-wear PhD research – as always an excellent and read. Likewise, another great friend Lorna Richardson has just published an insightful paper, based on her doctoral thesis (she is Dr Lorna now with bells on), concerning themes of authoritativeness, expertise, reputation and inclusion (or otherwise) in a social-media-mediated digital world. I highly recommend the read. And celebrate the fact that Internet Archaeology is a fully free open access journal – hurrah!

RFS_Tale_01Lastly, Clive Waddington published the popular book about Low Hauxley and the Rescued from the Sea project which completed last summer. It’s lovingly written, celebrates the community venture that made it all possible, certainly isn’t a dumbed down rendition of complex archaeology, and is beautifully illustrated – a bargain at £10 from the Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s website.

Hopefully I’ll come up for air soon, and perhaps I’ll see you at TAG (Theoretical Archaeology Group) Manchester later in December?

Spence