Here it is, my first blog post – hopefully the first of many! Blogging has been on my ‘to do’ list for a while now, so I’m pretty excited (and nervous) to be setting up ‘Drawn into the Past’. Here, I will be writing about my experiences as an archaeology student, focusing on my main research interest: the presentation of the past through visual media.
In particular, I have always been interested in archaeological illustration, which combines my love of art and the past. However, I have only recently started thinking in depth about the significance and power of images. My third year special topic, Visual Media in Archaeology, has made me realise that the way in which we represent the past can have a big impact, whether we intend it to or not.
It also made me reflect back on some of my own illustration work and the messages that I might have been conveying through it… One example that came to mind was a series of drawings that I produced a few years ago in preparation for an undergraduate exhibition on the Mesolithic. The final images I produced followed the perspective of a dog as it guided the audience through representations of the Mesolithic world. As a first year whose theoretical knowledge was slightly lacking, I believed that the images I’d created were only informing my audience about dog domestication in prehistory – but I didn’t consider what I was also saying about gender roles in Mesolithic societies, as I sketched my prehistoric dog sitting with a woman and her baby in their camp, or accompanying a man as he completed ritual activities and hunted in the forest. Changing these illustrations is going to be one of the first projects I hope to tackle on this blog!
So archaeological representation proved to be slightly more problematic than I’d initially imagined. But why does this issue not have wider recognition among archaeologists?
It’s with this question in mind that I have set up ‘Drawn into the Past’, through which I want to investigate further how images are made and used within archaeology. Hopefully, I will be able to improve my own practice as an aspiring illustrator along the way!