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Cambridge Archaeology Events at the 2017 Festival of Ideas

last modified Sep 28, 2017 12:59 PM
Explore this year's theme of truth at events hosted by the Department of Archaeology.

Dr Sarah Inskip of the After the Plague project examines Context 958. Image credit: L. BonnerMysteries of Medieval Health: Historical Sources vs. a 'Bare Bones' Approach

Friday, 20 October

1pm - 2pm

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

What was life really like for the medieval poor in Cambridge? In this talk, experts from the After the Plague project seek to answer this question based on their studies of the 400+ burials from the Hospital of St John.


Further details available on the Festival of Ideas website:


Prehistory and Archaeology Day

Saturday, 21 October

10.30am - 4pm

Cambridge Archaeological Unit, 34 A/B Storey's Way

Step back in time and get hands-on with rock art, spear-throwing, archery, and pottery making; even bake bread the prehistoric way! Marvel at displays of metal-smelting and flint-knapping and get a bit messy with wattle and daub. Join our hugely popular event and inspire your inner archaeologist. A fun and educational day out for the whole family.

Further details available of the Festival of Ideas website:


Restoring Truth to Ruins

Saturday, 21 October

3pm - 6pm Discussion and Workshop

The exhibit runs 21 October to 11 November

                                                                           Cambridge Central Library, 7 Lion Yard

Ideas of what is ‘true’ and authentic are central to how we value our heritage: the places, objects, and traditions from the past that we choose to safeguard for future generations. But how does truth inform authenticity? Heritage is significant to us not only for its historical accuracy, or truth telling powers; having social, symbolic and emotional relevance ultimately also determines its authenticity. When heritage is deliberately targeted, as we have seen in the case of the recent destruction of historic sites and objects in Syria, there is often a powerful urge to rebuild. But once heritage is destroyed, how can it be rebuilt such that its authenticity or ‘truth’ value is also restored?

Both artistic practice and technological innovation have been applied to heritage reconstruction projects; Restoring Truth to Ruins? investigates the relationship between heritage and truth and asks what we can learn from the process of reproducing the past. Hosted by the Heritage Research Group of the University of Cambridge, this discussion will explore the intersection and interaction of truth and heritage featuring a panel of artists and academics from across Cambridge.

This discussion will be followed by the opportunity to experience the reconstruction of Syrian heritage first-hand at the opening of Restoring Truth to Ruins? an interactive event featuring physical and virtual reproductions of sites and objects in Syria as well as artworks created in response to the destruction of heritage.

Further details available of the Festival of Ideas website:


Indus rice carouselClimate Change and Collapse: A (not so) simple story of the relationship between climate and the decline of South Asia's Indus Civilisation

Monday, 23 October

5pm - 6pm

                                                                           McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

Rainfall systems are both complex and variable, yet they are of fundamental importance due to their impact on water supply and food security. This talk, co-hosted by the Department of Archaeology, Ancient India and Iran Trust and the Cambridge Asian Archaeology Group, will explore the resilience and sustainability of South Asia’s first complex society, the Indus Civilisation (c.2500-1900 BC). The Indus region stands apart from most regions where the impact of climate change in the past (and the present) is assessed, because it presents an instance where the local weather systems and patterns of food production were exceedingly varied. The region is particularly notable as it was where the distribution of westerly winter rains overlapped with the rains of the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM). It is now clear that there was an abrupt weakening of the ISM that directly impacted northwest India c.2100 BC, and coincided with the start of the decline of Indus cities, but the degree of connection between the two is elusive.

Today we know that environments evolve and change as a result of natural and human-induced processes and the interplay between the two. Archaeologists have a unique role to play in understanding the ways that societies respond to climate change as they can investigate past instances of success or failure. The Indus Civilisation provides an ideal laboratory in which to explore how societies perceived weather and landscape changes, responded to complex rain systems that are innately variable and witnessed abrupt change.

Further details available of the Festival of Ideas website:


Unravelling the stories of the dead: Rethinking truth and evidence through an archaeologist's lens

Thursday, 26 October

12pm -1.30pm

 McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

“Archaeology is the search for fact... not truth. If it's truth you're looking for, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall.” This is how Indiana Jones imagined archaeology, but how true is this? From pots to bones, from Roman glass beads to hidden jungle Inca settlements, from long lost footprints in the plains of Africa to video games in rubbish heaps, archaeologists uncover a variety of potential sources of knowledge. But pretty soon in their enterprise, they are faced with a challenge: what to make of all these traces?

We invite you to a discussion on the nature of archaeological thought and methods, where Marie Curie specialists will take you behind the scenes of the ‘archaeologist’s laboratory’, talking about what is rarely known by the public: How do they get to the facts that Indie was talking about, and is it possible to search for truth? The dead might have stories to tell, but what stories are of interest to archaeologists? What questions are we asking them, and what kinds of analysis can we apply? Come along and find out.

Further details available of the Festival of Ideas website:

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