Archaeology is not about the past

Archaeological research is driven by the questions we ask ourselves in the present, for reasons that are in the present. To answer those questions, we study archaeological remains that exist in the present. The answers we find function in the present. They affect people’s lives, sometimes significantly. Control of the past is a powerful weapon.…

Silos are a feature of university organization, not a bug

Any senior administrative retreat in a university is likely to feature lamentations about siloing of the disciplines, faculties, and administrative services. People will call for de-siloing. The timid will call for multidisciplinarity, the bold for true interdisciplinarity. Everyone will agree that reward structures for faculty, staff and students must be changed to encourage collaborative and…

The secret language of the humanities

A tweet by @saragoldrickrab recently started an extensive discussion on the topic of the accessibility of scholarship. She encourages us to “write a book accessible to more than 100 people”. I was surprised at how controversial her statement turned out to be. In a series of responses, for example, @GrahamScambler defends the value of an “esoteric”…

My lucky streak in academia

In her annual Day of Archaeology post, Betty Wragg Sykes gives us an update on the “braided delta” development of her career. She concludes that “everything in archaeological careers is about luck”. I agree with her that luck is the dominant factor in establishing a career in archaeology, but there are at least two other…

The academic journal is obsolete

The academic journal is obsolete and we don’t need to build its replacement. We have it already. We just need to recognize its value and to start recognizing its output. We simply don’t need journals and presses anymore. We have better right now. The traditional journal system restricts both the diversity of inputs and the…

Canada 150 or Canada 15 000?

This week, I gave a talk at the Bodo Archaeological Society on the earliest human occupations in the Americas. As I was driving across Alberta, working on my talk, seeing all those stunning landscapes, thinking about how they had evolved since the Last Glacial Maximum, and imagining how people had lived in them and adapted…

What kind of culture do you want?

In a senior administration meeting, a colleague recently asked: “What kind of culture do we want in the institution?” That got me thinking about the fairly substantial intersection between my academic work and my administrative duties. The short answer to my colleague’s question is that we don’t get the culture we want. We get the…