22 February 2016


Interview space

It’s my final post today and I’m back in Ironbridge prepping time-space budget surveys for this afternoon. I will be asking people on their way back to their cars if they would tell me where they’ve been during their visit, and how long it took them. I’ve been looking back over my posts from the last year – 18 snapshots illustrating how what I do in a space transforms my experience of it. For the people I’m surveying this week I imagine a car park probably just means a place to leave the car. For me it is a challenging environment where I have to find a location which is not in the way (of pedestrians and cars) but from which I can spot people who look like they may be leaving and get to them without scaring them off by running headlong across the car park waving a clipboard and yelling ‘wait’!

Looking back over my previous posts I can see it is my sixth post from Ironbridge, my field site, matching six posts from Birmingham where I live and have my office. There were also nine posts from other places where I’ve visited for work or holidays. Two posts came from conferences (in Orkney and Nottingham) while others came from trips to Sweden, Northumbria and Canterbury as well as trips home to my parents in Lincolnshire. This seems like a fairly accurate reflection of my year, although probably under-represents the amount of time I’ve spent sat at a desk! I guess on those days I managed to find things I perceived  as being more interesting from my environment. While not a mis-representation it is intriguing that I didn’t want to keep showing pictures of a desktop computer. I wonder if this is something we all do when talking about our work – not necessarily trying to make it sound more ‘out there’ than it is exactly, but certainly downplaying the more mundane aspects. Perhaps boring is more truthful!


19 February 2017

New Pier, Stromness. By Diana Leslie (2014)


Stromness artist and friend Diana Leslie paints Orkney, and especially Stromness. Wearing a marine survival suit and using a weighted easel to combat the wind she paints in-landscape, all year round. At first glance, her townscapes, buildings, boats and occasional landscapes are timeless, portraying Orkney as we might expect to find it, forever. Her most interesting work, however, captures the everyday – the people, co-op, post office and garage. In addition, these paintings are often repeated. For us, her paintings, therefore, are subtly about change. Now: old co-op, old post office, new pier.

Among the iconic line of Stromness piers, which has formed the theme for our Human Seasons blog posts throughout the year, the new pier has been a significant new landmark in the town. Diana’s painting, above, captures that point in transition, so often forgotten and ignored in favour of the static monument. Large floating cranes pile driving into the soft mud and bedrock. The painting itself may have been completed in more than one session. The essence of the moment, if you look closely, is captured even more by the drops of rain encapsulated in the surface of the oil paint.

For our last Human Seasons post, we want to remember changes throughout the year. Against the patterns of the tides, moon, sun and sky, changes have occurred, often unnoticed. Materials brought by the tide, a baby boy arriving in the night, the increase in cruise ships, house renovations, the water board digging up the street, developments at the community garden, storms and ferries come and go.

2017 marks the 200 year anniversary of Stromness becoming a Burgh of Barony. This designation meant that a Town Council could be formed and that the town could start to take control of some of its own affairs.  They adopted the motto ‘Per Mare’ meaning ‘by sea’. This year we look forward to celebrating these changes by the piers.

Sunrise                  07:34                    Moonrise           02:20

Sunset                   17:19                    Moonset             10:44

High tide         02:52 (2.58m)             Low tide       08:24 (1.56m)

High tide         15:28 (2.56m)             Low tide       21:22 (1.52m)

Waning Quarter Moon

Queen Elizabeth House, Trinity Street Worcester

Winter sun, dark timber

A smudge of winter sun emerged this afternoon as I walked the back streets of old Worcester. Queen Elizabeth House, tatty but indefatigable, smiled to receive the few sparse rays. I stopped awhile.

Queen Elizabeth House, Trinity Street Worcester

Queen Elizabeth House, Worcester. 7/2/2017

They say that Elizabeth I herself addressed the crowds from the balcony in 1575. There’s scant evidence – though the Queen’s visit did take place, nearly bankrupting the city in the process.

I wonder why we attach these stories to such venerable survivors. Aren’t the centuries of stories told, shared, and played out to this backdrop a sufficient source of wonder?

What lives have you witnessed, old walls? What secrets are suffused within your dark timbers?


New year, old light at The Hive, Worcester

Time, or its passage, is a concept that runs like an invisible thread through society and archaeology. We archaeologists routinely refer to periods of time or figures extracted from various dating techniques as part of our everday work with fluid familliarity. Yet, as humans, we cannot percive time beyond the abstract typologies and systems that we put into practice.  The scale of time passed in the context of human evolution is impossible to imagine and all before we attempt to place our growth against the background of geological time or Universal Evolution. Of course, perceptions of time are not fixed and this further complicates our understanding. We therfore search for anchors that can give us reference points.

I have been contemplating, and worriying, about time passing in recent months with a close family member approaching the end of life and my young family seeming to grow in front of my eyes. No, I cannot imagine all of the time that has passed since the Iron Age in Britain conveniently gave way to the Romano-British Period in 42AD. Suffice to say, I remain adrift in my own perception. The Iron Age? 1990 seems an age ago right now in 2017.

Winter moves on as part of the seasonal cycle of change giving those of us in a temperate climate the reasurrance of something familiar. We feel the cool, saturated Atlantic wind and maybe pause to contemplate a winter sunset. By early Feburary, the regular metronome of the working day is marked by sesonal shift. I aim to leave work around 5:00PM, which since November has been a nocturnal experience. Now it is marked by transient sunsets or the pale, silver light of the closing day. It is a signal that winter is maturing and light is returning.

Imbolc, a Neo-Pagan festival celebrated at the begining of February, evokes the ancient ritual of light returning to the landscape, which will soon resonate with the sounds of new life. Its roots echo through our times with lambing season, bird nesting and the steady emergance of buds, shoots and late winter wildflowers just a half-term break away.

Last week, I spent a day in local woodlands partially excavating a sawpit in Wyre Forest and then discussing conservation managment and potential public archarchaeology opportunities at a Woodland Trust site, Wassell Wood, a small ancient woodland with impressive earthworks! The sawpit had to compete with this leviathan of late prehistory, but held its own, not least due to the excitement of the local woodland owners who, as part of academic research, needed to expose some soil sections in the woodland floor. Why dig when you can clean? The section revealed a very thin organic layer and equally thin topsoil before giving way to natural clay and weathered sandstone. Time, was discussed. The site was not one given to problems of erosion and yet a great swathe of time has passed with little material evidence to illustrate its passage. Our perception of time was being tested. The light has returned to this landscape so many times, over an unimaginable timescale, and yes, formation processes have, and continue to modify our little section. However, to our human eyes, the soil and rock defied our imposed chronology, becoming timeless, adrift in our collective perception.

For this, my final contribution to The Human Seasons Blog, time has now run out.

Adam Mindykowski, Worcester, UK.

27 January 2017

Graffiti Wall

It’s my penultimate Human Seasons post and I expected to post some more pictures of my field site, with some comments about conducting tourism research in mid winter (hint – it’s very quiet!) But some things cannot be ignored. Last week I was walking along the Bristol Road in Birmingham and was rather surprised to see that, overnight, a large bus had apparently driven through a brick wall and parked itself amidst the debris of its passing. It was also partially covered with graffiti. As the days have gone on I have observed the bus moved (agents unknown) into different orientations within the space and additional graffiti appear on its sides.

Now a bit of background – the area where the bus is located is adjacent to a Youth Centre and skate park and has is a place where graffiti is permitted. I assumed the bus must be related to this project. But I can find no information about the bus. So for now it lives in my imagination as a sentient being itself that wakes at night to dance around its small plot – taking out the odd wall in the process!

24 January 2017

Waiting …

Wait … ing


Wai … t … ing

w … a … i … t … i … n … g

waiting, waiting, waiting

Waiting …

Waiting for the turn of human seasons,

a new season, our season,

a new person, a new human.


Sunrise                  08:36                    Moonrise           05:36

Sunset                   16:14                    Moonset             13:21

Low tide         00:35 (1.36m)             High tide       07:02 (2.94m)

Low tide         13:08 (1.35m)             High tide       19:26 (2.91m)

Crescent Moon