Sunday, 7 August 2011

Day of Archaeology
On Friday 29th July over four hundred archaeologists sat down to write about their work and contribute to a website which would provide a snapshot of one day in the world of archaeology. I signed up as soon as I heard about the project, and couldn't wait to write my contribution. I even wrote a review of the website for the Archaeology News Network in early July in an attempt to encourage people to join.

The project turned out to be just as good as I'd imagined. People involved in various areas of archaeology came online to post their stories, and I'm sure many more have come to learn more about the field. I hope that this project encourages more people to get involved in archaeology, as well as showing that it's not always how it appears to be on Time Team!

As I'm still a student all I could do was write about a recent project of mine, entitled "Dig for Victory", which was born out of the depths of theory. If you've done archaeology, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about and probably also own an "I survived theory" t-shirt. If you haven't, archaeological theory is a necessary evil that all archaeology students have to endure at some point. You spend the first few weeks wondering what on earth you've got yourself into, about half way through you're starting to wonder exactly when this stuff is going to be useful, and by the final lecture everything suddenly makes sense (although no promises that you'll have learned to like it!).

However, as I explain in my post, theory is an incredibly important module which is essential to anyone studying archaeology. It takes you through the history of archaeology, the lessons we've learned, and why archaeology is what it is now. (Note: Theory is place where I discovered someone actually had to sit down and come up with the concept of stratigraphy. It just seemed blindingly obvious to me that the lower contexts were older than the higher contexts! Anyway...)

As I explain in my Day of Archaeology post, as a distance learner I was somewhat limited in my options. The Open University doesn't do much in the way of archaeology, but I managed to make the most out of a final project for one of my final courses. I'm sure next year I'll have far more interesting things to tell you about, as I'll (hopefully!) be in the middle of writing my thesis for my Masters!

If you've read all this and still want to read my contribution to Day of Archaeology, click here. Any comments would be greatly appreciated. I'll post more about my project once it's completed at the end of this month.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

The End is Nigh

It's finally done. After five months somehow stumbling through a crazy 180 credit point plan I like to call the "Mammoth Plan", I am finally done. The mammoth is dead, done, dusted, and has gone to meet its maker. A couple of weeks ago I had my last ever Open University exam, and I was finally back to a more reasonable 120 credit point workload. (Yes, a little delayed, but it too a while to come back to this social networking thing!)

I've never been more glad to wake up on exam morning. I actually woke up the day before, looked at my phone to check the date, and was incredibly irritated to find it wasn't the morning of the exam. That's not obsessive. Right? I wouldn't say I was actually looking forward to the exam, but I was definitely looking forward to walking out of that exam room and knowing I'd done what I was warned was an incredibly risky move. But I'm alive, I'm still going, and most importantly my brain hasn't turned to mush in the process. Although I guess I won't know for sure whether or not it was a good move until I finally get my degree in December, some minor celebrations can be permitted.

But now this insane plan is finally over, the end goal of starting my Masters course is finally in sight. I'm now up to the final projects for both of my remaining OU courses, and I've only got one more week of part time archaeology lectures at Southampton next week. Tuesday will be my last ever evening lecture... how weird is that? Have normally only been allowed to venture onto the campus by night, and in a few months time I'll actually be there while the place is alive and buzzing with students.

And now I feel like a proper archaeologist, it's about time I started posting more archaeology related stuff on here. I've got plenty of goodies from my archaeological materials lectures to show you, so watch this space.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Why human origins?

During my application for the MA in Palaeolithic Archaeology I've been thinking about one very important question: why do you want to study human origins? And despite having somehow thrown together a professional sounding response to the question, it's something I can't really answer. Not because I don't know, but because I can't really explain why it fascinates me so much.

When I was asked by a colleague about my choice in courses, my first response was "well... why wouldn't you"? Why would someone not want to understand who we are, what we are, and how we got here? I understand not everyone wants to go as far as studying it in such depth, but I really didn't believe I was being asked! I always assumed it was just human nature to want to explore our world and our history, so I can't really comprehend people who are happy to just continue with their lives blissfully unaware that there is more to life than what's coming up next on ITV.

Although anything in prehistory suits me, I'm particularly fascinated by very early humans. Put simply, the sort of advanced monkeys through to the early humans/Homo family. That's the sort of time in human evolution where the body and the mind are evolving at an incredible rate, and with the advancement of the brain comes advanced behaviour. (Note: My enthusiasm dips slightly for P./A. boisei. His pointy head is a tad creepy.) For example, the tradition of leaving flowers at a grave or memorial. We've always done it, we all do it, but have you ever thought about why? At what point did people think it would be a good idea to leave things, other than personal possessions, at a grave? And come to think of it, when and why did someone suddenly think it was a good idea to start burying them? This is the sort of thing I'm interested in, and those are the questions I want to answer.

And I don't want to do some digging, I want to help people understand their history too. Some museums can be so plain and boring, I want to be able to help people look into the past and see it as if they're looking through the eyes of an ancient hominid. I've had some fantastic lecturers, and one in particular made me feel like I was looking through the eyes of a caveman onto his cave wall as he did his cave paintings. (Note: Or her!)

So, back to the question.... why human origins? Honestly, I couldn't tell you. There's something so enticing about it, and I just can't put it into words. Like a moth to a flame, like a magpie to a shiny Kit Kat wrapper... I can't help myself. I'm not really sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but perhaps once I've completed my Masters I'll be able to put it more eloquently.

(Disclaimer: To all of the real archaeologists.... Despite appearances, I do actually know what I'm talking about, I'm just trying to keep it simple. I haven't just been watching too much Time Team. Regards, Sarah.)

The Mammoth Plan: Three Months In

Well, you've all been spammed with my discussions of the "Mammoth Plan" I began in February, and now I'm almost three months in it's time to spam you all again. (I hear you all cry "Yipee!")

The past few months have been just as mad as I expected, but I know it's all going to be worth it. I know I was warned it would be difficult, but I'm glad the OU gave me the opportunity to give it a try. I think it helps that the courses are all actually quite different, which means that if I get tired of one course I can just switch to another one. And if all else fails, I can break out my current favourite book: the Human Evolution Colouring Book. (Seriously, don't knock it 'til you've tried these books... they are a brilliant way to learn!)

I've now got just under two months left until the 180 credit point madness ends. To be exact, it will all be over at 1pm on 14th June as I walk out of the AD281 (Understanding Global Heritage) exam. This is probably one of my favourite OU courses, and probably one of the more relevant. It's been really interesting to see archaeology from a different side - seeing how what we excavate and put in museums is used. Finally seeing the end in sight has definitely helped keep me going, and I'm finally starting to feel like a real archaeologist rather than just someone in fancy dress sporting an Indiana Jones hat.

I've had my interview for the Masters course, been made an offer, and accepted. I'm still waiting to hear if I've been offered any funding, but either way I'll be starting in October. Whether I will be going full time or part time will depend upon the funding situation, and job situation! I'm really hoping I can go full time so I can experience the proper student life for a year. I'm not sure if it'll suit me, but I think I want to give it a go in case I go and do a PhD in the future. Don't want to be thrown in head first into this strange student lifestyle after working and being a grown up for all these years!

I'm currently writing up assignments for AD317 and AA300, which I'm trying to be enthusiastic about but they're not exactly the most fascinating topics in the world. Well... not if I want to go into archaeology anyway. Although I did actually enjoy the latest assignment for AD281 - probably because I actually got to go to one of the sites I was writing about! (Valley of the Communities at Yad Vashem, Israel) Perhaps I'll write something about the place later on... we shall see how this blogging thing goes!

I'm also starting to really look at my projects for AA300 and AD317 which I'm really looking forward to. I like these sort of assignments. I'll be properly working on them during June, probably as soon as I get back from the AD281 exam! Well, and after a cup of tea. Never forget the tea.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Uni Plans Update: The Mammoth Plan

Thought it was about time I tried using this damned thing again! And where better to start than an update on this "Mammoth Plan" I keep mentioning all the time.

What is this Mammoth Plan? To take 180 credit points at once in order to finish my undergraduate degree in time to start my Masters course in October 2011, rather than October 2012, and therefore beat the top up fees. Mad? Probably. Impossible? Never. Why Mammoth? I like them. They're fluffy and have funny faces. I get the feeling I had one as a pet in a past life. Anyway...

Well, things didn't entirely work out as I had planned. The OU didn't agree at first, but after a little convincing they finally allowed me to go ahead. I'd missed the deadline for signing up for A330 (Myth in Greek and Roman Worlds), so ended up taking AD317 (Religions Today) instead. Not entirely relevant to what I want to do, but then again it will provide me with yet another challenge. (And no, I don't ever get tired of challenges. Ever.)

So (hopefully!) the end of my undergrad life will end this year like this...

So, yeah, I'm going to be busy. And in between all that I'll be continuing to work as well. Yes, I always did like a good challenge. The more impossible the better.

Things have gone fine so far though. After a minor "oh my goddddd what am I doing?!" kind of moment just before my first two level three courses were due, my confidence was renewed when I got the assignments back for AA300 and AD317. After submitting what I thought was a load of rubbish for both, I was rather surprised to get good grades! Perhaps this plan wasn't as mad as I first thought.

I need a minimum of a 2:1 in order to get onto the Masters course, so I decided as long as my first couple of assignments came back with reasonable marks I would continue with my plan. I'm trying to be strict with myself because I know I'm one of those people who will battle on to complete a challenge, come what may, because I've said I can, I know I can, so I'll damn well do it to show everyone I can. (If anyone is interested in seeing where I get this idea from, you can find him and shake your fist at him here:

I'm sure I'll post further updates in the future, should I not have suffered some horrific injury from the weight of all of the books (seriously, these AD317 ones are heavy!).

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Mammoth Uni Plan

Right, so didn't exactly follow my plan of trying to blog more since I created this, but let's hope I can put that right now. Anyway...

As I've been discussing this totally mental plan to try and get the OU to let me finish my degree sooner, I thought I might as well explain it. If nothing else, at least I'm getting my ideas down onto paper so that I can think things through.

Basically things have not been going according to plan at work. I've always planned to go and do a Masters course at some point, which if I take my time I should
have started in October 2012. But with work not going well, I need another option. And I'm not going to be in an office doing this forever, right? So I looked into trying to start in October 2011.

However, in order to do this I need to fit in three more courses: one at Level 2 and two at Level 3. I've already signed up for the Level 2 course, AD281, which will start in a few months time.
I've then decided to sign up for these two Level 3 courses: AA300 and A330 (I think!).

So those three courses at 60 credit points each would work out like this...

At 60 points each, it looks a little insane doesn't it? But there would only be an overlap for four months. The rest of the year I would only be doing 120 points at a time, which is what I've been managing anyway right now. And if things with the job don't go according to plan I could have a lot more time to spend on uni work!

Obviously this is a last resort, because it's a bit of a risk with the grades which may well slip a little. But it's worth the risk right? What else am I going to do? If I'm not going to be doing admin in some office forever, I might as well get on with it and push forward. (And if you know me, you know I like a challenge. This is the sort of challenge I like!) A proper job is always going to be the number one choice, but I think this is a brilliant alternative... don't you think?

And look at what I've got to come with my Masters - whether it be in 2011 or 2012! ....

Any opinions - whether here or on Twitter - are quite welcome :)

Saturday, 19 June 2010

So this is blogging, huh?

Thought I would give this blogging thing a go. Others seem to be doing it so thought I'd try too... but I think Twitter's short character count stops me from waffling as much as I would do otherwise! (Yes, a I'm confessed Twitter addict)

I'll try not to bore you too much. Will post something more interesting later on. Right now, back to Stargate watching and uni work.