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.