Friday, November 30, 2012

Robert “Santa” Chapple’s guide to Christmas gifts for and from the discerning archaeologist

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Replica Viking Armrings from Montague Heritage Service
Well, folks, it’s that time of year again, when the axial tilt of the earth means that we’re heading for the annual solstice celebrations … Yule … Beiwe Festival … Christmas … Chawmos … Shab-e Chelleh whatever you’re having yourself! However we chose to celebrate it, there’s generally a lot of eating, drinking, being thankful for having survived the worst of the winter, and gift giving. It was with an eye to offering suggestions as to what moneyed loved ones might wish to purchase for the archaeologists in their lives that I thought about asking on my various Facebook pages (Irish Radiocarbon & Dendrochronological Dates | The William Dunlop Archaeological Photographic Archive). Unsurprisingly, but largely unhelpfully, many of the folk who responded to my pleas for suggestions asked for jobs … some of the more brazen asked for cash and Argos vouchers!  Leaving those aside for a moment (along with the person who asked for a time machine) some interesting suggestions were made.

Perhaps not really for me ... but I would look awesome in them! … there’s something for the fashion conscious female osteoarchaeologists in your life there’s the Too Fast X-Ray BootStaying with clothes, there’s the perennial favourite archaeologist’s T-shirt: Archaeologist By Day. Ninja By Night. Also for the osteos among us: An I Found This Humerus T-shirt by Thomas Kay ( … I’m informed that he does mugs, mouse mats, jigsaws, coasters etc. – go talk to him and check out his stuff! Along the same lines, there’s a rather good Archaeologists Don’t Dig Dinosaurs one too.

One idea that I thought was really beautiful and thoughtful was the suggestion for giving a copy of the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map of the recipient’s home or favourite area. You can do this for both the Republic of Ireland and NI/UK too.

Another one that’s just excellent is Abarta Audioguides [Facebook Page  | Website]. For truly tiny prices you can get what is turning into an excellent series of audio guides to various historical and archaeological sites. Heading for the Rock of Cashel, or Clonmacnoise? Download one for a mere €1.99 and be entertained and enthralled!

If you’re anyway familiar with this blog, you’ll probably already realise that I have a huge love-thing going on for Wordwell Books, especially it’s magazine Archaeology Ireland … so we’ll get this out of the way now: go get a subscription. It’s amazing value and keeps you up to date with all the latest in Irish archaeology.  Not only that, but you’ll get the latest issue of their amazing Heritage Guides series and access to the Irish archaeological content on JSTOR. For what they’re charging, it’s an incredible offer!

I don’t know anything about them, but a friend suggested that you might like to explore some of the wares of Baltimore Knife and Sword. I can only go by the photos on their page, but it looks like pretty cool stuff indeed!

Well that’s the lot from my Facebook friends … I was already planning on recommending the Archaeology Ireland subscription and Abarta Audio Guides, but it is nice to have your thoughts paralleled by others! But what would I recommend for you? Well … as far as I’m concerned, there is one major present type and then there’s all the rest … for me there is no better present than books! … you really can’t go wrong with a book … and best of all, there are archaeology books! In my head archaeology books are in three different categories. There are the ones I’ve read in the last year that I want to shout about; there are the ones I’ve bought, but not gotten around to reading; and there are the ones that have been published, but I’ve not yet gotten round to buying (or have been given).

In the first category … we have various volumes that I’ve reviewed for this blog:
Gathering Time: Dating the Early Neolithic Enclosures of southern Britain and Ireland [review | buy]

Annus Archaeologiae: Proceedings of the OIA Winter Conference 1993 [review | buy]

In the Lowlands of South Galway: archaeological excavations on the N18 Oranmore to Gort National Road Scheme [review | buy]

Hidden History Below Our Feet: The Archaeological Story of Belfast [review | buy]

Corrstown: A Coastal Community. Excavations of a Bronze Age village in Northern Ireland [review | buy]

Archaeological Excavations at Tullahedy County Tipperary. Neolithic Settlement in North Munster [review | buy]

I read all of these books and I cannot recommend these highly enough to you – they’re all excellent and worthwhile additions to any archaeological library. There’s also a whole collection of books that I’ve bought or been given over the last year, but I’ve just not had the time to read yet. All I can tell you is that I like the look of them and expect them to be equally excellent!  Unfortunately, I’ve only had time to (so far) give them a quick look through … based on  these brief encounters, I can still recommend them:

Burnt Mounds in Northern and Western Europe: A study of prehistoric technology and society [Amazon]

New Survey of Clare Island. Vol 5: Archaeology [Amazon]

Foragers, Farmers and Fishers in a Coastal Landscape: an intertidal archaeology survey of the Shannon estuary [Amazon]

Portal Tombs in the Landscape: The chronology, morphology and landscape setting of the portal tombs of Ireland, Wales and Cornwall [Amazon | Archaeopress]

Excavations on Donegore Hill, Co. Antrim [Wordwell]

Encounters between Peoples: Archaeology and the National Roads Authority Monograph Series No. 9 [Wordwell]

Cois tSiúire – nine thousand years of human activity in the Lower Suir Valley [Wordwell]

Trim Castle, Co. Meath: Excavations 1995-8 [Wordwell]

Excavations 2009 [Wordwell]

Borderlands: Archaeological investigations on the route of the M18 Gort to Crusheen road scheme [Amazon]

Beneath the Banner: Archaeology of the M18 Ennis Bypass and N85 Western Relief Road, Co. Clare [Amazon]

Iverni: a prehistory of Cork [The Collins Press | Amazon]

Breaking Ground, Finding Graves – reports on the excavations of burials by the National Museum of Ireland, 1927-2006 [Wordwell]

The archaeology of Knowth in the First and Second Millennia AD [Amazon]

That about wraps it up for the books, as I am not going to recommend any book that I’ve not at least had a look through … no matter how interesting they appear! Besides, I’d have nothing left to write about for next year’s list!

What about other gifts? … well here’s a brief run through of some of the stuff I’ve seen and would love to receive (hint hint!). First on Santa Chapple’s list is the British Museum … I just love this place! … I think I’ve only been in London once in the last 30 years when I haven’t visited there. Pretty much everyone in my family knows that if I ever had the money, the first thing I would spend it on here is a bronze Replica of the Gayer Anderson Cat … there is not a home in the world that would not look better for having one of these sitting quietly in a corner smiling out at you across eternity. If you’re going to be throwing that kind of money about, you may as well splash out on the copy of the Hypnos, The replica of the Horse of Selene, and the Chatsworth Apollo. You may as well complete the list by getting your very own replica of the Warren Cup, though I would recommend the solid silver version over the regular one … if you’ve £6500 to spare!

I’m not forgetting The National museum of Ireland … another of my favourite places and gift shops! For the special someone in your life, they offer a beautiful thistle brooch, and a silver replica of the Roscommon Brooch. I’m not going to go through all of them, but the NMI do a fine selection of books that are well worth checking out. Just because they are so cute, I have to mention their two Ardagh Chalice-inspired Christmas tree decorations … there’s a ball/bauble-style one and a disc-style one … just lovely! Also take a moment to check out the beautiful artwork by JG O'Donoghue in Cork ... beautiful stuff!

I know that a lot of the above are quite pricy, and more represent a personal fantasy wish list than anything else. So, to balance it out I would introduce you to Know Thy Place [Website | Facebook] who do the most remarkably well researched, and aesthetically pleasing, wall charts you can conceive of. You can go for any level of detail you choose, for an island-wide level, to an individual county, or right down to your local parish and townland. They also do an excellent Titanic centenary related version too. They look beautiful, they’re researched by professional archaeologists, and they would grace any wall on which they were placed – go give them a look!

The final recommendation on my list is here for a very special reason – this year my Christmas present is coming from here … and I’m honestly so excited already! Montague Heritage Services [Website | Facebook] have a huge number of strings to their collective bows including media consultancy, event organisers, educational and craft displays. However, it is in their guise as purveyors of replica items that I am currently thinking of them. They now provide a wide selection of silver replicas, including pendants, brooches, etc. If I could pick just one piece to highlight above all others, it would have to be the replica Viking armbands. They’re just so lovely! They also sell some extraordinary wearable and usable replicas. I would direct your attention to the various helmets (because they are just so incredibly cool!), but also the cauldron, combs, swords, knives etc. Not that I want it, but there’s even a replica Shrew’s Fiddle/ Neck Violin … but if it’s your kind of thing, I’m not going to judge! … In short, they have everything to kit out the perfect medieval home.

Well, that’s my roundup of what’s cool for Christmas … a collection of stuff I know is brilliant, some that I’d love to have, and some recommended by my assortment of friends! Now here’s your chance! … what do YOU recommend for the debonair archaeologist about town? What gift do you think would be perfect? What would you like to receive? What have I forgotten? Do you produce the perfect gift or service? Have you written a book? … tell me in the comments below!

I’ve not forgotten about those folks who asked for a time machine, either … there are instructions to build your own just here.

But beyond all the gifts, food, and drink – however you choose to celebrate it and whatever you choose to call it – remember to love each other, be kind to each other, but most of all cherish the archaeologist in your life!

Happy Christmas All!

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