Thursday 13 April 2017


Cast of a Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) skull

I've never read so much in my entire life.

And I read quite a lot.

But nothing could have prepared me for just how much reading this degree would involve. I mean, I've had to buy a secondary bookcase for the lounge. And thank goodness for Amazon's second hand booksellers. Mind you, how they make money by selling books for a penny I don't know, but I'm very grateful for them, except for the one who sold me a 'very good condition' Chris Stringer book about Neanderthals. When it arrived it absolutely reeked of Creosote and Deep Heat. I have no idea what the previous owner had been doing with it but I had to spend a whole other penny on a different copy (and no, I don't mean that kind of spend a penny) because there was no way I could have read the stinky one. It upset my nostrils!

Nigel reading an archaeology book
Nigel likes to 'help' me study

But yes, I've basically spent the last two months reading. Reading about human evolution, early prehistory, and general archaeology ideas and methods. I've been to talks and lectures, I've been to museums, and I've handled casts of early hominin skulls.

Although I'm doing my degree with the University of Leicester, I'm really lucky to live in Cambridge where we've got this pretty famous University. They've just done the Science Festival and as part of it I went to an open day at the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies and I got to speak to all the superclever academic types (which was great but I wish I knew how they get all that knowledge into their brains and keep it there) about fossils and bones and hominins. I also watched the incredible John Lord do a two hour flintknapping demonstration, which was absolutely amazing.

John Lord flintknapping demonstration at LCHES
John Lord making a flint hand axe

Knapped flint flakes, or blades
John Lord flint flakes, or blades, that are now mine

I'm utterly surprised at how much I am loving the early prehistory thing. When I started my course I had a choice of six modules for my first year, and I had to choose five. I was stuck between sacking off Early Prehistory or The Archaeology of Egypt, Nubia and the Middle Nile. I was all "Meh, stone age cave stuff  and mummies and pyramids all sound a bit yawny to me" and I dropped the Egypt one. I cannot tell you how pleased I am that I opted to do the early prehistory. Sure, maybe I'm missing out on the mummies and the pyramids, but it turns out I love the human evolution thing. Love it. So much so, I am currently wearing an 'I heart Neanderthals' t-shirt (which Chris has banned me from wearing when I'm out and about with him), I have two shelves full of evolution books, and I'm planning a trip to Grime's Graves as soon as I am free from my essay-writing shackles. I can recognise and name (and spell) all the basic standard hominin skulls, and I will fight anybody who says that the Neanderthals were stupid or ugly or slow. So yeah, woohoo human evolution! I like it.

And that's just one module. I'm doing two at a time as I am doing my degree full time. This explains why I've had zero time for beads. The other module I'm working on is archaeology aims and methods; general introductory stuff about what archaeology is and why, where and how we do it - surveys, techniques, digging, post-excavation and all that malarkey. But it also involves bones. Human skeletons. And I realise this makes me sound strange but I am a tad obsessed with the human remains side of things. I've discovered that a lot of people are weirded out by this; I can almost see them recoil when my eyes light up as I'm talking about it. I'm well aware that there are ethical issues surrounding the archaeology of human remains and I'm not going to get into that here because everyone has different views about the subject and internet debates never end well, but yes, let's just say that there are also quite a few bones books on my shelf. I'm going on a two day osteoarchaeology course in June and I'm super excited about that.

Right now I'm working on two three thousand word essays; one about Neanderthals and one about human remains. Both of them have to be in at the start of May so there is much typing and even more reading happening. After that I have a month off from studying so I'm hoping to have a beadmaking splurge then.

Anyway, I've probably bored you enough with my archaeoramblings. I'd best get back to the essay-writing thing. See you!


  1. Oh wow! You are doing great! I LOVE archeology and forensic sciences. I also love how Nigel is such a good support to you, pointing out the important information you need to retain.

    Much luck for your essays!
    Keep us posted!

  2. So glad you are having fun! I did a short course in early stuff years ago but found it a bit dry... I must have had a bad teacher! Very impressed by the flint tools. I went to Grimes Graves years ago too, and it was really interesting ��


  3. I can tell from the way you're writing about the course that you are really enjoying it :D

  4. Your course sounds fascinating! I'm reading a book at the moment, it's part of the Kitty Hawk series, and in it I'm learning so much history particularly​ about ancient Egypt and the Titanic​!


Your comments are much appreciated. Fire away!