Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Will the study of archaeology soon become a thing of the past?

Greyfriars car park, Leicester, where the remains of King Richard III were found. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

Richard III's discovery showcased UK academia, says Michael Braddick. But as student demand for certain subjects falls, should we have grave concerns for our future knowledge base?

Finding Richard III (on the premises of Leicester social services no less) is testament to the ingenuity of archaeologists. Weaving together findings from historical analysis of texts with scientific analysis of the skeleton and the site, they have made an overwhelming case that these are the remains of the king.
As a historian, I spend a lot of time trying to listen to the dead. Every now and then a curtain seems to be pulled aside and we hear them directly, and the feeling is very powerful. The way that the wounds to the skull match with one of the historical accounts of Richard's death did that for me: I was taken to Richard's final moments, as his helmet was lost and his attackers closed in, his horse gone or stuck in the mud, the moments in other words when he knew he had lost his kingdom and his life. That human connection is precious, and rare.

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You may also be interested in this course:  

An Introduction to Archaeology
Tutor: David Beard
7-13 July 2013
Further details ...

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