A Field Trip to Archaeological Conflict Sites

As I’m planning to focus my dissertation on (cue the drum roll, please) HERITAGE my academic advisers in the International Relations program are allowing me to focus 3 of my 6 courses on art and material culture/heritage/archaeology.

I’m currently taking a Battlefield Archaeological course on Art and War, and was invited me to come on their field trip, with the stipulation of doing a brief presentation on Tantallon Castle (also, I frequently audit Methods and Concepts of Heritage on Wednesday mornings, because I’m me – a nerd).

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Last Thursday at 9:00, we drove to the Borders area of Scotland and England. It was around 2.5 hours to Braxton to visit Flodden Field, where an infamous Jacobite rebellion happened in 1513. Unfortunately, the area is largely populated by farmland and nearby homes. The trafficking of archaeological artifacts happens here, and at other battlefields by disrespectful individuals; check eBay. Since the early 90s, the community of Battlefield Archaeologists are striving to rectify legislative policies with organizations to secure these areas from trafficking, commercial farming, and urban development. After all, heritage is significant to preserve a site’s historical context because its symbolic of national and cultural integrity.

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Our second stop was Berwick-upon-Tweed to see the Elizabethan Fortification. It’s incredible because the fort actually manipulates the land, where it rises gently and drops dramatically. There was supposed to have been a protective moat around it for defensive-offensive purposes too.

Our finally stop was in North Berwick to admire the grandeur of Tantallon Castle. It dates back to the 14th century, sits promontory, and was first constructed of red sandstone, but post-second-siege by King James V, it was remodeled with green sandstone. I’ve heard Tantallon is off the beaten path for tourists, but it’s an impressive castle! If the weather is a agreeable and you can make the quick stop – you should! You’re can climb up winding stairways, and walk on external passageways to see the panoramic view of Oxroad Bay. Mind the wind. It was remarkable and I felt as though I were transported back to my childhood as if I were wildly playing on a playground. I was the last person out at closing time.12141563_10154191704788797_6652216059890848755_n

When I lived back in the states, I made a fuss about ‘how we have no history,’ or ‘our history is destroyed,’ or ‘everything here is too new’… however in my archaeology class, I’m learning how a lot of these heritage sites aren’t protected, except maybe from road and/or city planning. Many battlefield archaeologists in the UK are inspired by the United State’s initiative at preserving their own conflict sites, and are struggling to acquire similar regulations.

Oh, if you were wondering, my presentation went well. Thanks for asking!

Stepping Stones at the Giants Causeway

Long, long ago a volcano erupted and brought about one of the most popular modern day attractions in the UK/EU. In 1986, it was established as a UNESCO World heritage site and is a natural wonder of the world.

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The basalt hexagon rocks are incredible, and incredibly slick. The water swarms through the stacked rocks and can even splash you if you’re close enough. The day I visited was misty and incessantly drizzling.

If you go and it’s raining, be mindful of your footing and don’t be upset with the weather… After all, it is North Ireland ☺…

I went on the McComb Tour, which left from the hostel I booked for the duration of my stay, Belfast International Youth Hostel.

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The tour cruised along the infamous Antrim coast road with breath-taking views of the coastline and its Glens. We even passed by the Game of Thrones set for the Black Castle (oh, John Snow).

We visited Bushmills Whiskey Factory, Carrickfergus Castle, Dunluce Castle, and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Early in the day it was clear at the rope bridge in Co Antrimand, and I could see Rathlin Island and Scotland’s silhouette across the water.

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The view from Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

There is a legend detailing how the heroic Finn McCool created the Giant’s Causeway as a defense mechanism against his enemies, the Giants from Scotland. The gist of the story is about how Finn and his wife tricked a Giant through self-infliction and deception. As the Giant was weakened, Finn McCool successfully rid NI of the menace. More stories about Finn McCool are found here

If you would like to find out more about the McComb Tour experience, click here

Vandalized in Pompeii

When I first visited the ancient remnants of Pompeii in 2013, I was astonished by the lack of security and sources of conservation. Unfortunately, as I admired the frescoes, cobbled streets, columns, I recognized evident signs of rampant vandalism and destruction blatantly created by the tourists. I worried I wasn’t allowed to explore certain areas I cautiously toed around the grounds, however I watched as others felt entitled to sneaking into places that were obviously restricted the general public. Sure, there are iron gates blocking entry into some areas, but it doesn’t cease someone from simply scaling it.

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I hope that this new regulation will deter some of the issues that Italy and UNESCO faces, however I believe more restrictions are required, and will be instated in the future. This is just the start.

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Firstly the grounds are too spacious to hire a handful of guards and conservators. It could take someone days to see EVERYTHING in Pompeii. Secondly, it would be too costly for the amount of security to ensure the safety of the monuments. Until Pompeii receives necessary resources, it will continue to suffer the brunt of tourism. Thirdly, how will it best be executed? Italy and UNESCO can’t hide everything under glass and fences… it will tarnish the near natural reality of Pompeii as an eerie archaeological site. Perhaps it’s a borderline impossible project. Ultimately, people will need to acknowledge and accept the importance of preserving this city for educational purposes and future generations, if it should remain.Untitled 4