Images and Archaeology: Introduction

Archaeologists use images in many different ways. Throughout the course of the excavation we will produce a huge variety of images including hand drawn plans, artefact photographs and pictures of our friends taken with camera phones. These images all tell us something different about the site and the people who are working there. They all perform a different purpose and will contribute to our understanding of the site in different ways.

During our excavation season we are going to produce a series of blog posts looking at the different types of images which are produced in the course of archaeological fieldwork. We will think about how and why we make each different type of image and will consider what they tell us about the archaeology.

Images and Archaeology 1: The ‘General Photograph’

We will begin this series by looking at general site photographs. These are the photographs which are not taken with any specific archaeological purpose in mind but which depict the life and progress of the excavation. They may have been taken because the light was particularly nice or just because your friend was pulling a funny face, whatever the reason, they can tell us a lot about an excavation.

These days these images are often captured using mobile phone cameras but this is also the most common kind of image captured with a site camera. Since the dawn of digital photography people have been much freer with the use of cameras. An excavation which would have produced 30 images a day with a single film camera may now produce hundreds of photographs per day on many devices.

So why are these kinds of pictures useful? I think that they help to tell a story. If you have been following our facebook profile you will have seen a lot of them and they have helped us to communicate the look, feel and mood of the excavation. If you want to tell the world about your archaeology project then this is a great way of doing it.

But they also have a secondary purpose which I think is very interesting. While we may not see anything unusual in the way we dress, act or pose for photographs, people in the future will almost certainly feel differently. This excavation is a significant event in the history of Basing House and in the future people may be interested in who we were and what we did on a day to day basis. I suppose that you could say that these images allow us to document the social history of our project and to depict an event in the history of Basing House.


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