#BloggingArchaeology: The Best and Worst of Unearthing


There’s a blog carnival going on over at Doug’s Archaeology Blog (a sort of months-spanning inter-blog conference), about blogging archaeology. This is my almost-late-but-not-quite reply to January’s question, What are your best (or if you want your worst) post(s) and why? 

In many ways, Moche Sex Pots, Part One is my best post. It’s my most popular post, by a very long way–a whopping (for me, anyway) 1,691 views and counting. Moche sex pots are ancient ceramics from Northern Peru, which depict people engaging in the most varied types of sexual intercourse. Moche Sex Pots, Part One is a good post: it’s clearly written and accessible, it provides some cultural context, and it makes a good case for taking these pots seriously as precious clues for understanding Moche society, and thinking about them in ways that do not include cliches like “LOL check out these crazy sex pots! prehistoric people were total horndogs!” or “people in the past were more comfortable with their sexuality, we can learn a lot from them” or “Moche society collapsed because of their unholy sexual practices”. I also got a lot of very good comments for this post: one reader mused about what future anthropologists might theorise about modern Western society based on its porn, a couple of others asked some smart questions that I was able to answer decently (always a self-esteem-booster), and the post even triggered a great exchange on facebook with a friend, which at one point had me almost fall off my chair laughing (below).

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 09.25.32

However, I feel like it is not much of an achievement to have lured so many new pairs of eyes to these pages through a post about sex. Also I’m slightly mystified that, compared to 1,691 people who read Part One, only 174 read Part Two… an uncharitable part of me thinks that a lot of those 1,691 only clicked on Part One to see dirty pictures… although it may very well be mistaken.

My personal favourite among my posts is probably Obscure Pre-Columbian Sunday: The Mirthless Mixtecs. I’m very proud of the idea of writing short articles on the cultures that the popular British Horrible Histories series did not dedicate books to, and I’m very proud of the alliteration in the title, and comparing a scene in one of the screenfolds to a scene in the Viggo Mortensen Russian mafia film Eastern Promises. I also loved having an excuse to take out my library’s copy of one of the screenfolds, and showing it off to all my friends. I think it’s exactly the kind of colourful, fun but scholarly alternative to a Wikipedia article that I wanted to write–although, on the negative side, I’ve found it very difficult to follow with a new Obscure Pre-Columbians post.

Runners-up for the title of “best post” should be, I think, Thoughts About El Tepozteco (a site I visited in Mexico before I’d even considered studying archaeology–it was wonderful to re-visit it in my mind and almost magically come up with a completely new way of seeing it), Poor Yoricks (which is very rambly but full of interesting ideas I’d like to follow up on) and The Book That Blew My Tiny Little Child’s Mind (although, in retrospect, I’m not sure I’m happy with that title).

As for my worst post… going on views alone, there’s Unsexy, Humdrum Ceramics, which, apparently, was only read by two people. I published it the week after Moche Sex Pots, Part Two, in an attempt to compensate for all the attention I’d drawn to such titillating stuff, and show that non-sexy pots could be cool too. I don’t know if people didn’t read it because of the title, because I didn’t manage to make “uninteresting” pots interesting, or because they just weren’t interested to begin with.

Ethically, my worst post is “the head of the god G”, “probably cormorants” and Other Accidental Auction Catalogue Poems. It was about some weirdly poetical descriptions I’d found in a Sotheby’s catalogue of African, Oceanian and Pre-Columbian art. I was quite pleased with it, until, a few moths later, I stumbled on some stuff about the illegal trade in antiquities and dodgy auction house practices, and realised that, with that one post, however inconsequential it may have been in the grand scheme of things, I was nonetheless drawing some positive attentions to an organisation that does a lot to ruin our understanding of the past, by transforming precious clues about ancient times into context-less art objects. I was so ashamed that I deleted it–but kept it visible on my own private settings so I could be reminded of my mistakes.

Your Unicorn’s Got Lumpy Legs–So What?? is also pretty bad, though it got a few likes. It’s about how useful drawing things is to understand them, but it became a somewhat show-offy and self-indulgent ramble.

But this is what I think–what is the best post in your opinion, readers? Or the one you liked least?


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