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For the last few months, I’ve been contributing intermittently to a “blog carnival” on the subject of archaeoblogging–a sort of months-long conference for bloggers, with each month dedicated to a different question. It’s been a lot of fun, and a great way both to find other blogs and reflect on the blogger’s craft. I’ve posted about why I blog in December, and about my best and worst posts in January, and I skipped both “the good, the bad and the ugly” post and the “write whatever you like” post. The whole thing is worth checking out over at Doug’s Archaeology Blog. Thanks, by the way, to Doug–this has all been great!

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This is the last month of the carnival, and, fittingly, the question is: “where are you/we going with blogging or would you it like to go? I leave it up to you to choose between reflecting on you and your blog personally or all of archaeology blogging/bloggers or both. Tells us your goals for blogging. Or if you have none why that is? Tell us the direction that you hope blogging takes in archaeology.”

I’ll start with my thoughts about the future of archaeoblogging generally.

I agree with both Doug and Kelly M when they say that archaeoblogging should, for the most part, stay as it is: it’s great that anyone can write an archaeoblog, and that anyone can read one for free. The diversity of archaeoblogs out there is a wonderful thing. One thing I do hope will happen one day, however, is for an Emily Graslie to rise from our midst.

For those who don’t know, Emily Graslie used to be a volunteer at the University of Montana’s Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum, with a cool little tumblr about natural history and museums. Now, through both her own sheer amazingness and a couple of lucky breaks (but mostly her sheer amazingness), she is one of the best-known science vloggers out there, with a series called The Brain Scoop. Now, where is our Anthropology/Archaeology Emily? Someone who is as comfortable among Inka khipus and Maori carvings as Emily is among stuffed raccoons and flesh-eating beetles? I think it would have to be someone who knows both about archaeology and anthropology, since the two benefit so much from being paired together. And they would need a good cameraman/producer/editor like Michael Aranda used to be for the Brain Scoop (and like the new guy, Tom McNamara, presumably will be now). It’s a shame that there isn’t an anthropological/archaeological equivalent to the dissections that are one of the best things about the Brain Scoop, but even without something like that, I think some great videos could still be made.

Who could it be? I don’t know. There are so many excellent archaeobloggers out there who I have a feeling would be great at vlogging as well, and I’ve noticed that Katie Kirby, Emily’s intern, has started regularly posting archaeology/anthropology-related stuff on the Brain Scoop’s facebook group, which is an interesting move. But, for now, as far as I’m aware, this niche has not yet been filled.

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As for the future of this particular blog… I have so many thoughts about how my blog could be improved or could change that listing them here might actually help me think through them. And, of course, if you have any advice/opinions, do comment/tweet/email/facebook-message me, or even tell me in person.

The most urgent “problem” I feel like I should solve is my audience problem. I’ve always thought of this blog mostly as something that anyone could stumble upon and read and get excited about, without any previous knowledge of things archaeological. And, to some extent, that has been the case. But, since attempting to broaden my readership by joining twitter, I’ve actually acquired a fair few readers who do know a bit about archaeology, anthropology and museums. So, what should I do? Write some posts for one type  of audience and some for the other? Attempt to create monstrous hybrid posts, or posts that are like those children’s movies with topic references or innuendo included to amuse the parents? Or simply write what I feel like writing about, however I feel like writing it on that particular day?

Also–should I change the blog’s name? “Unearthing” is perhaps too vague/obvious, and I never say “Unearthing” when I talk about it, I just call it “the blog”, perhaps means that I secretly don’t like it. Perhaps I should go for something like “Jade Adze” or “Eccentric Flint“. Or is it too late in the game for me to do that? Would it just be way too confusing? Can I even change a url easily here on WordPress? I don’t know! I’m kind of afraid that, in my attempt to change the name, I’ll end up accidentally deleting the whole blog.

I’d also like to write more about anthropology. Because it’s cool.

One things is certain: I’ll definitely continue blogging, because I enjoy it, and I enjoy experimenting with it. Or, well–I do sometimes feel like I’m a bit of an impostor, not actually having that much excavation experience compared to many other bloggers, or indeed many, many other archaeologists or archaeology students–I do sometimes feel like one of those Victorian gentlemen who never left England but were arrogant enough to think they could write detailed ethnographic treaties about cultures they’d only read about in books. When I feel like this, I end up wondering whether, re: the future of this blog, I should just stop blogging altogether. But, in the end, it’s fun enough, and important enough, that I’ll probably keep going for a while yet.

 

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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).

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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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