Digging up the past

New Zealand Archaeology Week runs from 28 April – 6 May, with events up and down the country, including an exhibition courtesy of Underground Overground Archaeology at our own South Library called Pubs of the Past: the archaeology of Victorian Christchurch Hotels, so this seems like a good time to mention some of the archaeological books, magazines, and other resources that you can find at Christchurch City Libraries.

Books

The Library has thousands of books and eBooks about archaeology for both adults and children. Because archaeology lies at the interface between art, history, and science, books on this subject can be found in several different places among our non-fiction collection, so if you’re having troubling finding what you’re looking for, then ask a librarian for help.

Here is a list of a few of my personal favourites that have recently been added to the library’s shelves, including some fiction that features archaeologists as characters…

Archaeology

List created by robcruickshank

Books about archaeology and archaeologists for adults and children, including both fiction and non-fiction

The 50 Greatest Prehistoric Sites of the WorldCover of The 50 greatest prehistoric sites of the world – A guide book to archaeological sites

A’a – The fascinating story of a Polynesian artefact, now in the British Museum, that became an inspiration for Picasso

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes – The consequences of an archaeological hoax come back to haunt the characters of this 1956 novel

Built on Bones – What happened when we started to live together in cities? – the archaeological evidence

Cover of Cigars of the PharaohCigars of the Pharaoh – A classic!Cigars of the Pharaoh

The Incredible Cabinet of Wonders – Not just archaeology, but I love this children’s “lift the flap” bookThe Incredible Cabinet of Wonders

Keeping Their Marbles – The uncomfortable story of how archaeological objects from around the world were acquired by western museums, often by coercion and theft

Cover of A little history of Archaeology by Brian Fagan

A Little History of Archaeology – Stories of some of the great archaeologists and what they found – one of the “Little Histories” series

Lost in A Pyramid – Twelve tales from the golden age of the mummy story, collected and published by the British Library

Mayan Mendacity – The second mystery for Dr Elizabeth Pimms, archaeologist and librarian – sequal to Olmec Obituary

My Life in Ruins – What is it actually like to be an archaeologist?

Cover of The quest for ZThe Quest for Z – A delightful retelling for children of a doomed expedition to find a lost city in the Amazon jungle

The Story of Tutankhamun – A beautifully illustrated book for children about perhaps the most celebrated of ancient Egyptian pharaohs

View Full List

Magazines and eMagazines

The magazine Archaeology is available both as a hard copy and as an e-magazine through RBDigital. Check out the January/February 2018 edition for an article called “New Zealand’s First City, Uncovered”, which tells the stories of the early European colonists of Christchurch through some of the artefacts found among the rubble in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, as well as presenting evidence of earlier occupation by Māori dating back as far as 1250 AD.

We also have many other general science and history magazines that include articles about archaeology, such as All About History, BBC History Magazine, DiscoverSmithsonian Magazine, etc., in both hard copy and digital formats. Check out the library catalogue for details.

eResources

A library card gets you free access to a huge number of electronic resources that contain information about archaeology, many of which can be accessed from home. The best way to find out about these is to log on a take a look. In particular, you might want to check out some of these:

These are in addition to our extensive collection of eResources about local and family history. If you are a Christchurch resident, but not yet a member of the library, you can join online, with the option of a digital only membership if you just want access to our online resources.

Other places of archaeological interest in and around Christchurch

Fans of Egyptology should check out Tash Pen Khonsu, an Egyptian mummy on display at Canterbury Museum. For those with more classical tastes, the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities, run by the University of Canterbury, is well worth a visit. This relatively new museum opened in May 2017 and is located in the recently refurbished Arts Centre on Level 1 of the Old Chemistry Building at 3 Hereford Street. It is currently closed, but will re-open during New Zealand Archaeology Week on 5 May with an exhibition called “Beyond the Grave: Death in Ancient Times”.

More information about archaeological sites in Christchurch can be found on the websites of Christchurch City Council and Heritage New Zealand (formerly known as the Historic Places Trust), which has an extensive archaeology section that includes a wealth of fascinating and useful information, and of course on our own Library Website.

Happy digging!

A bit of a stink

image_proxySometimes in libraries we think about poo. Not necessarily because we want to but because our public toilets sometimes get blocked, sometimes books get Suspicious Stains on them, and sometimes we wonder how many royal toddler toilet training picture books there are…

And if you really think about it poo is quite important, and you certainly can’t escape it. So, I’ve been poking around a few of our resources to see what I can find about poo and sewage and other stinky things like that.

Searching on our catalogue the keyword ‘poo’ and the Official Subject Heading (we librarians do enjoy a good subject heading) ‘feces‘ finds a lot of children’s books – not unsuprisingly, but it also brings up entries from Access Video – an eResource featuring lots of fascinating documentaries – about sanitation in the developing world.

Sanitation has an interesting history in Christchurch. We’re all familiar with more recent issues in this area, which has been carefully documented by CEISMIC, however there’s a long history to explore.

image_proxy (1)

The Christchurch Drainage Board has a well documented history – so vital for a city built on a swamp – and according to John Wilson‘s Christchurch – Swamp to City Ōtautahi has ‘been the best drained and and most efficiently sewered city in the country’ (p11). The importance of pumping stations in the city has been recognised as part of the Architectural Heritage of Christchurch Series – reminding us that the functional doesn’t have to be ugly. Underground Overground Archaeology (I don’t think they employ any Wombles) has written a great overview of sanitation in Christchurch.

If you’ve ever wondered what the poo of our native wildlife looks like, then DigitalNZ is the website you need! Searching for ‘poo’ brings up a lot of helpful visuals to assist you in identifying that mystery turd, plus a positive plethora of poo-related media articles, research papers and videos.

I also had a look on Papers Past for poo related content. However the 19th century and first half of the 20th century were more conservative eras so ‘poo’ and ‘excrement’ don’t bring up a huge amounts of hits – although there is definitely content for those with an interest in public health. I’ve also found out about pakapoo – a Chinese lottery game brought to New Zealand by gold miners – and The Mikado.

Do you have any #codebrown stories you’d like to share? [Ed: we welcome the use of euphemisms for the benefit of those with delicate sensibilities]

Find  more

Lawrence of Arabia: not just a WWI hero!

The mystique of the East and all things Arabian have always intrigued me. As a younger girl part of that for me was learning about Lawrence of Arabia, and I feel compelled to introduce him to those who may know little of him, his adventures and his actions during WWI.

Cover of The Golden WarriorSome of you may have seen the movie Lawrence of Arabia which was first shown in 1962. It was described as an epic adventure film amd won several Oscars. The image that comes to mind is of Lawrence in his eastern robes astride a camel in the shimmering desert – a rather romantic, exotic image. I was saddened when I learned that Lawrence, at the young age of 46, was killed riding a motorbike, like a perfectly ordinary bloke, not such a romantic image I have now! My young girl fantasy shattered.

Thomas Edward Lawrence was born in Wales on 16th August 1888. As a young man he enjoyed travel. After a study trip to Syria he decided to become an archaeologist. He studied medieval castles in France and Syria and was to use his experiences to write his thesis (published in 1910 as Crusader Castles); in doing so he gained first-class honours in History. His knowledge of Arabic gained during his time in Syria became a useful tool when he returned to the Middle East to fight for the allies against the Turks in WWI.

Cover of Lawrence of ArabiaOn all accounts Lawrence could be described as a colourful character. He has been depicted by George Bernard Shaw as a “literary genius” and yet blasted by an Oxford historian as a “charlatan and fantasist”. He was also accused of being a spy, something that some may still believe today. One thing that cannot be disputed is he came out of the First World War as a hero for his efforts in the Middle East and is still seen as such. As a matter of interest, over twenty new books have been written about Lawrence between 2000 and 2010.

What do you know of him? Have you read about him? If you would like to know more about Lawrence, check our catalogue. We have several interesting books about him and also have the original soundtrack to the movie made about him. Further to this we have many eResources, such as Biography in ContextOxford Dictionary of National Biography, Britannica Library Adults, and History Reference Center, to name just a few for you to enjoy.

Cover of Young Lawrence Cover of Hero Cover of Seven Pillars of Wisdom Cover of Lawrence of Arabia

Download Art New Zealand, Brides, Autocar, L’Officiel Paris, Harper’s Magazine, The New Yorker, MOJO, UNCUT, Vanity Fair, Empire and more.

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Digging Christchurch: Underground Overground Archaeology display

Underground Overground Archaeology have a fascinating collection of old stuff on display at South Library. A recent find is some old hats dug from the new Justice Precinct.

The Christchurch landscape contains within it the clues to a long gone era of the city’s history, when horse-drawn carriages took the place of cars, long skirts and frock coats were all the rage, and Queen Victoria reigned supreme. Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, archaeologists here have been uncovering and recording these traces of Christchurch’s early years and the people who made this city their home. This display showcases some of the artefacts excavated here over the last year and the stories they can tell us about the people who lived here over a hundred years ago. Exhibition finishes 30th January 2015.

Underground Overground Archaeology exhibition Underground Overground Archaeology exhibition Underground Overground Archaeology exhibition

Pop in and have a look – the exhibition is on until the end of January 2015.

Christchurch revealed

This week is the last week to catch Underground Overground Archaeology’s exhibition of finds at the South Library. The display is a great way to come face to face with recently rediscovered everyday objects from Christchurch’s past. If you can’t make it along to the library you can also check out Underground Overground’s blog of the work they have been doing digging into numerous demolition sites all over the city.

Together with the fascinating website High Street Stories this blog started me thinking about how much of the intimate history of Christchurch has been revealed since the earthquakes – those fragments that otherwise would have remained lost or stories recorded that might not have been under different circumstances.

As you might imagine, High Street stories is all about the history of this fascinating street, with stories told in video, audio, text and images. You can find out about Ngāi Tahu’s relationship with Ōtākaro (Avon River), the history of the Odeon Theatre and the regeneration of Lichfield Lanes amongst many others. I am not from Christchurch but it is from projects like this that you can get a real sense of how an area has developed and get an impression of what the atmosphere might have been like in the past.

Delving back into Underground Overground’s blog you can find out how archaeological discoveries have been researched and read the stories associated with them that have now come to light. So many of the artefacts that have been discovered seem mundane (lots of bottles!), but when investigated they highlight Christchurch history in a very real and immediate way. For example find out about beer bottles, burlesque houses and the everyday life of early residents.

The physical landscape of Christchurch has totally changed since the earthquakes, but thanks to projects like these – and others – its history and heritage will not be forgotten.

Have any of you used these websites, or any like them, already?

Underground Overground Archaeology display

There’s lots of rubbish on display at South Library!

Well, once upon a time, some of it may have been rubbish. Now, however, the broken crockery, old bottles, fragmented clay pipes and fragmented porcelain dolls are important clues to historic lives in Christchurch.

Demolition of buildings built prior to 1900 requires an archaeological survey and sign-off as a requirement under the Historic Places Act. Consequently, archaeologists from Underground Overground Archaeology have been finding lots of interesting artefacts that show us how people lived in Christchurch – back when Europeans were relatively recent immigrants to this country.
Underground Overground Archaeology displayUnderground Overground Archaeology display

The display is at South Library, 66 Colombo Street, Beckenham at least until mid March.

Beth Clayton
South Library

Wonderful things – an AWRF session with David Veart

You only get one go at life – you might as well do something you love …

Festivals, like life, are all about choices.  Should I turn left or right; become a librarian or an astronaut; eat sushi or icecream; stay for this session or head to that …

Today, I stayed.  It was a tough choice: I had thought I would catch Emily Rodda, but I will also be seeing her tomorrow, and given that I spent a large part of my pre-teen years thinking I would be a famous Egyptologist in the manner of Howard Carter (without the vengeful mummy curses, obviously), I figured a bit of a look-in at the Schools Programme session with New Zealand’s very own answer to Indiana Jones might be interesting.  This last-minute change of plan thing can be fraught with peril sometimes, particularly if you haven’t read the book, but today I scored bigtime.

When he was 10 years old, David Veart got sick, and ended up having to stay in bed for three months – as often happened in those days.  In the end, all he could do was read, so he did, and eventually there was nothing left to read.  Then one day his father appeared with a book.  David showed us a picture of the front of that book, and believe me, looking at that cover kids these days would have to be pretty desperate to even consider it … Called Gods, Graves and Scholars: the story of archaeology, it was exactly what it seemed to be.  The chapter that set the tone for the rest of David’s life (with a couple of detours through lawyering and teaching) was the now-famous story of Howard Carter and the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun.  I remember reading that story myself – Lord Carnarvon and Carter, the poor Egyptian village, the steps down into the rubble, clearing away the layers, and finally breaking through to find a wall, Carnarvon’s impatient question – Well, can you see anything? And Carter’s eventual, spine-tingling reply, “Yes, wonderful things!”

The difference between David Veart and, say, me is that I thought I knew that you simply can’t be an archaeologist in New Zealand.  We are too young.  And everything cool has been found.  Not true, says David: New Zealand is also full of ‘wonderful things’.  And he spent the rest of the session telling us about the wonderful things.  There was a funny and clever story in the middle of the session about a guy called William Rathje, who uses traditional archaeology methods and theories to study modern society (ie. rubbish dumps and other people’s wheelie bins), and some talk about how much of archaeology is “sitting, looking and thinking”.

It wasn’t so much a slideshow of stuff, however, as a truly inspiring way of thinking about our land, and our responsibilities.  Using a series of photos as an illustration of how modern-day archaeology works (with enough technological toys to keep the innovators as well as the traditionalists happy), David took us through the steps and in the process left me, at least, with one of those perspective shifts that are truly the best result of unexpected choices made:

We’re the last ones – we who came to New Zealand have travelled further than anyone else, later than anyone else, to the last place on earth that could be settled.  And because of this, we are the only ones on earth who can still find and study the first ones, our first people …

You never know what’s under your feet.

A winner of a session for me, and all because I chose to just sit still.  I hope the kids got as much out of it as I did!

World History

This week saw the launch of a fabulous programme from the BBC and British Museum, A History of the World in 100 Objects. Every day a new object is ‘released’ in the form of an item on the website and a podcast of just under 15 minutes. There’s also a blog and the introductory post by Neil MacGregor sums up the programme nicely:

Most of us learn history from books, but I think that it is physical objects – actual things – that most powerfully connect us to the past – things made by somebody with hands just like ours, for a purpose we can still hope to understand…
The objects I’ll be talking about in each programme tell us what people were doing, what they were thinking, how they lived and why they did what they did…
Along the way we look at the connections and contacts between societies that show how the story of the world is the story of the whole world.

As well as items from the British Museum’s collections there are items from other museums across the UK and the public are also encouraged to add their own objects to the website as well as commenting on objects. You can search objects by location, theme, culture, size, material and even colour. Today’s object was a carving of two swimming reindeer that is about 13,000 years-old.

Apart from the history angle (and I’ll confess to being a bit of a history geek) this presents a fascinating example of the kind of far-reaching, multi-dimensional, multi-partner project that we’re beginning to see particularly coming out of the UK. There’s just so many aspects to it: