Events
  • Follow UCL on social media

    UCL Twitter feed YouTube channel UCL Facebook page UCL SoundCloud UCL SoundCloud
  • A A A

    Archive for the 'Social & Historical Sciences' Category

    The hidden gems of studying a degree in Archaeology

    By Jo Harris, on 21 June 2017

    Written by UCL Archaeology Graduate, John Bilton

    As I relaxed in my scratch-built sauna in the middle of the West Sussex countryside, I decided there were worse things in life than studying archaeology. It was a week into my first year and I was at ‘Primtech’, a four-day retreat every new undergrad at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology (IoA) goes on to get a hands-on introduction to early technologies (flint knapping, pottery making, bronze casting, etc.), and to get to know the people they will spend the next three years studying with. I had made the sauna that afternoon with another first-year and a couple of second-years, who came to Primtech as supervisors, out of some sticks, tarpaulin and burnt flint. It was a nice way to wind down after a morning of landscape walking.

    70 days of fieldwork

    IoA students need to get used to being outside, because the undergrad course requires them to complete 70 days of fieldwork. What this actually involves varies hugely: I spent six weeks in Greece and Macedonia, examining various museums and archaeological sites; a friend of mine spent a month excavating in Israel. Another spent two weeks in Uganda. The IoA is Britain’s largest and most well-regarded archaeological department: its archaeologists conduct fieldwork all over the globe, on some of the most famous archaeological sites on Earth.

    Easter Island

    A good example of the IoA’s global reach is its work in Rapa Nui, known more colloquially as Easter Island, home to the colossal stone ‘moai’ sculptures. The ‘Rapa Nui Landscapes of Construction Project’, led by Professor Sue Hamilton (Director of the IoA), works with Rapa Nui elders and students to provide resources and training to help them present Rapa Nui’s past, and extended a bursary to bring Rapa Nui archaeology students to the UK to join in the IoA’s field training course.

    As well as engagement, the Project seeks to develop a new understanding of how the moai fit into the wider landscape of the island. The Project is carrying out an excavation of the Puna Pau quarry, the source of many of the pukao (‘hats’) that some of the moai wear – large, squat cylinders made of a coarse, dark red lava. It is also looking to unify strands of investigation that have thus far remained isolated, such as the ‘ahu’, stone ceremonial platforms upon which the moai once stood, and transport roads. The Project’s central theme is the way construction of the moai unified the island, with the resources, locations and construction elements that went into making the moai linking the different areas of Rapa Nui, from the quarries where they were constructed to the roads that they were transported on and their final destinations.

    The Terracotta Army in the Museum of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum  Source: Wikimedia Commons Terracotta Army

    Another example of UCL’s global focus is its work with the Terracotta Army. The IoA is undertaking a research project in collaboration with the Museum of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum to research the Terracotta Army, a group of 2,000 warrior statues crafted over 2,000 years ago as a part of the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the first Emperor of China. The Terracotta Warriors were an undeniable symbol of the unimaginable wealth, military power and artistic achievement of the Qin Empire. Each of the individually crafted warriors was equipped with state-of-the-art bronze weapons, some so well preserved that they would still be lethal today. The assemblage includes over 40,000 bronze arrowheads, as well as swords, lances, crossbow triggers and more.

    Since 2006, the IoA has been collaborating with the Museum to transfer students and specialists between Britain and China, and to investigate the logistics of technology and labour organisation behind the construction of the Terracotta Army. They have analysed the distribution of the Warriors and their weapons, and have learned a great deal about the way the Qin military was organised. For example, they have discovered a great deal about Qin battle formations: lower-status robed warriors stood on the front lines, followed by armoured soldiers and a smaller number of officers or generals towards the rear. Crossbowmen were placed primarily along the front and flanks of the army, and chariots were placed at the core.

    The IoA also works closer to home. Undergraduate students can take part in the Thames Discovery Programme, a community archaeology project run by UCL. The Thames Discovery Programme involves IoA archaeologists and students engaging the public about the fascinating archaeology of the River Thames, home to the debris of London’s almost 2,000 year history, from Roman pottery to Tudor jewellery and the remnants of Victorian warships. People are led on surveying walks along the banks of the river. Public lectures are held in local archaeological societies, in community centres and at academic conferences and museums. The project has been featured on television several times, including on a special episode of Time Team.

    University Archaeology Day

    So, if travel, community engagement, the opportunity to be trained in advanced scientific and analytical methods and the chance to build your own sauna in the middle of the English countryside appeal to you, come and check out the IoA’s ‘University Archaeology Day’ on June 22. It’s an event for prospective students, parents and teachers to learn about the many archaeology programmes available in the UK, to hear about some of the latest cutting-edge archaeological research, and to discover the huge range of career opportunities a degree in archaeology can lead to. We’ll have representatives from most of the UK’s top archaeology departments, as well as a range of organisations that work with and employ archaeologists.

    Find out more about University Archaeology Day, including details on how to register:

    Want to know more about how you can turn an archaeology degree into a career? Read this article from UCL News.

    Radically changing food habits with new undergraduate course

    By Guest Blogger, on 10 June 2017

    ­Written by Francis Lecomber, student on UCL BASc2096

    csfoodHow can we change our relationship to food? That’s been the central question for the new UCL Arts and Sciences BASc course “Citizen Science for Radical Change: Co-design, Art and Community” (BASC2096), which ran for the first-time last term. At a pop-up exhibition this week, selected students from the course showcased final projects exploring the factors that affect our decisions over what to eat.

    The course brought together multiple disciplines to explore food, based on an open source interdisciplinary method developed by our lecturer Kat Austen for her project Vital. Incorporating elements of chemistry, citizen science, community co-design and philosophy, the course encouraged students to think both analytically and creatively in their approach to learning, whilst embracing the overarching theme of food as a unifier of different peoples. The learning process itself is studied throughout the course, as we were encouraged to investigate the many different forms of knowledge and the hierarchical structure in which they exist – a structure that often places quantified data far above sensory perception in terms of value. This overarching theme continuously shaped and changed our approach to knowledge acquisition.

    Throughout the course, we worked with students from Newham’s NewVIc Sixth Form College, where we ran workshops and scientific experiments. At the end of the term, we co-designed exhibits and performances with the NewVIc pupils, which helped inform our personal designs for our final projects.

    In these final projects, the diverse threads of the course are woven into a major design piece. These designs were exhibited here, at the UCL Art Museum, on Monday 5th June as a part of the university’s theme of Transformative Technologies. In their diversity, they capture the multiple meanings food has to us, and the effect of engaging with it in an interdisciplinary way.

    (more…)

    The Forgotten Slave Owners: Tracing British history before the abolition of slavery

    By Natasha Downes, on 9 June 2017

    Written by Natasha Downes, Media Relations Manager, UCL

    Most British history has focused on the abolition of slavery, forgetting 200 years that preceded it where Britain played a lucrative role in the transatlantic slave trade.

    But a team of researchers at the UCL Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership (UCL project) have been working to uncover a history that Britain has been quick to forget; the story of slave owners.

    Curious to know more I attended the UCL Festival of Culture event entitled ‘Bloomsbury’s Forgotten Slave Owners’, to hear more about the UCL project and watch an excerpt of the BAFTA-winning documentary series, Britain’s Forgotten Slave-owners.

    Why focus on slave owners?

    Focusing on Britain’s slave owners may seem like an odd concept but as Dr Nick Draper (UCL History and Director of the project), points out it’s by “rethinking these aspects of British history that we can think about how wealth has been distributed economically, physically and socially.”

    Over almost 10 years the UCL project team have been unravelling the vast records of information kept on British slave owners at The National Archive, Kew, which they have curated into an accessible online database. Here, there are the names of 46,000 slave owners that were recorded after the abolition of slavery in 1838.

    Through the documentary we hear the uncomfortable story of how the abolition of slavery brought about the compensation of those 46,000 slave owners to the sum of £17 billion in today’s value, which Dr Draper highlights as “the biggest bailout since the banking bailout in 2009”.  Those that were enslaved were not rewarded compensation, and still to this day the contention over repatriations remains.

    (more…)

    UCL’s Festival of Culture

    By Jo Harris, on 31 May 2017

    Written by John Bilton, Third Year Archaeology Student

    In under a weeks’ time, UCL’s Festival of Culture will be in full swing. The Festival is a week-long extravaganza running from June 5 – 10, showcasing the best of UCL’s Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

    There’s a great spread, from lectures on Women and the 1984-‘5 miner’s strike and Dance in West Africa to film screenings and tours of the Olympic Park, the site for UCL East. The festival is open to students, staff and members of the public, and all the events are entirely free – though make sure you book tickets, because they get snapped up quickly.

    I’m a third year Archaeology student, and I’m helping to organise the festival. It’s certainly been interesting so far: I’ve recorded a passage from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (keep an ear out, it’ll be revealed shortly). I’m working closely with the Dickens Museum to prepare the Dickens Night Walks, a fascinating event exploring nocturnal London through Charles Dickens’ eyes, complete with readings, insights and performances from some of UCL’s best-known Dickens experts. And I’m working with the wonderful Joint Faculty communications team who are based in the Andrew Huxley building, a few feet away from the Print Room Café and all the coffee anyone could want to keep them running for a festival with more than 80 events!

    (more…)