My name is Charlotte Coull, and I’m a third year PhD student
at the University of Manchester in the History Department. I did both my
undergraduate degree and my Master’s degree at Manchester before being lucky
enough after applying to be offered funding by the History department to
complete my PhD here.
I look comparatively at the history of archaeology in India
and Egypt in the nineteenth century. Many people walk away with the idea that I
am an archaeologist when I first explain my topic to them - however I am most
definitely a historian and there is
no digging involved in my work!
One of the most interesting things about research is that
your topic and focus can change over time; as you read more, you become more
aware of what has already been said about your subject, and most importantly
you start to see different ways of looking at things and different ideas to
pull out of your original material. This sounds intimidating, and you do need
to be careful that you eventually find a path and stick with it (otherwise you
will never get any work done!), but it can also be exciting. You have the
opportunity to create something completely unique that will stand out from the
When I started my PhD, I knew I wanted to look at
archaeology over a broad time and I knew I wanted my project to be comparative.
My idea was to look for changes over time whilst looking at how and
archaeologists reacted differently to what they found in India and Egypt - did
they prefer Egyptian artefacts to Indian ones for example? All that hasn’t
really changed. But what I have done is focused on stone.
Nineteenth century archaeologists in both countries
discovered lots of things, including bones and pottery, but it was stone that
really caught their attention in the form of temples, tombs, monuments and
megaliths. Stone can be hundreds, maybe thousands, of years old; it can be in
ruins or almost perfect; it can be huge, intimidating and strange because the
people that used it, the people who built things from it in ancient times, are
gone and cannot explain it. Take a look at the images here: this is the stone
nineteenth century archaeologists would have found in India and Egypt, but unlike
today they did not have technology like radiocarbon dating to tell them how old
it was. They often did not know who built things or how.
Three years ago, I didn’t know this. I had not done the
reading that told me that archaeologists in the 1800s were so perplexed by
stone - it was only as my project progressed that I started to notice this and
plan my work around it. Now my whole PhD thesis is looking at how
archaeologists knew what they knew about Indian and Egyptian stone - or what
they didn’t know.
To do this I work mainly with published material from the
nineteenth century. I look at the language archaeologists used to talk about
the sites they studied and the information they presented in these books and
journal articles to their fellow archaeologists. If an archaeologist has
written about how he found Indian temples confusing because they look so
different to what he is used to in Britain, then it’s in my work; if an
archaeologist has written about how amazingly old the Egyptian pyramids are and
how spectacular it is to look at something so ancient, then it’s in my work.
History is a subject with so much potential to let you get
creative and push the boundaries - your work can evolve with your thinking and
reflect your changing interests!
http://trowelblazers.com/ - a wonderful website with blog
posts about female pioneers in archaeology and other science fields. Click on
the articles tab and explore! I would particularly recommend Hilda Petrie and
Adela Catherine Breton.
http://www.asi.nic.in/ - not many people know much about
India's archaeological history. This is the website of the Archaeological
Survey of India- take a look at the 'photo gallery' tab and check out the
massive variety of Indian archaeological sites!
My name is Charlotte Coull, and I'm a second year PhD
student at the University of Manchester, based in the History department. I did
both my undergraduate and masters degrees at Manchester, both in History, and
was extremely excited to be offered both a PhD place and funding (the History
department's own Elsie Farrar award) to continue my studies here. As part of my
PhD I also lead seminars with undergraduate students, and have chosen to work
as a Widening Participation Fellow because I firmly believe everyone should
feel able to go to university if they wish.
In the future I'm hoping to get into public History, and
connect with people about my research and encourage them to explore history in
general, as knowledge is for everyone!
Many people walk away with the idea that I am an
archaeologist when I first explain my subject area to them- what I actually
do is look at the history of archaeology in the nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, with no digging involved! I study the work of British archaeologists
in India and Egypt during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; I want
to know how they decided what to dig up and study, how they wrote about the
artefacts they found, and what they did with those artefacts afterwards (are
they in Britain, are they in a museum basement, or did they stay in countries
they were discovered in?). I also want to know how discovering the history of
Egypt and India changed the way Britain thought about her own history, and why
Ancient Egypt is so present in our minds today (think Pyramids, mummies etc)
whereas Ancient India is not so well known.
Studying two countries may seem intimidating at first, but I
find you can use comparative history to fully open up an area to explore: for
example, I want to know what is was about Egypt in the nineteenth century that
influenced British archaeologists to behave so differently to archaeologists in
India, and what this can tell us about how archaeology as a discipline evolved.
My work is also very interdisciplinary- I use aspects of the history of
science, intellectual history and museology alongside colonial history and
other ideas. One of my supervisors is from the History department, the other is
from the Centre for the History of Science Technology and Medicine. I find
interdisciplinary history incredibly exciting- why stick with one way of doing
things, when you can craft your own style using your favourite aspects from
I work with a variety of historical sources- I have to be
creative with finding the material I study! I can go from looking at the
personal letters of a famous scholar from the nineteenth century in the British
library, to looking at museum records of object acquisitions and displays, to
spending time on the internet looking for nineteenth century academic books
that have been digitised. I have also recently decided to look at images as
part of my research- so last time I was at the British library I spent a
morning marvelling at early twentieth century photographs of archaeological
digs in India.
I find people often see history as a static and unmoving
subject- you pick a topic and are trapped in the library with dusty books
looking at that topic forever. Nothing could be further from the truth! History
is such a varied and broad subject, with so many different ways of approaching
it; you can really get creative with your thinking and push the boundaries.
What you find will never cease to surprise, and in some cases amaze you!
- a wonderful website with blog posts about female pioneers in archaeology
and other science fields. Click on the articles tab and explore! I would
particularly recommend Hilda Petrie, and Adela Catherine Breton.
- not many people know much about India's archaeological history. This is the
website of the Archaeological Survey of India- take a look at the 'photo
gallery' tab and check out the massive variety of Indian archaeological sites!
Imagine life before a word was ever written down,
before the Romans marched to war and the Victorians marched on their
promenades, before cars, running water, electricity, telephones, and computers,
before the internet. People's lives were structured by the needs of the animals
that they kept and the crops they grew. Like today, they made friends, had
families, grew old and explained the world around them through their beliefs. Prehistoric
Archaeology, the study of people before they wrote their thoughts down, aims to
imagine what these lives were like.
My name is Ellon Souter and I am
a first year PhD student in Archaeology at the University of Manchester. I have
finished my Undergraduate and Masters degrees and am now doing my own research
on how people used stone tools thousands of years ago in Cyprus. I am studying
my PhD part-time, which means that I can work and earn money to support me in
my studies. I work as Widening Participation Fellow, which allows me to design
and run workshops in Archaeology for secondary students. I am also kept busy
round the Department, assisting with teaching, running the Postgraduate
Research Seminars and being involved with the Archaeology Society.
I grew up in Northern Scotland,
surrounded by castles, hillforts, museums and monuments. I felt that wherever I
went, I could see my past stretching back around me and I wanted more and more
to know that past. I chose to do an Archaeology BSc at the University of
Liverpool and then went on to a Masters at Cambridge. Over the years,
Archaeology has taken me on some fantastic adventures, working with human
skeletons in the basements of the British Museum, making prehistoric boats and
houses in northern Scotland, excavating castles in Latvia, caves in Wales, the
earliest houses in Cyprus and even had a go at Stonehenge!
The stone tools that I will be looking at for my PhD come
from two sites in the village of Kissonerga, southwest Cyprus. They are next to
each other and are thought to represent continuous occupation between
5500-1500B.C. The tools consist of beautifully polished axes, figurines and
games. However, the majority of items are equivalent to our kitchen utensils,
DIY equipment and other household tools (grinding, hammering stones). I believe
that these are the most interesting items to look at as they are integral to
everyday work hence inform us about daily life. I will be using a scientific
technique called X-Ray Fluorescence to find out where the stones were
collected. I hope that this will be useful in finding out how people moved
around their environments and communicated with each other. I will be figuring
out exactly how these stones were made and used by experimenting with working
stone and recording my observations. I will investigate whether these
technologies change through time, across the Island and between particular
activity areas within my case studies. I hope to show how important these
everyday items were and what they might have meant to the prehistoric
inhabitants of Cyprus.
When I tell people I’m an Archaeologist, they often ask
‘What’s the best thing you’ve ever found?’ They expect me to tell them about
gold and riches. To me, it is about that moment when you suddenly realise that
the patch in the dirt you’ve been staring at all day is a flue for a
prehistoric oven and our understanding of past technologies changes forever.
you are interested in finding out more about Archaeology, here are a few links:
University of Manchester Archaeology: Manchester Archaeology is a small friendly department. This
will give you an idea of what you could be studying if you came to Manchester.
UCAS: If you
are thinking seriously about going to University and studying Archaeology, this
site lists all Archaeology courses in the UK and will also give you information
(e.g. entry requirements, course details, etc).
Whitworth Park Community Archaeology: An excavation run by the University of Manchester in June
2013 that thrives on community involvement. If you are local, go along and
catch a glance into the past of your city.
YAC: The Young Archaeologists Club runs a range of
activities and operates in most areas of Britain.
Archaeology at the BBC: a collection of programmes dating back to the 1950s, available to watch in full.
Digging Up the Past
Have you ever wanted to discover ancient remains in a distant land? Do
you feel excitement when watching a team of archaeologists on TV reveal human
bones, bronze tools, gold jewellery and pottery? Are you riveted by the details
of how a Roman bathhouse worked or how an Iron Age roundhouse was built? If
your answer is yes, then archaeology might just be the thing for you.
What is archaeology?
Archaeology is the scientific study and interpretation of past peoples
and their lives through studying the material remains they left behind.
Archaeologists look at a wide range of artefacts from large buildings and
colourfully painted graves down to small clay pots, paintings, stone
arrowheads, bone fragments and even pollen and seeds.
The most common way to find past artefacts is by excavating, or by doing
a field survery where you collect remains that are visible on the surface. As
these activities destroy the precise locations and context of the artefacts,
archaeologists record, draw and photograph all information accurately for
future generations. All finds are then washed, analysed and interpreted.
Finally, the artefacts need to be preserved, possibly reconstructed and stored
– frequently in a nearby local museum. All of this work is rarely done by
archaeologists alone, but requires a team of specialists, such as geologists,
botanists, osteologists, computer specialists, and conservators. Once the
analysis has been completed, the findings are published in articles, books or
In order to get expertise in archaeology, an undergraduate degree is the
best way to go. Here at Manchester, we offer both single honours and joint
honours degrees (with Ancient History, Anthropology or History of Art). With
our teaching stretching from the Neanderthals through to modern day and our
research areas ranging from Europe, the Near East, Africa through to Australia,
the UK and the Pacific, we offer a truly global introduction to the discipline.
Our main focus at Manchester is on exploring the social dimension of the past
human experience. We offer a unique combination of theoretical enquiry, a
concern with the contemporary social context, and a commitment to practical
field work (You can watch a video of Manchester's archaeologists here
). In addition, we have strong links
to the archaeological sciences at the university and to the Manchester Museum
whose collections we are able to make use of in our teaching and whose staff
members regularly contribute specialist lectures.
Archaeology is one of the most varied careers as it draws on the
sciences, social sciences and arts. It is also one of the most diverse subjects
as it combines activity out in the field with intellectual study and scientific
analysis in the laboratory. Archaeologists can be found in the private, public
and academic sectors: You could find yourself working at the shovel’s edge in
charge of uncovering new sites and finds. Alternatively, you might be working
in a museum, designing exhibitions, talking to the public and looking after the
collections. Maybe you are employed by the council in charge of providing
guidance to developers. Or possibly you are working as a lecturer at university
and are undertaking your own research projects throughout the year. Depending on
your interests, you might find yourself working at home in Britain, on a hot
island in the Mediterranean, on a lone mountain in South America or the cold
expanses of Siberia. One thing is for sure: it’s a hugely rewarding career that
combines painstaking discovery with stimulating interpretations about past
Even if you don’t see yourself pursuing archaeology as a career, it is
an excellent foundation for your future that will serve you well in a wide
variety of interesting careers: studying archaeology alerts you to the great
diversity between people and social practices; it provides a rigorous training
in evaluating evidence and ideas; it encourages the development of creative and
critical thinking, verbal and written communication, and a wealth of practical
and team working skills that are sought after by employers. As a subject it is
challenging, intriguing, satisfying and hugely enjoyable.
The Archaeology of beer!
One recent project carried out by archaeologists
(with the help of archaeology students) at Manchester has been the excavation
of a Bronze Age beer production installation on Cyprus. A two by two metre
domed mud-plaster structure (shown in the picture) was used as a kiln to
dry malt for the production of beer three-and-a half-thousand years ago. The
beers were brewed from malted barley, and fermented with yeasts produced from
fruits such as grape or fig. All the ingredients have been found as carbonised
seeds at the site, along with stone tools for grinding the grains and pots for
heating the mixture.
Additional clues on beer production on Cyprus come
from large decorated pottery bowls like the one shown in the image. You can see
people grinding grain and a couple sitting relaxing drinking beer from bowls!
Find out more about archaeology…
To check out Archaeology at Manchester, go to the department's webpage.
The Council for British Archaeology supports archaeology across the UK and you can find out about the latest
finds, excavations and the Young Archaeologists’ Club from their website.
For up-to-date news about archaeology as well as articles about
different topics, go to: http://archaeology.about.com
A recent BBC series uses planes to detect archaeology. Find out more
with the ‘flying archaeologist’ blog.
BBC History has excellent website about archaeology (and some