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Back to the Old Grind Stone

by YPU Admin on May 27, 2013, Comments. Tags: archaeology, history, pre-history, and tools


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.

In Depth...

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.

Going Further…

If 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.


BBC History

Archaeology at the BBC: a collection of programmes dating back to the 1950s, available to watch in full.

Time Team