Teaching Chinese Language – an interview

This is an interview with Duo Luan, one of our Chinese Studies Lecturers at UWTSD. This interview was originally published in CLTalk Issue 13.

Duo Luan, Lecturer in Chinese, UWTSD

Duo Luan, Lecturer in Chinese, UWTSD

Duo Luan has been teaching Chinese as a foreign language in the Chinese Studies BA programme at the University of Wales Trinity St. David since 2003. In her day to day teaching, she comes across students from a wide range of backgrounds, and gets a lot of satisfaction from seeing them progress, and enjoy learning Chinese.
Duo’s research and teaching interests lie in the areas of Chinese Visual Learning (CVL), and language and cognition. Duo believes that the CVL approach helps learners progress more rapidly by enhancing understanding through the use of colour and shape coding. It can be applied to basic patterns of grammar and syntax, so that students grasp meaning visually, rather than needing to map patterns on to English grammatical terms and structures.
She argues that this approach has a huge benefit because students can quickly break down sentences into logical components. It is particularly useful with characters where students can understand meaning with less pinyin support – they are instead pushed to consider the logic of full sentences.
Duo says, ‘It is clear from the research that has been conducted over the last few years that the CVL approach can be used successfully, particularly with students who have learning difficulties such as dyslexia, as well as students who favour visual learning and who have no learning difficulties. It also has great potential in early years education where learners more flexibly and quickly absorb patterns and meaning.’
Duo’s students often inspire her with innovative ideas on how Chinese differs from English, and how they develop their own strategies for fixing particularly difficult structures or rules in their heads. She says, for example: ‘The order of subordinate clauses is a major issue in understanding the syntactic differences between English and Chinese.
In English, the attributive clause is always placed to the right of the modified element, which we refer to as a Right Branching Direction (RBD) language. E.g. ‘The flower that you bought is very beautiful.’ In Chinese, this becomes ‘你买的花很 漂亮。’, which is a Left Branching Direction (LBD) language.’ In her lessons, and when considering such clauses, Duo gets students to think of metaphors – she tells students to imagine Chinese language or history as the Yangtze River flowing from the West to the East. Chinese people sit on the river bank facing the West (past) where the water comes from. In focusing on the time sequencing in this way, students see that in Chinese all attributives need to be out in front ‘where they can be seen’.
In contrast, she gets students to imagine Westerners sat on the river bank facing to the East (future). Thus the central word is where this Westerner is and the attributives are to the right. This approach enables students to reflect on their learning, and to grasp difficult concepts and structures. She says, ‘Interestingly, one of my students developed his own hypothesis that the ‘past is always in front’ and ‘the future is always behind’ in Chinese.

UWTSD undergraduates and Confucius Institute students sitting the HSK Chinese exams.

UWTSD undergraduates and Confucius Institute students sitting the HSK Chinese exams.

In Chinese, ‘three days ago’ is ‘三天前’ (literally, ‘three days in front’), and the word ‘未来’ (future, is literally ‘never come’). It’s a great inspiration when students are able to make these sorts of connections on their own, and demonstrate they have an understanding of both culture that influences thought, and language structure.’ L1 intervention is a challenge for every language teacher, and there are effectively two camps on the role of L1 in L2 teaching and learning. There are methodologies that explicitly encourage the use of L2 only in the classroom for maximum exposure, and others that suggest, particularly at beginner and elementary levels, using only L2 can create confusion for learners that don’t have a firm knowledge and basis in the target language.
Duo feels that teachers should take a balanced view as there are benefits on both sides – there are points where L1 should be prohibited, and times when L1 can be used effectively as a form of scaffolding.
She says, ‘As a teacher, I try to incorporate various SLA theories – it’s not about either or…for beginners L1 is important for giving classroom instruction, and for explaining intercultural differences and culturally-rooted thought processes. However, when I am teaching lexical, semantic or syntactic 3 | P a g e content, I avoid the use of L1. My interest and study of visual coding may offer a solution to help avoid the explicit use of L1 in the classroom.’
As Chinese grows in popularity as a language choice in schools throughout the world, the teaching industry faces the challenges of meeting the demand, and maintaining enthusiasm. Duo feels some of the biggest challenges revolve around the development of materials that meet the diverse needs of students. Today’s students are exposed to a much wider range of digital and visual input on a daily basis – and this is affecting how information is processed, and how languages are learned.
Duo says, ‘This calls for teachers and publishers to assess and reconsider pedagogy, and to tailor our teaching materials to accommodate this major shift in both life and learning styles among our students.’

 

Posted in Chinese Studies, Humanities Tagged with: , , , ,

Nautical Archaeology at Solent

This blog was written by Adolfo Miguel Martins, PhD student and early stage researcher in Nautical Archaeology at UWTSD Lampeter.

Garry Momber Maltd. showing the lithics

Garry Momber Maltd. showing the lithics

Situated in Solent eleven meters below surface lays an 8,000 years an old Mesolithic settlement. The archaeological site comprises in situ Mesolithic artefacts associated with a submerged landscape. Since 1999 archaeologists from the Maritime Archaeology Trust (Maltd.) have been diving on site in order to collect suitable data to reconstruct local prehistoric landscapes.

Extensive survey and excavations have been undertaken at a number of locations from which, Stone Age worked flints and Mesolithic worked timbers were found among fallen trees.

Adolfo Miguel Martins

Adolfo Miguel Martins

Last month, I, as a Marie Curie early stage researcher (ForSEAdiscovery Project EU funded PITN-GA-2013-607545) and PhD student based in Lampeter at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, collaborated with archaeologists from Maltd in the course of diving operations at the Bouldnor Cliff area V (BCV).

 

The aims consisted of inspecting the site, record relevant data and recover possible in danger artefacts. First tasks involved the adoption of digital recording techniques. Photographs were taken in way that would cover all area in order to produce a digital representation of it (photogrammetry).

adolfomartins on Sketchfab

This technique has been systematically used to record archaeological sites in the past decade. However, the method of analysis comprised a cross-over of several software merged into a single file. Capable to deliver accurate information from the BCV and at the same time provide visual information for dissemination purposes.

Miguel diving at Solent

Miguel diving at Solent

What I have experienced during a couple weeks working within a commercial environment at Maltd. gave me great pleasure and revealed to be essential to improve skills as an early stage researcher. Diving conditions in the Solent are commonly extraordinary aggressive and frequently involve dealing with strong currents and low visibility which limits the range of possible recording techniques. Despite such adverse conditions, the project aims were successfully achieved!

Expectations are obviously high when visiting such amazing sites.  One of the most rewarding moments for me happened while diving with Garry Momber (project manager). I had the chance to actually feel and touch artefacts shaped by humans 8,0000 years ago. It is moments such as these that keep me motivated to keep studying and continue my research.

 

 

Posted in Archaeology, Research, Student Life Tagged with: , , ,

Lampeter and the Atomic Bomb

The exhibition ‘Lampeter and the Atom Bomb’ illustrates the posting, in December 1947, of Lampeter Lecturer in Philosophy The Revd Raymond Renowden to Japan, when he accompanied the Emperor Hirohito on his visit to Hiroshima.

THE EMPEROR HIROHITO OF JAPAN

(1901-1989)

Hirohito, Emperor of Japan from 1926 until his death, was head of state during the Second World War, and controversy has surrounded him and his role during that conflict ever since. In reality he had very little personal power, and many historians think that he was a reluctant participant in the decisions to go to war with China, and the attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbour in 1941.

By 1945, when the defeat of Japan seemed immanent, Hirohito favoured peace negotiations, and, after the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, insisted that his country surrender.

In post-war years, he travelled throughout Japan, and visited the devastated city of Hiroshima on 7th December, 1947. Personally he was a studious man, with an international reputation as a marine biologist, publishing a number of scholarly works. His standing was recognised in 1971 with his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

 

The Revd Raymond Renowden

The Revd Raymond Renowden

THE REVEREND RAYMOND RENOWDEN

(1923-2000)

 

The son of the Revd Charles Renowden, Raymond was born in 1923. He was educated at Llandysul Grammar School and St David’s College, Lampeter, graduating with a First in Theology. During his time as an undergraduate, he served in the Home Guard, and his reminiscences of these years were published in the history of the college, A Bold Imagining, in 2002. In 1944 he joined the Army Intelligence Corps, and was posted to India, where he learned – and became fluent in – Japanese (something of which his subsequent students were totally unaware). Late in 1945 he was posted to Japan, after the surrender, and here, on 7th December 1947 he accompanied the Emperor Hirohito on his visit to Hiroshima. The area was still suffering from the effects of radiation, and these made themselves felt in his body half a century later, necessitating a serious operation. On demobilisation, Renowden resumed his academic career, firstly at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and then at Ridley Hall. After ordination, he served as a curate in Pembrokeshire (his only parochial appointment) before returning to Lampeter as Lecturer in Philosophy in 1955. Head of Department from 1957, generations of students would recall his meticulously prepared, systematic lectures, delivered with clarity and precision. In 1971 he was appointed Dean of St Asaph Cathedral, a post he held with distinction until retirement in 1992. He died in 2000, at the age of 76.

 

Posted in History, Philosophy & Ethics Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Peer Assisted Study Sessions at UWTSD Lampeter

This blog was written by Tom Butterworth, a UWTSD Philosophy student. 

PASS Leaders with their awards from the 2016 Ceremony

PASS Leaders with their awards from the 2016 Ceremony

I first heard about PASS coming to UWTSD Lampeter was when I received an email informing me that, if I wanted to, I could become a PASS leader. PASS is the Peer Assisted Study Sessions project. This was an interesting prospect as PASS seemed perfect for facilitating the learning of my fellow humanities students. PASS is unique in that the leaders (those who run the groups), do not impart knowledge but rather run sessions which act in a way like discussion groups based around the topics that either the lecturers or the students find to be tricky concepts that could do with some reinforcement.

Leaders are selected by lecturers and are then evaluated by the PASS supervisors during a training program on their ability to work in the PASS environment. This system means that lecturers can rest assured that those who are running the PASS sessions are a safe pair of hands in that they have both the knowledge and the personality best suited for the program.

Dr Mirjam Plantinga, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience), presenting one of the PASS Leaders with his award.

Dr Mirjam Plantinga, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience), presenting one of the PASS Leaders with his award.

PASS has been tested across many different universities and with many different types of courses but personally I think that it is perfectly suited to the humanities. This is due to the fact that at the heart of PASS is the idea that real progress can only happen via collaborated work. Having experienced students helping newer students sets up the right culture from the beginning for many students. This then will carry on with them throughout their careers, something I know all too well is vital in the interconnected world of the humanities.

Traditionally, PASS sessions work by having a pair of student leaders running a session for those in their first year of study, which is tied to a particular module. As mentioned previously the sessions are very flexible to suit the best interests of those who attend as well as the course.

Kate Butler and Adrian Davis, the UWTSD Lampeter PASS supervisors.

Kate Butler and Adrian Davis, the UWTSD Lampeter PASS supervisors.

For the Lampeter Campus at least, this approach has had mixed success with some PASS sessions working well with this model, while others struggled to attract the required student numbers. Interestingly the struggle to attract student numbers is a by-product of one of Lampeter’s greatest strengths: our fantastic student-to-lecturer ratios. In many universities PASS does well as it allows students to access reliable sources when it is almost impossible to get in contact with lecturers. In Lampeter we do not have that problem at all, which in turn means one of the greatest ways for PASS to retain student numbers has been lost. But this then means that we must adapt the PASS sessions to better suit Lampeter’s unique situation. One possible way is to offer a more structured format, such as a reading group, which is more integrated within the program of study, still optional but seen as a more integral part of the university experience, another possibility is to run it as a drop-in-session where students can come and go as they please over a session.

In conclusion, PASS is still in its infancy at UWTSD and has plenty of room to grow, adapt and prosper as time goes on. We are looking more and more into new ways of working with the various schools, and addressing new and interesting ways to boost the student experience, as well as create a culture in which students helping other students becomes increasingly normalised.

Posted in Humanities, Student Life Tagged with: , , , , ,

Living in China – the journey of a UWTSD alumnus

This blog was written by Scott Gerard, a UWTSD BA Chinese Studies graduate (2014), who went to China to study at postgraduate level. 

Scott has now graduated from Wuhan University with a Masters in Applied Economics. Congratulations, Scott!

Scott has now graduated from Wuhan University with a Masters in Applied Economics. Congratulations, Scott!

When I first arrived in China in 2013, I was too nervous to talk to most Chinese and try new small exciting food in restaurants. Fast forward 3 years and I’m graduating with a master’s degree in economics from a 211 university (in Chinese terms a university that is 211 or 985 is a very good Chinese university).

My first time in China was 6 months as an exchange student in Beijing during my degree; I had such a great experience there that I had to come back by any means. I applied and won a Chinese government scholarship and with guidance selected Wuhan as my new Chinese city.

image4The last two years in Wuhan  have been amazing for me. I made many Chinese and international friends. I have tried so much outstanding cuisine at very cheap prices (my favourite was Wuhan’s very own re gan mian, or hot dry noodles in a sesame paste for about 40 pence).

I travelled all around China very easily on their fantastic and vastly growing and improving infrastructure and saw many people, sites and cities. Despite the culture, the cuisine, the places all being fantastic, I think the main reason I love China is the people.

Chinese people are so friendly and will go out their way to help foreigners, they will tell you good places to go, where the best local restaurants are, invite you to eat a lot, invite you to go drink and play mah Jiang a lot, and if you want to learn Chinese they will be patient and try to help you.

image2

In the Chinese New Year I was invited to 3 different Chinese  friends’ hometowns, all fed me to bursting point and gave me various Chinese  spirits to enjoy with them! To be invited in at such an important time for Chinese people everywhere was an honour for me.

Sometimes China is presented badly in the media, but in regards to the people and the country nothing could be further from the truth.

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Posted in Chinese Studies Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Archaeological Discoveries at Llanllyr – Nuns, Trees and 3D Technology

 

This blog was written by Dr Jemma Bezant, UWTSD Lecturer in Archaeology, and a member of the excavation team at Llanllyr Mansion.

Dr Jemma Bezant

Dr Jemma Bezant

They say every good archaeologist has a wish list. A list of fabulous, intriguing and exciting places where great archaeology is sure to be found. Llanllyr is one such site and has been on my particular wish list for a long, long while. Recently we have been fortunate to start tentative investigations here – partly in collaboration with Dyfed Archaeological Trust and Cadw, but also with the input of international researchers – historians, timber experts and archaeology students from UWTSD Lampeter.

To those in the know, Llanllyr is renowned as the site of a rare female monastic house, founded by the legendary Lord Rhys ap Gruffydd in the late 12th century. He patronised the famed Cistercian Strata Florida Abbey and endowed them with extensive upland sheep granges in the Cambrian Mountains – the largest monastic holding in the country. Annual excavations here since 2004 have established a rich and complex monastic precinct set into a dramatic and historic mountain landscape of farms and fells.

Data from all of the archaeological excavations and surveys are kept in a Project GIS (Geographic Information System). Lidar data show here is at 1m resolution supplied by Environment Agency. This has been processed to supply a hillshade bitmap based on topographical heights. You can see rectangular and linear features within the overgrown 'fishponds' area circled in red.

Data from all of the archaeological excavations and surveys are kept in a Project GIS (Geographic Information System). Lidar data show here is at 1m resolution supplied by Environment Agency. This has been processed to supply a hillshade bitmap based on topographical heights. You can see rectangular and linear features within the overgrown ‘fishponds’ area circled in red.

 

The modest Llanllyr estate is nestled in the beautiful green Welsh hills just a 10-minute cycle from the coast and Cardigan Bay. How, and where, the female community lived is a tantalising mystery – this kind of detail is poorly recorded by annals and texts so archaeology can help us answer some of these fundamental questions. Who were these nuns and where did they live? Did they have elaborate monastic cloisters, mills, chapter houses, a fine church? Did they farm – did they mix with local secular communities – how did they relate to their ‘mother house’ at Strata Florida?

Discovery

It was during joint excavations of the early mansion site in 2014 between UWTSD and Dyfed Archaeological Trust, that another exciting discovery caught our attention…

Aerial Lidar survey of an enclosed area nearby had showed that there were a series of mysterious linear banks masked by mature trees.  At the base of a deep ditch next to this area, a chance discovery of some oak timber fragments led to the interesting prospect of the very first evidence for medieval activity anywhere on the site.

 

The 800 year old timber structure - the timber 'cover' has been recorded and removed. Dendrochronological analysis will continue in order to refine the dating even further

The 800 year old timber structure – the timber ‘cover’ has been recorded and removed. Dendrochronological analysis will continue in order to refine the dating even further

Dendrochronological analysis of some of these timbers by Dr Rod Bale at UWTSD Lampeter Archaeology Labs showed that the trees used to construct this structure had been growing over 900 years ago! This was indeed a medieval timber structure – the wet conditions had prevented the wood from decaying over time and this was a very rare and significant find.

Excavation

A team from Lampeter with experience in wetland archaeology and the recovery and analysis of archaeological timbers decided that further excavation was in order, to prevent any potential damage to the structure by drain clearance, and to recover more information about the age and function of the structure. What was it and just how old was it?

Figure 1 Lots of archaeological head scratching: Left to right, 1st year archaeology student, Tanith McGarry takes notes next to PhD Andrew Peters who discovered the initial timber fragments in 2014. Visiting timber expert, dendrochronologist and Marie Curie Fellow, Peter Groenendijk from Wageningen University in the Netherlands is next to Dr Jemma Bezant of UWTSD who is ‘supervising’. And UWTSD Professor of Archaeology, dendrochronologist, timber and shipwreck expert, Nigel Nayling is in the hole doing all the hard work!

Figure 1 Lots of archaeological head scratching: Left to right, 1st year archaeology student, Tanith McGarry takes notes next to PhD Andrew Peters who discovered the initial timber fragments in 2014. Visiting timber expert, dendrochronologist and Marie Curie Fellow, Peter Groenendijk from Wageningen University in the Netherlands is next to Dr Jemma Bezant of UWTSD who is ‘supervising’. And UWTSD Professor of Archaeology, dendrochronologist, timber and shipwreck expert, Nigel Nayling is in the hole doing all the hard work!

During May 2016, an archaeological excavation project allowed part of the timber structure to be carefully uncovered, recorded and dismantled before the individual pieces were removed to the specialist facilities at the Lampeter laboratories. The structure resembled a box-like wooden drain, made of finely worked oak timbers with radially-split planks on the base and a thicker timber cover. The workmanship and timber suggested a high status and complex object – typical perhaps of the kind of water management that the Cistercians were so famous for but so rarely survives.

Figure 2 A scale drawing of the timber structure. The sturdy side rails are large quartered oak timbers severla metres long. The base boards are finely worked, radially-split oak planks - crafted using similar techniques to coopering or barrel-making. These came from mature, slow-growing oak trees – a prized resource. J Bezant.

Figure 2 A scale drawing of the timber structure. The sturdy side rails are large quartered oak timbers severla metres long. The base boards are finely worked, radially-split oak planks – crafted using similar techniques to coopering or barrel-making. These came from mature, slow-growing oak trees – a prized resource. J Bezant.

Had we located, in fact, part of a Cistercian fishpond complex, part of a complicated water supply system, or something else – a mill mechanism?

This discovery is a uniquely rare opportunity to look at the lives of monastic communities hundreds of years ago. But careful analysis of the palaeoenvironmental record and the tree ring data can also show us how timber was supplied, stored and worked with adze and axe. How were woodland landscapes managed – how and where the trees were grown and harvested for use in a wide range of purposes and functions from making barrels to store food, to shipbuilding for coastal and international trade.

Further analysis is ongoing and the team will be able to refine
the dating, investigate the historical context further and look at palaeoenvironmental samples for more information.

Figure 3 Dr Rod Bale is recording one of the side rail timbers using 3D engineering technology. You can see the Faro Arm is recording minute detail about timber grain, tool marks, knots, holes and joints –the 3D model being constructed on the monitor live. The timbers will be ‘fitted’ back together digitally and reconstructed in virtual space as a research and teaching tool.

Figure 3 Dr Rod Bale is recording one of the side rail timbers using 3D engineering technology. You can see the Faro Arm is recording minute detail about timber grain, tool marks, knots, holes and joints –the 3D model being constructed on the monitor live. The timbers will be ‘fitted’ back together digitally and reconstructed in virtual space as a research and teaching tool.

Posted in Archaeology, Medieval Studies, Research Tagged with: , , , ,

The Somme Centenary at UWTSD

This blog was written by Flora McNerney, a UWTSD third-year student in Anthropology and English, who was a member of the team that worked on the material for the exhibition. Flora was the Lampeter Campus Students’ Union President in 2014/15.

The Catalogue of the Somme Exhibition in the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives.

The Catalogue of the Somme Exhibition in the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives.

This year a number of third-year students embarked upon a project within the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives to uncover the stories of men who had studied at St. David’s College and fought at the Battle of Somme during World War I.

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) was formed on 18 November 2010 through the merger of the University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College Carmarthen, under Lampeter’s Royal Charter of 1828.

On the 1 August 2013, Swansea Metropolitan University became part of UWTSD. St David’s College was the original name of the University under the Royal Charter of 1828.

WWI is an historic event which we are all taught about and know the basic facts of, but this project gave all of us who curated it a very different insight into the war; it became a personal insight.

Graduates on Degree Day, 1914.

Graduates on Degree Day, 1914.

 

We discovered what these men, while they were students did in their spare time, how academic they were, whether they fitted the student stereotype of drinking their bodyweight in beer or not; we researched their families and where the men had come from, what sort of background they were from.

 

Thomas Oliver Thomas

Thomas Oliver Thomas

For me it was like getting to know them; I felt very much that I got to know Thomas Thomas, the man that I researched, and it was very saddening to follow his life for the short 22 years that he was alive. While building this picture of Thomas, I not only researched him but also looked into his family life and the losses they suffered during the war.

There were students who fought and died at the Somme and there were students who survived and returned to Lampeter to complete their studies. It was interesting to support and follow my colleagues as they pieced together the stories of these men who returned, searching for post-war college photographs, researching their time fighting and their return to studies. Those who returned led the way with ensuring that their fellow St. David’s College students who had died were remembered officially.

The project was a really excellent opportunity to explore the archives and discover just how much research there still is to be done in all sorts of areas. The archived material in the Roderic Bowen is extensive. For the period we were researching, the college magazines, registers and newspapers held a wealth of information about society and life in rural Wales, as well as life at the university. Having access to such wonderful primary materials was a great experience, at times when using newspapers we were required to do some detective work to ascertain the accuracy of what had been printed which in turn taught us valuable lessons in not always believing what you read in the papers!

St. David’s College Students, Ex-service Men, 1918-19

St. David’s College Students, Ex-service Men, 1918-19

One of the main things that has struck me whilst researching for this project has been the awareness that this only happened a hundred years ago. For my generation it is the story of our great grandparents, the story of our parent’s grandparents and for me when I think of it like that it really wasn’t that long ago:  yet life has changed so very much in that hundred years. It is important to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives during 1915-1918, and this project really drove home the human reality of that sacrifice which I think left its mark on all of us.

From July the research by UWTSD students will be put on display as part of an exhibit which has been put together to remember the Battle of Somme and the college students who fought. The project was part of the practical third-year module ‘Roderic Bowen: Archives and Research’, which is available to all third-year students and is an introduction to working and researching in archives in practice.

The Roderic Bowen Library and Archives houses the Special Collections of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, the University’s oldest printed books, manuscripts and archives and is one of the principal resources for academic research in Wales. You can find out more about the RBLA and its exhibitions here.

Posted in History, Humanities, Research, Student Life Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

UWTSD PhD student at archaeological dig in Lindisfarne

This blog was written by Heather Para, a UWTSD PhD student in Archaeology, who took part in the dig.

Lindisfarne Priory

Lindisfarne Priory

The history of Lindisfarne is as dramatic and mysterious as the landscape.  Windswept and remote, the island was home to Aidan and Cuthbert, the place where the Lindisfarne Gospels were created, and, unfortunately, the landing place for the eighth century Vikings who laid waste to the monastery and, so we believed, drove the inhabitants from the island for hundreds of years until, in the twelfth century enthusiasm of monastic expansion, a new priory was built.

My fascination with Lindisfarne began with reading Bede, who wrote about it in his Ecclesiastical History. Aidan founded the monastery in 634, not long after Oswald defeated Cadwallader and made himself king of Northumbria. Oswald was a Christian, and wanted to convert his subjects, so to that end he sent to Iona for Christians to spread their beliefs. Aidan settled his Irish monks at Lindisfarne as it reminded them of their home at Iona, and it was in close proximity to the king at nearby Bamburgh castle.2

Things went well for the monks of Lindisfarne for 150 years or so. Then the Vikings came, and the invaders plundered the monastery and murdered the monks. Repeated violent attacks followed the first. In desperation, the surviving monks fled to the mainland, eventually settling in Durham. Lindisfarne stood empty until the twelfth century, when the stone priory was built for a new Benedictine cell from Durham. This monastery survived until the Dissolution of the 1530s, when it was closed down and the buildings were then used as military storehouses. The location of the first monastery, the one of Aidan and Cuthbert’s time, remains unknown. The buildings were made of wood, probably with stone foundations, and may have been burned during the Viking raids.

Digventures, a commercial, crowd-funded archaeological company, in cooperation with Durham University, scheduled a dig to hopefully locate the Anglo Saxon monastery. Referring to geophysics done previously, three trenches were positioned to intersect with possible structural material below the surface. Subscribers turned up to participate in the process, learning field methods, to include using the Digventures Digital Dig Team system, which allows minute by minute recording of the findings of the project, all accessible online as it is developing in the trenches.  Some participants are archaeology students, ranging from undergrads to research students; and some are folks who had no prior field experience, but fancied having a hands-on taste of life as an archaeologist.

A fragment of an Anglo Saxon bone comb

A fragment of an Anglo Saxon bone comb

Just a few days into the dig, a fragment of an Anglo Saxon bone comb was unearthed. It was tentatively determined to originate in the ninth or tenth century, a period of time when Lindisfarne was thought to have been abandoned. This raises questions about what was really happening on the island during those interim years, and hopefully further discoveries will shed more light.  I spent much of my week digging out an Anglo Saxon structure. Areas of burned stone and charcoal inside the structure, plus iron slag and nails point at it being some kind of work area. You can check out a short video of the first suggestions of something exciting underfoot here!

Heather at the dig.

Heather at the dig.

The idea of a continued monastic presence on the island has some relation to questions I am asking about the landholdings of Strata Florida Abbey here in Wales, albeit in a later period. Do lands tend to be used in the same or similar ways, and do people tend to stay with their lands, regardless who controls the land itself? Were the people living on and working the land, already in place before the monastery received the land grant in the twelfth century? Did these families stay during the monastic period? Did they stay through the dissolution of the monastery, and if so, how did it affect them? Did these families grow in power as they obtained parcels of this previously monastic land? I am hoping to determine the answers to these questions as they relate to a specific grange belonging to Strata Florida.

Making connections between early monastic life and that happening in the later medieval period is intriguing. Filling some of  the holes in our knowledge of Anglo Saxon and early medieval monasticism, possibly finding evidence of continuity of occupancy, and learning more about early monastic estates through the material record as well as documentary sources, generates more questions to ask, and that’s one of the greatest things about archaeology, isn’t it?

 

Moments at the dig

Moments at the dig

Spending a week with Digventures was an invaluable experience for me as I was able to immediately see the importance of continued field work to add to our knowledge of monastic history. I also enjoyed the time spent with colleagues as passionate about the subject as I am.  I am a distance learner doing my PhD from the US, and although I work from afar, I have felt quite connected to my supervisors and my program. I visit Lampeter two times per year, which helps me feel involved and supported. Despite the attentiveness of my supervisors and the department at large, and the kindness of the campus staff and my colleagues, there is no substitute for spending time amongst others in my field for making me feel like part of the academic and archaeological community in the UK, and a part of a larger, global effort within the field. I have made lifelong friendships during this adventure, and I have learned a great deal from the staff of Digventures, most notably Nigel Steel, whose endless patience and detailed explanations made working with him a true pleasure.

Check out the Lindisfarne portal on the Digventures website to follow the dig as it continues.

 

Posted in Archaeology, Research, Student Life Tagged with: , , , , ,

Medieval Re-enactment at Beeston castle

This blog was written by Lewis Calvert-Lee, one of our Medieval Studies students, recently took part in the reenactment of the siege at Beeston castle.

‘This weekend (4th – 5th June) I was at Beeston Castle taking part in a siege. The re-enactment group present was Historia Normannis (a medieval re-enactment group that portrays the period from 1066-1215).

Assaulting the Keep, Lewis had been 'killed' at this point and his feet can be seen bottom right. Photo courtesy of Dave Pilling.

Assaulting the Keep, Lewis had been ‘killed’ at this point and his feet can be seen bottom right. Photo courtesy of Dave Pilling.

The brother of a powerful Welsh Prince had been kidnapped by the Castellan of Beeston and Prince Rhys had summoned an army to rescue him. The Castellan was hosting a tournament in celebration of his victory, when the Welsh army arrived and stormed the outer-gates. The English drew back to the Gatehouse and successfully defended the castle until the Welsh threw fire onto the English forcing them to retreat further into the Castle. Finally the English made a valiant last stand at the keep surviving wave upon wave of Welsh attackers until they were relieved to see that the Earl of Chester had sent a relief column to their aid. With the Welsh forces surrounded, the Prince was captured and “re-united” with his brother in the castle dungeons.

Lewis (Centre) and other Welsh tribesmen. Photo courtesy of Dave Pilling.

Lewis (Centre) and other Welsh tribesmen. Photo courtesy of Dave Pilling.

I was portraying a Welsh tribesman (with the “target shield”) and through the blistering heat was forced to assault the castle leading to my eventual demise at the point of a spear.

The event was amazing with pyrotechnics and siege engines being used to great effect, the weather was scorching and made me thankful I didn’t have to climb the hill in chainmail, like many of the lords and knights had to.

If anyone is interested in joining Historia Normannis, we have a Lampeter branch that can be found on Facebook.

Historia Normanis Lampeter Facebook group: Join up!

Historia Normanis Lampeter Facebook group: Join up!

Posted in Medieval Studies, Student Life Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Shaping Welsh identity? – Egyptian Objects and their biographies as medium of intangible heritage

The blog below was written by UWTSD Senior Lecturer in Egyptian Archaeology and Heritage, Dr Katharina Zinn.

Dr Katharina Zinn

Dr Katharina Zinn

There is a dream of anyone working in a museum to find a forgotten object or even an overlooked collection. Amazingly this dream has come true for me, twice. But once the first excitement has settled, problems arise very rapidly. Where do the objects come from and how did they get here are the obvious questions. But what they meant to their collectors, and to people today, is even more tricky.

Archaeological excavations provide a set stage; excavated objects come with a context, the cultural environment is (at least partially) self-explanatory and the provenance settled. In contrast, cases of “secondary archaeology” in museums pose many more questions than the researcher is readily able to answer. Just what do Egyptian artifacts mean in Wales?

Cyfarthfa Castle Museums and Art Gallery

Cyfarthfa Castle Museums and Art Gallery

This is my experience from the second of these wonderful discoveries; a project which started in 2012 with the regional community museum Cyfarthfa Castle Museums and Art Gallery in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, some 24 miles north of Cardiff . A small, but fine, ancient Egyptian collection was re-discovered in the storage rooms in 2011, nearly 100 years after having been donated to the museum. Such events of “secondary archaeology” are more common in community museums, which are usually understood to be the medium of expression of a local identity.

 

Such museums frequently become the repository of exotic objects from faraway places, often acquired in the 19th century as part of imperial exploration. Residents travelled the world and brought objects home either as souvenirs or in attempts to set up private collections of exotica. Their heirs later donated these wonderfully weird objects to the local museum, where some of them were later disremembered.

 

After a long period of focussing on large(r) or national museums when looking at ancient items, more visitors and scholars are now becoming aware of these local community museums due to the wider heritage discussion. The most prominent artefact belonging to such a private collection and then a local museum is likely the Fifth Dynasty Northampton Statue of Sekhemka.

Fifth Dynasty Northampton Statue of Sekhemka

Mummy head

This statue was acquired in Egypt 1849/50 by the Spencer Compton, the second Marquis of Northampton and in the late 19th century presented to the Northampton Museum. After decades of relative neglect the statue was controversially sold by the museum in 2014 for £15.76 million in order to finance other local heritage projects. But the sale to an unnamed foreign buyer was then held an under export ban until early 2016 pending another bid, which has not materialised.

 

While some of the re-discovered objects from Merthyr Tydfil are very fascinating for the public, aspects of how they are exhibited are ethically questionable, such as the Mummy Head, others such as the Stelophor of Hwy are of interest for their contribution to Egyptological discussions.

Stelophor of Hwy

Stelophor of Hwy

All of these objects, however, become especially fascinating when we look at their full heritage and write their object biographies from their ancient origins, through their discovery and until today . Today, they are, in a sense, part Welsh.

 

Being commissioned by the museum to demonstrate the intangible Welsh heritage of these objects, it has been necessary for me to create as detailed as possible a biography for each object, from its production in ancient Egypt, through to its collection in the late 19th and early 20th century AD, and finally to a modern reception and understanding.

 

ill 5Egyptian artefacts are fighting for attention in the midst of an array of objects explicitly demonstrating their Welshness: Welsh rugby exhibits, taxidermy, the Eisteddfod chair (in which the winner of the annual festival of Welsh music, dance, visual arts, and literature sit while receiving their awards), several Hoover washing machines (Hoover being the main factory in Merthyr Tydfil up until 2009) and above all mining artefacts and installations reflecting the main industry of the area.

 

 

How might we expect Egyptian objects to connect Ancient Egypt and Wales today? The answer to this is the narrative created around them – either already inherent in their object biography or by actively incorporated into the life of the museum audience and students through storytelling.

 

ill 6The Egyptian objects must have reached the museum between 1911 and 1930s. Most had once formed the private collection of Harry Hartley Southey (1871-1917), son of a local Welsh newspaper magnate, who collected them when stationed in Egypt. As a “son of the town” from a more prosperous period, local audiences and others with regional ancestry can relate to Southey and his collection. Southey binds Welsh identity and Egypt together.

 

But nothing is known about the objects’ acquisition and consequently we do not know their provenance. This has required a new approach, one which satisfied the widely spread stakeholders (museum, county council, community, student bodies, higher education institution, and myself as an Egyptological researcher).

“Triad” of Osiris, Isis and Horus

“Triad” of Osiris, Isis and Horus

One example to describe the necessity of such a combined approach is the “Triad” of Osiris, Isis and Horus . These three figurines were mounted on a plinth in modern times (end of 19th, beginning of 20th century AD), as shown by the label underneath referring to the antiquities dealer R. H. Blanchard who approved the authenticity of this object .

It is known that Southey had been befriended by a curator of an Egyptian museum, so it seems likely that Blanchard provided some objects for his collection.

Research revealed however, that the figurines grouped together did not originally form a triad until they were mounted together in the 19th/20th century. What we would today call a forgery was then a legitimate attempt to raise profit. However, it is the fact that the child (Horus) was incorrectly placed in the middle, where we would actually expect Osiris to be, which makes this group interesting. When this was revealed in exhibitions and via outreach, the Welsh audience took to them immediately, having previously overlooked the object.ill 7

 

The heritage of this object, the idea of mounting figures together when the Welsh collector bought it, was the most interesting fact in the eyes of visitors. It made the object personal and moved it from a distant past into the more personal realm of visitors, whose grandparents either had known the family or read the Merthyr Express, the newspaper owned by Southey’s father. The ability to personally relate with the triad was enhanced with the excitement of an exotic object.

 

The narrative surrounding the object and the storytelling, as a means to engage with the past, are two ways we can promote and enchant the objects. It transfers them from the realm of non-cared-for and unloved objects – lost, forgotten, misplaced or unloved – into a sphere of recognized cultural value.

 

To achieve this, it is important that the object dictates the narrative. It is necessary to engage with objects and different audiences, to bring out “frivolous” dimensions (here, the potential to be called a fake) while at the same time being serious about them. This will connect the past and present, the researcher with the audience, the misplaced object with its new identity. In this way, each museum can use storytelling as engagement with the objects as magnet. Some of the discovered items are now incorporated in the permanent exhibition of the museum at Cyfartha Castle and are highlights. Local schools today typically request for specific Egyptian-themed activities such as mummification and hieroglyph writing.

 

In addition to the local audience, the project contributes substantially to the “out of the classroom experience” of students studying at University of Wales Trinity Saint David on 5 different programmes. At the same time they enable students to develop transferable skills and closely adhere to the subjects, whilst also promoting a Welsh identity/heritage to their study. The same students and work with school children and the wider local community connect these artefacts with the national curriculum.

UWTSD students that worked with the objects from the Cyfarthfa Castle Museums and Art Gallery, at the exhibition in the UWTSD Roderic Bowen Library and Archives.

UWTSD students that worked with the objects from the Cyfarthfa Castle Museums and Art Gallery, at the exhibition in the UWTSD Roderic Bowen Library and Archives.

The wider resonance of these methods lies in the raised awareness of the heritage of objects as much as their place of origin. This caring can easily be elevated beyond the regional context of Wales and Egypt an  transferred to other parts of the world. This approach can even be used in Egypt, where some important historical eras are not fully understood as part of the nation’s cultural heritage.

This blog post was originally published at ASOR Blog.

Posted in Ancient World, Archaeology, Research, Student Life Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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