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The ephemeral inscriptions of Caithness

Ntzani, Dimitra ORCID: and Barber, John 2014. The ephemeral inscriptions of Caithness. Presented at: Reading and Exhibiting Nature International Conference,, London, 7-9 Feb 2014.

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In the northeast of Scotland, in the county of Caithness, local volunteers are invited to “read the landscape”. In a public engagement program, AOC_Archaeology teaches archaeological practices to members of the local community. These outdoor workshops use the old “reading” memory metaphor (Aristotle, 1908; Cicero, 1954; Freud, 1925; Krell, 1990) to forge non-invasive relations between the local population and the fragmented archaeological remains and to inscribe new cultural practices upon Caithness moorlands. The volunteers are challenged to re-inhabit their landscape and to interpret ambiguous archaeological remains called Ephemera. (David & Wilson, 1999; Fowler, 2000). The ephemera (Barber, 2001) are obscure and scattered traces of human activity surviving from the Bronze Ages through to the Post-Medieval periods, which are constantly transformed by the erosion of time, the encroachment of peat and by current land management. AOC-archaeologists challenge the locals to “read the landscape” and to unravel the “time depth” of its ephemeral engravings. Locals establish new places of interest, rediscover old tracks and trails and gently carve new inscriptions as part of this emergent cultural practice. In Caithness moorlands, two kinds of “reading” take place: the distanced reading of the expert and the embedded sensory-rich reading of teams of experts combined with local apprentices. Caithness landscape is here examined as an infinite database of memory traces, a palimpsest of old and new signs inscribed upon this overused writing pad. The paper investigates how the “reading” metaphor affects locals’ interaction with their landscape as part of their cultural heritage (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980).

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Architecture
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2023 15:13

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