I began this project with research into museum storage facilities, which led me to a collection of Paleolithic stone tools, excavated around Mount Carmel, in the former territory of Palestine, in the 1920s and 30s. Once useful and functional objects for the people who lived there, they are now preserved in museum drawers as relics of human history and archaeological discovery. The placement of these objects in museum storage can be seen as part of an ongoing process of re-definition and a changing interpretation of status and value, as they are held over centuries by different individuals and institutions. They are a reminder of the relationship humans have always had with their material environment and the landscape which surrounds us, and how that relationship has changed since these objects were first shaped by human hands. As with many of the artefacts cared for by British museums, they are also a reminder of Britain’s past and present relationships with the world beyond its borders.
Excavations was exhibited at the University of Westminster in 2017. These images were shown alongside fieldwork photographs made by Dorothy Garrod, who led the excavations, around the sites where these objects were unearthed. Her photographs were reproduced for the exhibition with the kind permission of the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. This project would also not have been possible without the assistance and support of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, where these photographs were made.
Excavations at the University of Westminster