City museum see students ‘digging into the Dark Ages.'

Posted on 11th December 2017

A series of archaeological lectures, run by students at the University of Chester, will return to the city’s Grosvenor Museum this Wednesday (December 13).

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall. The site of an early medieval (5th-7th-century) high-status citadel and trading centre, it hit the headlines last year when its re-branding by English Heritage was criticised by Cornish heritage groups and medieval historians.  English Heritage describe the early medieval phases as ‘Dark Age’ and market the site’s Arthurian legendary associations.
Tintagel Castle, Cornwall. The site of an early medieval (5th-7th-century) high-status citadel and trading centre, it hit the headlines last year when its re-branding by English Heritage was criticised by Cornish heritage groups and medieval historians. English Heritage describe the early medieval phases as ‘Dark Age’ and market the site’s Arthurian legendary associations.

Digging into the Dark Ages:  The Third University of Chester Archaeology Student Conference will explore the Early Middle Ages (the 5th to 11th centuries AD) – a period in history which is still sometimes referred to as the ‘Dark Ages’. However, the years between the end of Roman rule and the Norman Conquest were far from ‘dark’. Archaeology has increasingly revealed the era’s complex and diverse societies. 

This Conference will explore and critique present-day uses and abuses of the ‘Dark Ages’ in politics and popular culture. Talks by the final-year Archaeology undergraduates will address a range of topics from television shows to heritage sites, from horned helmets to political appropriations of early medieval runic symbols. The Conference will also seek to identify new strategies by which archaeologists can engage communities in the Early Middle Ages.

In addition to the talks by students themselves, two special guest speakers have been secured. Dr Chiara Bonacchi, is a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, and a public archaeologist; and Dr Adrián Maldonado from the University of Glasgow’s School of Humanities, is an early medieval archaeologist, who also has a sustained and active profile in public engagement.

It is the first student-led conference at the University of Chester to have support from the Academic Strand of the Cestrian Award, which is funded by alumni of the University, to support activities that have an academic focus, which are led by students specifically. The students themselves successfully applied for the maximum amount and members of the Alumni Association’s Executive  Committee were very impressed with their application.

Howard Williams, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Chester, said: “Tackling popular culture’s ‘historical’ and ‘fantasy’ portrayals of the period and the way material culture is envisioned in these fictional accounts, from Vikings to The Lord of the Rings, the Conference seeks to get final-year Archaeology students and special guest speakers to ‘dig’ critically into the 5th to 11th centuries AD and consider critically how the Early Middle Ages is portrayed and used in the present.

“We are grateful to the Grosvenor Museum for hosting the Conference, and to our guest speakers for supporting the event too. The Conference will be free, open to all, and we welcome archaeologists, historians and other specialists with an interest in the Early Middle Ages from near and far.”

Digging into the Dark Ages:  The Third University of Chester Archaeology Student Conference takes place at the Lecture Theatre in the Grosvenor Museum, 27 Grosvenor Street, Chester, on Wednesday, December 13, between 9am and 5pm. It is a free, non-ticketed event and all are welcome.

More information can be found at: http://events.westcheshiremuseums.co.uk/event/digging-into-the-dark-ages-the-3rd-university-of-chester-archaeology-student-conference/