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Michael Shanks - archaeologist at Stanford

This is one of my three main web sites - see also

mshanks.com - blog - all things archaeological | archaeographer.com - photography

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Edlingham, Northumberland UK


Archaeologists do not discover the past; they work on what remains. Archaeology is about our relationships with what is left of the past.

My archaeology began, and continues, in the Roman borders of the north of England and Scotland, exploring Hadrian's Wall, the great medieval city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, then north through the heartland of Celtic Christianity and the landscapes of Walter Scott. I have also specialized in studying the first Greek cities in the Mediterranean (ten years and more looking through the lens of ceramics and urban design), as well as early farming societies and their monuments in Wessex and Sweden - new models and stories of early agriculture, the first cities and empires, long term social and cultural trends, and how making things is at the heart of the human condition.

Archaeology - design research

Pragmatogony - the geneaology of things - where things come from

These are two topics that fascinate me. Because making and using things makes us who we are. This fascination lies behind my research into ancient Greek perfume jars, as well as archaeologies of the contemporary past - beer cans, and cars. Practice-based research - my contribution to our d.school (The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design) and The Revs Program at Stanford brings archaeological perspectives to bear on innovative industrial design, and on creativity in general, where the best of design studios is a kind of museum - a home of the creative Muses. My own lab or studio at Stanford is called Metamedia.

Understanding creativity and innovation

I have also always adored the company of artists - my wife Helen works in ceramics (see some of her fabulous work here - [link]). I have had the privilege of working with some wonderful talents - notably Mike Pearson, who founded Brith Gof, Lynn Hershman Leeson and the members of the Presence Project. I think that the Arts and Humanities can be a fascinating research laboratory, helping us think freshly about how we have got to be where we are - and what we might do about it.

Above all, perhaps, I am currently enjoying a renewed childhood with my children Molly and Ben, who forever remind me to wonder at the most mundane of things, and to connect our fascination with the past with the legacies we leave behind for the future.

We are all archaeologists now ...

More of this manifesto in the archaeological imagination - [link]



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Chillingham, Northumberland UK


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