Instant expert

March 25, 2005

Our monthly guide to some of the conferences taking place around the world

Conference: Archaeology at the Interface, Bradford University, April 13-16

What's it about?

This is the 2005 UK Archaeological Science conference, hosted by the university's department of archaeological sciences, which will excavate and record the places where archaeology meets with different scientific disciplines.

Fees: £45 full fee, £20 for single day, £15 surcharge for late registration.

Dig it: There are almost 50 presentations ranging from The interface between science and fiction - A view from a duffle coat through to Evidence for winter foddering with seaweed in the Neolithic of Scotland . And it gathers ideas under broader themes such as Diet and diversity and The life cycle of the artefact .

Revisionism: Do your homework to impress. When someone mentions Niah Cave, don't say: "Isn't he that goth with the spiky hair who sang with Kylie Minogue?" Instead we're talking about caves in Sarawak where there's evidence of human habitation going back 40,000 years. These are going to be the subject of in-depth discussion, with six presentations. Admittedly, Nick Cave was probably making records 40,000 years ago, but so far he's resisted archaeological investigation.

Booze clues: Pots within pots: The practice of grog-tempering and social networks in and around the Aegean . This presentation must be worth it just to be able to use the phrase "grog-tempering".

Scrabble among the ruins: When the talk turns to 'taphonomy' , in the context of the Niah Cave, don't look like people are making up words to clear their Scrabble racks. It's the science of how plants and animals die and become fossilised. Duh! And when you hear about The hidden life of Nicaraguan chert artefacts , don't think it's about tie-dyeing. We're talking about a type of flint.

Hangover horror: "Unravelling the mystery of collagen degradation helps to reveal the horrors of the 'live steam' defleshing method." Almost any part of that sentence is unsettling for delegates suffering from an overdose of the conference vino Vesuvius .

Conference outing: Delegates can join a guided tour of the Victorian mill village of Saltaire, founded by textile magnate, Sir Titus Salt, and now a Unesco world heritage site. Can you imagine being the tour guide?

You're making a few cheerful historical generalisations, when you find you've got a coach party of archaeologists who have spent the day arguing about "lead isotope ratios as a means of identifying anthropogenic sources of lead in archaeological soils".

Dress sense: Hopefully there will be some. Time Team has given archaeologists a dreadful reputation for awful jumpers, giant sideburns and haircuts that have escaped from a Slade reunion. There have been funding bids to uncover the origins of some of the older clothes appearing on Time Team .

Blanket cover: Delegates are offered rooms in the university's hall of residence for £20 a night or, for £56 a night, they can experience the Babylonian excess of the Holiday Inn Express.

Rice age: There's no escaping the claim to fame of the conference venue. Bradford might have the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, and there might be memories of J. B. Priestley walking the moors, but it's a city that's most famous for its abundance of curry houses. And if delegates go out for a meal and are feeling romantic, rarely can there have been so many dating experts sitting around a single table.

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