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Showing posts from July, 2013

Spectacular Skies in the Haute-Loire

Mountain regions are known for their extreme weather. Although the Massif Central, where I am right now on fieldwork, isn't full of towering peaks like the Alps, it is a very extensive and high plateau. The fieldstation here is at about 975m above sea level, and the highest hills nearby rise to over 1600m (there's a ski resort too!).
This means that summer temperatures are slightly lower than other parts of southern France (I'm grateful not to be in 36 degree sauna conditions in Bordeaux at the moment), but it is still hot, up to about 28 degrees, with cooler evenings. This creates complex interactions in air masses, and a lot of storms. We've had torrential cloud-bursts some days, and others very impressive thunder & lightning storms. All this produces some dramatic skies, and most afternoons you can see the ominous masses marching towards you well before the thunder is audible.
Here are some photos of the changing skies here, including some calmer moments. I'…

Day of Archaeology 2013

Yesterday was this year's Day of Archaeology, a global blogging event where archaeologists write about what they're doing.
2011 and 2012's blogs both had posts from me, and this year's is an explanation of what I'm doing on the TRACETERRE project. Go on over for a read, plus some new photos from the field station here. And while you're there, check out the hundred of other excellent posts, from people working in all kinds of research areas all over the world (well, maybe not Antarctica...).
Another postdoc update post will be coming here before long too!

Wildlife Interlude: butterflies and moths in the southern Haute Loire

Part of the joy of fieldwork is travelling to new landscapes, and discovering new and wonderful things: geology, scents, local foods, architecture and of course wildlife. There's a lot going on just around the field station where I'm working, outside of Laussonne in the Haut Loire. Here's a satellite image of the location, the marker is for the village, I'm in a building just in front of the large patch of trees (with a rock outcrop with shadow above), at about 11 o'clock from the village.

The last Neandertals: Excavations at La Roche-à-Pierrot, Saint-Césaire

I was lucky enough to be invited by Brad Gravina who works at the PACEA lab to come to the first new excavations at one of the most important Neandertal sites in the world: La Roche-à-Pierrot, more commonly known as Saint-Césaire, in the Charente. As I'm not off to my own field region until mid-July, I took up the chance to get my hands dirty after a long break from digging, and was welcomed by site directors Eugene Morin and Francois Bachellerie and the team on Thursday. Here's a run-down of my first proper Middle Palaeolithic excavation. 

As a Neandertal archaeologist, it was always a little embarassing that I'd never excavated a bona fide Neandertal site. In the UK we aren't blessed with even 10% of the richness of archaeology from this period that you find on the Continent- a big reason why I'm in France for my postdoc. I've dug outside Church Hole, Creswell Crags, a cave that was dug in the 19th century and which contained material I studied for my PhD, b…

Bordeaux Diaries: First fortnight

The first two weeks of  my postdoc here have been excellent, it feels so great to be back as part of an institution, and I'm starting to feel at home in France, despite also missing my family back home. I've been welcomed at the PACEA lab, and the University admin staff I've dealt with so far have also been extremely helpful to me. There's actually hardly anyone about in the lab right now as most people are off on fieldwork (in fact my next post is about a visit I made to one of the digs), so it's been a little weird to start a new job, and spend most of the time alone. But it does mean I can focus on catching up on writing and doing more reading before I too head off to the fieldwork region next week. Here's a few bits and pieces to show what my first fortnight has involved.