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2017? Bring It On


*Emerges from cave, looks about cautiously, sniffs the air*

This blog has been hibernating while it felt like my life was going into overdrive the past 18 months, with the end of my postdoc, conferences, frantic grant-writing, job searching, and the small matter of having a second child. Not to mention the exciting work on an amazing new TrowelBlazers project, 'outside' my academic and writing activities.

I've wanted to 'just write a quick thing' many times over the past months as some exceedingly interesting new Neandertal-related discoveries kept popping up. But each time I've been balancing other things and the blog has had to remain in stasis. So much is going on though, and it's nearly a new year, I thought I'd give the blog little poke and try to wake it up.

One of the brilliant things happening is the Raising Horizons project I've been running as a collaboration between TrowelBlazers and photographer Leonora Saunders. This has been an epic amount of work for over a year, but the results are amazing: an exhibition posing 14 contemporary trowelblazers as their historic counterparts from the last two hundred years (see the three released portraits below). We're highlighting the contributions of individuals, as well as bringing lesser known women of the past to life, and showing the importance of networks that reach into the present.

Mary Anning, posed by Lorna Steel
Charlotte Murchison, posed by Natasha Stephen

Mary Leakey, posed by Ella Al-Shamahi





After some successful grants, sponsorship and an incredible crowdfund campaign, we've been funded enough to produce the portraits and have a first showing for a month hosted by The Geological Society at the magnificent Burlington House, London. Then we're planning to tour various venues, with live events planned too. Look out for our website launching in the New Year.

Alongside running Raising Horizons (and raising my new daughter too!), I've also been working on developing my writing. Unfortunately finding an academic post after my postdoc is proving really tough, and while I am still excited by wanting to do science and advance questions in my field of Palaeolithic archaeology, I'm perhaps even more passionate about how we - as custodians and narrators of their story- communicate this more widely.

This year I signed a new contract with Sigma, an imprint of Bloomsbury, for a book on Neanderthals which I'm really excited to be writing (my bird book is on hold following a competing title).
The manuscript is due next summer, and it's going to be filled with where we are in understanding this amazing human species, including all the mind-boggling stuff that never gets into the mainstream press, and surprising facts which will change your mind about who the Neanderthals were.

As well as the book, I've also been working on writing in other venues. After my article on Palaeolithic clothing for the Guardian's Science Blogs in 2013, I wrote a piece explaining the importance of Raising Horizons, and most recently an article on the relevance of Palaeolithic archaeology to the current socio-political trends for fracturing bonds between our global human communities. Hopefully it'll be the first of many, if I'm selected as one of their new Archaeology Network bloggers...

So here's to 2016, a year of technical unemployment but full to the brim of achievements and wonderful things. Bring on 2017!

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