Archaeology Outreach at Wilderness 2015

As part of our festival tour in 2015 we returned to the golden Oxfordshire countryside for Wilderness festival. This year’s event did not disappoint and we were dazzled by sets from Bjork, George Clinton, Ibibio Sound Machine and Nils Frahm. One thing Wilderness strives to do each year is to provide exciting and innovative workshops, talks, classes and debates to suit all tastes. There is something for everyone, from perfume making and cooking classes to mindfulness, economics, fiction and foraging and we looked forward to stirring up conversation with the minds of the young and old to talk archaeology.

Our theme this year at Wilderness surrounded around Death, and amidst sunshine and Shepherd’s ice cream we discussed death rituals, burial rites, human identity and remains with our audience.

We arrived at Wilderness equipped with exciting and creative ways to deliver our research, which ranges from celebrations of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) to the practice of burial in Neolithic Oxfordshire, preparations for the afterlife, cultural identity in death and ethical concerns surrounding museums of the present day.

We found our art debate to be particularly successful. We armed the festival crowd with spray paints and a stencil to cast their vote on whether they thought it was a good idea or not  to present human remains in museums today. We were met with an interesting and diverse range of ideas and by the end had created an attention grabbing, ghoulish piece of protest art.

2015-08-09 18.52.23

Ochre vs Charcoal. Yes vs No for the display of human remains.

Our tent, situated in the Talks area, was discovered by a number of Archaeology students who gave compelling arguments on the displaying of human remains in museums, emphasising the necessity of respect for the deceased, their remains and the ritualistic ceremonies that individual will have been subjected to at the time of burial.

Yet parents and children in particular, who made up a majority of our audience at this festival, retaliated to the debate by arguing for the importance of physical artefacts in learning about death.

With a Neolithic burial chamber located at Ascott-under-Wychwood, only a few miles from the Guerrilla Archaeology tent, it would be rude not to recreate a mini- excavation. So we did.

Families flocked to our sunny tent each day to fondle replicas of a human pelvis and sift through plastic skeletal remains they found in the chambers of the tomb.

People of all ages where fascinated by this project, thanks to the enthusiasm and knowledge of our team members Joey and Kirsty, who guided participants through the excavation!

We always love coming to Wilderness and enjoyed spreading our archaeology to the fantastic crowd there. The constant sunshine, hot weather and cheerful audience gave a great cause to celebrate death in all its wacky and fascinating glory.


Lorna Donaghy



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