On Monday evening (28 February 2011) I attended the first of a series of public lectures organised by the University of Bedfordshire. The topic was archaeology and we had two fascinating presentations.
The first was from Wesley Keir of Albion Archaeology who described the discoveries made on the site of the University’s new Campus Centre. As part of the building work archaeological investigations were carried out on the western edge of the site of the medieval castle next to St Mary’s Church. What was uncovered included part of the medieval moat, the post holes of a timber framed building in the castle grounds, and part of a later children’s cemetery.
When I think about Luton’s history I tend to think of industrial development and growth in the 19th and 20th centuries, so it was good to be reminded that the town has a much older history. In particular, I enjoyed learning a little about the career of the Anglo-Norman soldier and adventurer Falkes de Breaute and his connections with the town and the rest of Bedfordshire.
The second talk was from Mark Horton, who is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Bristol, but is better known as one of the team of presenters on the BBC’s programme Coast. His very engaging presentation focussed on how archaeology can be relevant to the modern world.
I’ve always been an advocate of the importance of history. The argument that through understanding the past we can better understand the present and plan for the future is one I strongly believe in. Yet all those who seek to tell histories are influenced to a greater or lesser extent by the culture they inhabit and the preoccupations of the time. What archaeology can do, as many of the examples that Mark Horton used in his talk showed, is provide physical evidence that can confirm or challenge those histories.
In effect one of the things that archaeology does is to keep historians honest.
This content was originally posted on my old Strange Thoughts blog.