Perspectives on Gender and Fieldwork Conference: some reflections by Hilary Geoghegan

On 29th April 2015, 50 academics, researchers, students and invited guests of the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science gathered to share their experiences and perspectives on the theme of ‘Gender and Fieldwork’. Fieldwork can be broadly defined as the work we do to research the natural and social world. It is also a common activity across all of the disciplines represented in our School, whether as undergraduate archaeology students digging at our field schools in Silchester or Pewsey Vale, on geography fieldclasses to Crete, Dublin or the Lake District, or as postgraduates, researchers and academics working in locations around the world. Gender is a subject of academic study for many of our students and staff. We are fortunate enough to boast colleagues who lead their discipline on ‘gender and archaeology’, research gendered identities in the Caribbean and UK and have been honoured as one of 7 British women geographic ‘foremothers’.

Hilary Geoghegan addressing the audience at the start of the conference

Hilary Geoghegan addressing the audience at the start of the conference












Forming part of the School’s Bronze Athena SWAN Award and our blog ‘SAGE(S) Advice: fieldwork, gender and careers’, the conference offered an opportunity to consider as a School what it means to be an archaeologist, geographer or environmental scientist in the 21st century and what role gender plays in our fieldwork experiences and chosen career paths. Indeed, whilst we have fantastic female role models within our School, the continued proliferation of reports, newspaper articles, blogs and tweets on gender equality issues, as well as initiatives such as Athena SWAN that seeks to ensure adequate opportunities for women in academic life – gender remains very much on the agenda in higher education in 2015. Our conference was a very local contribution to understanding this more fully. For those on Twitter – check out #SAGESfieldwork for tweets from the event.

Sophie Bowlby - one of the guest speakers

Sophie Bowlby – one of the guest speakers










All the best bits of the SAGES Gender & Fieldwork Conference and the Norma Wilkinson lecture are now gathered in one place!

John Carson - Postdoctoral Research Assistant in GES presenting during the 'meet the professionals' session

John Carson – Postdoctoral Research Assistant in GES presenting during the ‘meet the professionals’ session











Following a brief introduction from me (as School Equality Officer), our Head of School Professor Roberta Gilchrist introduced our Athena SWAN Bronze Award and asked participants to ‘think creatively’ about gender and its relationship to fieldwork. In particular, she asked our students in the audience to reflect on the theme of gender as they go forward in their careers. Whilst ‘gender’ may not seem relevant as undergraduates, many participants highlighted how once in the workplace it is surprising how gender is a cause for concern, whether relating to equal pay or parental leave, or indeed leadership styles and team working.

To see the Gender and Fieldwork videos shown during the conference see the School’s Youtube channel –

Amanda Clarke - Director of the Archaeology Field School and a speaker at the conference

Amanda Clarke – Director of the Archaeology Field School and a speaker at the conference












We began by hearing from 8 colleagues and friends of the School in a ‘meet the professionals’ session where speakers were invited to share their experiences of gender and fieldwork. Our speakers were:

• Sophie Bowlby – Visiting Research Fellow University of Reading – researching social, feminist, retail & urban geography, mobility & disability, care & friendship

• Gill Hey – Chief Executive Officer Oxford Archaeology, University of Reading alumni (History and Archaeology)

• John Carson – Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Geography and Environmental Science – researching Holocene vegetation and climate in the Neotropics

• Amanda Clarke – Research Fellow, University of Reading – Archaeological Field Methods and Techniques, Director of the Archaeology Field School

• Sophie Webb – Soil surveyor and scientist, Reading Agricultural Consultants, University of Reading alumni (MSc Environmental Management 2011)

• Nick Branch – Head of Department of Geography and Environmental Science, Associate Professor in Palaeoecology

• Natalie Clark – Project Manager UK Environmental Observation Framework (UKEOF) – works to improve coordination of the observational evidence needed to understand and managing the changing natural environment

• Ruth Harris – University of Reading Environmental & Sustainability Co-ordinator, University of Reading alumni (Environmental Science MEnvSci).

Sophie Webb - Soil Surveyor and Scientist with Reading Agricultural Consultants

Sophie Webb – Soil Surveyor and Scientist with Reading Agricultural Consultants











This was followed by small group discussions where participants reflected on the themes of the conference. I had the pleasure of summing up the event. And I identified 3 key themes that warrant further consideration as we move forward with our Athena SWAN Bronze Award.

Discussion and debate during the conference

Discussion and debate during the conference










First, the importance of the more emotional qualities of fieldwork. Unsurprisingly, our invited speakers and participants spoke with passion, enthusiasm and emotion about their fieldwork activities. Enjoyment and fun relating to fieldwork practices and the scientific endeavour were paramount for many. One speaker said, “There’s nowhere I wouldn’t go to look at soil”. Another said “I love what I do”. The emotional benefits of doing fieldwork could be felt regardless of gender or ability. Indeed, there was also passionate talk about some of the more trying and challenging aspects of being in the field, whether the physical toughness of digging a pit or the mental toughness of interviewing recently bereaved research participants. In addition, I was struck by the audience participation in the sessions and the nods in agreement and laughter that surrounded many of the gender and fieldwork stories shared across the day. Fieldwork is clearly something our School is passionate about.

Small group discussions

Small group discussions










Second, as a human geographer, I learnt early on in my career to pay attention to my positionality as researcher and of those I research with. Here Sophie Bowlby, a human geographer at Reading, highlighted the importance of understanding how social location and personal history influences what we see as researchers and how we are seen. For those in our School working in the natural sciences this might have been a new way of thinking about how we are perceived in the field – whether by local collaborators, clients, field assistants or gatekeepers. In the context of ‘gender equality’ initiatives such as Athena SWAN and how we support each other – this is something we need to discuss further. One female speaker described how her fieldwork involved doing environmental assessments and digging test pits. Many of her clients were shocked to find her digging the pit, offering on many occasions to do it for her. Sometimes, we challenge the expectations of those we work with in the course of our fieldwork.









Third, and this is more forward-looking, our discussion was very focussed on the global North, but many of us in our School conduct fieldwork in the global South – whether as human geographers, physical geographers, archaeologists or environmental scientists. The opportunities and challenges are different, as one colleague pointed out – with different social structures, religious beliefs, and modes of communication, to name but a few. Here attention to positionality is vital, but so is thinking about how we – as a School – support our staff and students.


In sum, the event was a celebration of fieldwork. Yet the conference highlighted how the theme of gender equality persists and how gender equality work requires persistence. Personally, I felt there was, as a result of the conference, a renewed commitment by members of our School to a continued culture of equality for all. 8 months ago the Gender and Fieldwork Working Group set out to engage our School on the theme of gender through our varied experiences of fieldwork – I think we fulfilled our aim. Hands were raised and thoughts shared on the need to consider further themes of male caring responsibilities, work/life balance, female approaches to leadership, students with caring responsibilities, and staff/student wellbeing. Our work as a School continues…


The overall winner of the Fieldwork Photograph competition was George Hibberd – congratulations George!  All of the photographs are now on display in the Sorby Room (Wager building) and Russell Meeting Room (Russell building).

'Two best friends enjoying fieldwork in the Mount Teide caldera, Tenerife

‘Two best friends enjoying fieldwork in the Mount Teide caldera, Tenerife














Following the conference the School held the Annual Norma Wilkinson Lecture – Into the treasures of the snow: field measurements of snow density in Greenland and Antarctica. This year the speaker was Dr Elizabeth Morris OBE. Dr Morris was the first woman to work deep field in the Antarctic with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and for 13 years was Head of the Ice and Climate Division at BAS (1986-1999). She is currently a Senior Associate at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge. Her research is concerned with the mass balance of polar ice sheets, and their response to climate change and is based upon field observations, remote sensing techniques and modelling.

Liz Morris presenting the Annual Norma Wilkinson Lecture

Liz Morris presenting the Annual Norma Wilkinson Lecture











Steve Gurney provides some reflections on this years lecture:

This year we were extremely lucky to have Dr Liz Morris speaking on the subject of snow and the important role it plays in our understanding of polar ice sheets, as found in Greenland and Antarctica. This is ‘big science’, since these days it involves satellite observations from a purpose-built satellite (‘CryoSat-2’ – which cost 140 million Euros) as well as lengthy field campaigns in remote and inaccessible regions (costly, although much cheaper than a satellite). Liz convinced us that fieldwork was still a vital component of this research and continues to play a role in both ice core geochemistry and ice sheet dynamics. These are both topics that we desperately need to research, since they are strongly linked to the science of global climate change. Liz also described how gender and fieldwork in the polar regions has changed over the course of her career. She clearly faced very real discrimination in the early days, but fortunately, the reality now is very different.

Liz Morris 'in the field'

Liz Morris ‘in the field’

Athena SWAN Charter

There have been some important updates to the Athena Swan Charter:

‘In May 2015 the Athena Swan charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.






ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter covers women (and men where appropriate) in:

  • academic roles in STEMM and AHSSBL
  • professional and support staff
  • trans staff and students

In relation to their:

  • representation
  • progression of students into academia
  • journey through career milestones
  • working environment for all staff’

For more information see the Equality Challenge Unit website –

“Si, ingeniero”: Advice for engaging research participants on equal footing.

I have done research on peasant agriculture in Colombia for over 8 years now. In one project, I studied farmer decision-making to explain why peasants were adopting pesticide use patterns that were uneconomical and dangerous for their own health and for the environment. In a second project, I studied traditional informal institutions that were seemingly hindering, rather than supporting, adaptation to external disturbances such as climate and market fluctuations. These studies have led me to carry out fieldwork in two peasant communities in the Department of Boyacá, in the Eastern Andean Cordillera. Over 8 years I conducted a total of 5 fieldwork campaigns, each campaign requiring a stay of 4 to 10 weeks.

Department of Boyacá (in red)

Department of Boyacá (in red)














To conduct fieldwork in this region has been challenging in many ways, but the biggest challenge has been to engage with local peasants on equal footing.



When visiting households for face-to-face interviews, or in focus groups, I was initially surprised to hear myself called ingeniero (engineer) by the local peasants. People participating in my research would also respond to most of my questions with default affirmative answers such as “Si, ingeniero”, or “Si señor” (Yes, engineer; Yes sir). I soon learned that this is a quite common manner of interaction adopted by local peasants when interacting with supposed ‘experts’ (for example government officials and extension agents) coming from outside the local community. So, by calling me ingeniero the people participating in my research were manifesting their deference and respect for the scientific knowledge that I held and which, they thought, I must have considered superior to their experiential knowledge. But there is something subtler to it; this deferential and slightly submissive attitude is not quite what it seems. In fact, peasants most often believe they know farming better than ‘experts’, but tend to rehearse such deference to avoid gainsaying the experts, and to show instead –at least officially- that they comply with and accept the expert’s opinions or recommendations. To the British reader, this may bring back memories of the “Yes minister” TV series. Similarly to the sly bureaucrat in the TV series, in practice, peasants’ reverence hides practices of everyday resistance that include telling lies, incompliance with laws, and refusal to participate in communal schemes and projects. This attitude has been explained by various scholars (for example Orlando Fals-Borda) as being the legacy of centuries of colonial and post-colonial exploitation of peasants. In effect, it can be interpreted as a protective strategy adopted by marginal groups against the oppression and exploitation of more powerful actors (see for example the great “Weapons of the weak” by James Scott).



This was clearly a problem for my research. I wanted participants to engage in truthful conversations with me. It was not my aim to influence farming practices, and even less so to make recommendations to peasants, on the basis of what they thought I would consider my ‘expert’ knowledge, regarding their crops. For instance, regarding pesticide use or measures to adapt to increase climatic variability. In fact, these were exactly the things I wanted to understand from them, to make sense of the decision-making resulting in dangerous pesticide use patterns, and informal institutions seemingly hindering adaptation to external disturbances such as climate and market fluctuations.

Typical landscape of rural Boyacá.

Typical landscape of rural Boyacá.











Therefore, if I were to make sense of the social reality of those peasant communities, I needed to break open the protective layer that peasants were interposing between us. After more than 8 years of experience in the field, I can say that I have made significant progress in engaging Colombian peasants on more equal footing. This has not been easy, and if I’ve seen some success, it is only thanks to a long and continuing negotiation of my identity as a researcher in the field. In short, that is what I have learned:



– Written consent raises suspicions. Unsurprisingly, research participants often do not to understand the mechanisms researchers need to follow to fulfil ethical guidelines and best practices. Peasants tended to be very suspicious of anyone asking for a signature on any sheet of paper (i.e., their consent to participate in the research), as in their experience, there is only one category of people who does this, and by definition they are to be avoided: tax officers! Moreover, many peasants in the communities that I studied can barely read and write, and therefore dealing with written consent forms may cause some discomfort. Thus, I had to find other ways to record the consent to participate in my research (e.g., via a voice recorder).

– Technology is a barrier. It can be tempting to aid the data collection with various devices (hand held data capture devices, GPS, tablets, and so on). Technology can indeed be very helpful and increase the efficiency of data collection and processing. However, such devices reinforce the divide between the ‘expert’ and the laymen and women who are hardly familiar with such devices and may potentially be seeing them for the first time. Thus, whenever possible I used the simplest technology possible: pen and paper (and voice recorder). This resulted in more demanding data processing for me and my research assistants, but the trade off was higher data quality and enhanced personal connection with the participants.

– Looking and behaving like an ingeniero is counterproductive. The ‘experts’ who visit the community usually move around by car, dress smart casual (even in the field!), talk jargon and are sometimes very dismissive of peasants. I avoided doing these things and travelled by public (and often erratic!) transport and by foot rather than by private car (which also helps in getting to know people and getting a better feel of the place); dressed in more causal outfit (which is also more practical if you have to trek to get to the sparse households in these communities); avoided using difficult or technical terms (well, that was easy for me given my less than perfect Spanish); and, very importantly, did not fall into the trap of telling peasants what they should do, even–and especially–if they asked me.

– Time is crucial. First, the ingenieros normally do not take the time to understand the context, and do not spend much time with the local people, but rather work through short one-off visits. Peasants in one of the two communities where I conducted research were very surprised when they saw me come back the year after my first fieldwork. Second, it simply takes time to build trust and relationships. Peasants were sharing a wealth of experiences and information with me, but they were also curious about my trip, my origin and, of course, about agriculture in Europe.

– (Following from the above) Build relationships. As much as I could, the people I met and who participated in my research were not simply research ‘participants’. I had food at their place, sent them cards from Europe, helped them clean the local primary school, exchanged stories and experiences. Far from being a distraction from data collection, these things made fieldwork much more enjoyable and helped me understand them on a personal level rather than as simply ‘data’ for my research.

Giuseppe about to walk his way up in the study area of Las Cañas (Boyacá)

Giuseppe about to walk his way up in the study area of Las Cañas (Boyacá)











Finally, and giving meaning to all the above, what helped me to reach more equal engagement with Colombian peasants was an honest, sincere, open, sensitive and empathic approach to fieldwork. Without this, any of the above pieces of advice would be purely instrumental. Peasants, like anybody participating in research, feel the researcher’s honesty, sincerity, respect and enjoyment (or lack thereof) and in my experience, this has been the single most important ingredient for fruitfully engaging with Colombian peasants on more equal footing. Fieldwork is what makes research alive. It can change the researcher’s, as well as the participants’ life for the better beyond the impact that the research may, or may not, have. This change happens because fieldwork is more than mechanical data collection. For a researcher, fieldwork is about becoming part of other places and people’s life, and letting them become part of one’s own.


Giuseppe-FEOLA_1594_wAbout today’s blogger: Giuseppe Feola


Giuseppe is interested in understanding the dynamics of change in coupled human and natural systems and to explore the social and social-ecological change required for a transition towards sustainability. His research is interdisciplinary and combines theoretical advancement and practical application. Giuseppe has got a particular, but not exclusive, interest in the Andean region in Latin America.


His areas of interest include:

  • The dynamics of coupled socio-cultural and environmental change
  • Grassroots innovations for sustainability
  • Understanding the behaviour of social actors in coupled human-environmental systems
  • Sustainability assessment


#girlswithtoys: women remind Twitter they are scientists too

Kat Berry highlighted the trend on Twitter for #girlswithtoys.  See this article by Katie Collins –

‘Female scientists from all over the world have taken to Twitter to post pictures of themselves with tools and equipment from their workplaces alongside the hashtag #girlswithtoys. The pictures are being posted in response to an unfortunate, off-the-cuff comment made by CalTech professor Shrinivas Kulkarni during an NPR interview.

“Many scientists, I think, secretly are what I call ‘boys with toys’,” said Kulkarni, a professor of astronomy and planetary science. While the comment was a blunder by Kulkarni rather than a targeted attack, for many it also exposes the ingrained sexism that goes unacknowledged in the science and technology industries. If nothing else it perpetuated the myth that science and tech are men’s pursuits’

Rita Parai - In mass spec lab now reading the #girlswithtoys stream. This awesome toy is a thermal ionization mass spectrometer!   10:13 PM - 16 May 2015

Rita Parai – In mass spec lab now reading the #girlswithtoys stream. This awesome toy is a thermal ionization mass spectrometer!
10:13 PM – 16 May 2015

SAGES Gender and Fieldwork Conference – Storify

The SAGES Gender & Fieldwork Conference took place on Wednesday 28th April . This event was the culmination of a busy year of activities within the School, and celebrated fieldwork by staff and students from all disciplines. The conference included a panel discussion with contributions from former alumni, academics and professional fieldworkers including Sophie Bowlby, Gill Hey, John Carson, Amanda Clarke, Sophie Webb, Nick Branch, Natalie Clark and Ruth Harris.

Our staff and students began tweeting about their excitement before the start of the conference…


Take care, female students – you owe it to yourselves

On the 6th May 2015 Jinan Younis published an article in the Guardian:  ‘Worn down by a toxic blend of stereotyping, relentless deadlines and guilt, women at universities are making time for a bit of self care’














From the article – ‘I was halfway through my second year at university before I fully understood the idea of self care. At first, it sounded like something medical, only to be attempted if recommended by a doctor. But self care, or actively looking after yourself in a healthy way, is something many young people practice shamelessly; it is not only empowering, but necessary.  University brings a massive change in lifestyle – and for me, it was neither comfortable nor thrilling. It was a departure from my sheltered home life and the beginning of the road to looking after myself – something I’m still not entirely sure I know how to do. My university experience has exacerbated underlying problems that many young girls in our society face: issues to do with self-confidence and self-worth. What I find most difficult to deal with is the pace of life – there’s no break. I have deadlines to complete work, and if I miss them, then I’m a failure. But if I don’t focus on making long-lasting friendships, then am I missing out on a proper university experience? And if I dare to watch TV? Well, that’s just a complete waste of time.’

What do you think?  Do you agree?


Room at the top: how to redress the gender imbalance

On the 14th May 2015 Amanda Goodall and Margit Osterloh published an article in the Times Higher on how to redress gender imbalance –









‘Research suggests that men tend to exaggerate their abilities, whereas women typically have less self-confidence, creating a “confidence gap”. Overconfidence is more pronounced when men undertake tasks that are considered to be masculine – and, arguably, leadership may be one of these. If men and women are equally confident, researchers have found that there are no gender differences in competitive entry. This has been shown in the laboratory as well as in the field.’

What do you think?

Get more walking into your day – take your meetings outdoors

Last week was walk to work week.  One of the ideas that came out of this was to take meetings outside.  ‘Many people assume that meetings must take place sitting around a table and within the confines of four walls. In reality, the most creative moments take place outside them. Call a walking meeting and you’ll get a change of scenery, boost your energy, get some fresh air and burn a few calories too’










Why have a walking meeting?
• A chance to fit some physical activity into your day
• Different environments to inspire new ideas
• A chance to get some fresh air and natural light
• A shift in group dynamics
• Improve the group’s physical and mental well-being
• An opportunity to re-energise

Walking meetings are also great for one to ones; making it easier for people to feel more relaxed and discuss what’s on their mind.

Find more information here:,3DVGP,97MQ0H,C3XCK,1

Have you tried having a meeting outside? Did it work?  Will you try it again?

Queens of Meroe

At Easter I spent 2 weeks in North Sudan on a “busman’s holiday” on an archaeological project with Professor Anna Boozer of City University New York, and formerly a lecturer of Roman Colonialism here at the Archaeology department. I had worked with Anna at Amheida Egypt in 2013, and the original plan for the Easter holidays had been to go back there for another season of digging and recording at the domestic Egypto-Roman house. Sadly, but unsurprisingly given the political climate, we could not get a permit to work there this year, so Anna quickly organised an alternative season on her other project at Meroe – A Royal City of the Kingdom of Kush on the east bank of the river Nile, 4 hours drive North of Khartoum. This project had been conceived by the University of Reading Internationalisation Team, with collaboration with the University of Khartoum.

A meal at the dig house1

A meal at the dig house










The aim of the Meroe Archival Project, as it is known, is to record artefacts (and for me, to draw them) excavated by the late Peter Shinnie, in the latter half of the 20th century. He published many of his excavations, but being very prolific in excavating, he did not publish everything. Anna is keen to excavate there herself, but feels she must first record and publish what she can from Shinnie’s backlog. Other archaeological teams have been excavating there extensively over the years too, and it all comes across as rather ad hock. Anna is also looking at Meroe on behalf of UNESCO. The artefacts reside in both a crumbling old dig house at Meroe, where we worked and resided for 5 days, on the edge of the Royal City itself, and also at the Khartoum Archaeological Museum.

Mozzie nets in the bedroom

Mozzie nets in the bedroom











I had a long journey via Doha where I arrived in the middle of the night with 7 hours to wait for my connection to Khartoum, and chatted to 2 interesting shop assistants, a young man from the Philippines, and a young woman from China minding a shop selling $20,000 Chanel watches (yes I tried one on, and it didn’t suit me), who wanted to know about dating (non-archaeological dating) in the UK; who pays for dinner, the man or the woman (in China it is always the man), and we discussed gender issues in general. I had been in the thick of editing the Gender and Fieldwork videos for the last couple of weeks so it was a hot topic for me.

Anna and the altar

Anna and the altar











So now I come to the point of why I offered to write a Gender and Fieldwork blog post about this trip. Our team comprised of 5 women. Anna and Liz (Americans) recording small finds, Angela (Italian), also a small finds specialist and specialising in faience, Hannah, a Sudanese student placement learning a variety of tasks and worth her weight in gold for her translation skills, and myself, drawing what was put in front of me. The stereotype is that finds specialists are more often than not, female. Our Sudanese student happened to be female but we didn’t know who we were getting, and last year it was a young man. I doubt that there was any deliberate selection of an all-female team by Anna, other than for logistical (room sharing) reasons, but essentially the team comprised of 4 friends who had worked together on numerous occasions and were not only a known quantity professionally, but a guaranteed fun social mix. We are all multi-skilled archaeological fieldworkers as well as finds specialists.

Hannah the student

Hannah the student














Personally, I have never worked on an all-female team before. I grew up the daughter of a scout leader and spent every summer holiday from 6 months old to 16 being the only girl amongst a group of 20 or so boys. I was consequently very competitive and determined to be faster at the assault course than the lot of them, and quite a tomboy. Our Meroe project consisted of like-minded, independent no-nonsense, shisha smoking, adventurous women, amongst whom there was a lot of support, both work wise and personally. In particular, I felt very much cared for as I developed a horrendous cold within hours of arriving at the Meroe dig house, which within a week developed into sinusitis. I was given a constant supply of vitamins and drugs, Carcady tea, fresh lemon and sugar, cough sweets, and finally a course of antibiotics by my kind nurses as I drew finds with tissues stuffed up my nose for fear of dripping on my drawings. We worked seriously hard during the day to record as many finds of the categories that Anna aims to publish this year and at mealtimes and in the evening we laughed a lot about absurd things and talked about archaeology (of course) but also about cats, weddings and hair! I observed this with the Gender stereotype in the forefront of my mind, with some amusement. Well, we all own cats, Anna is getting married in a few months time and is in the midst of planning, and people always talk about hair when I’m around. We also met up with a few interesting ex-pats working on humanitarian and environmental projects, all of whom happened to be men. At these gatherings we gossiped about functions at the various Embassies, discussed the virtues of a good whisky, and talked about our work.

Me and the pyramids

Me and the pyramids













I am aware how little I have talked about the work, or Sudan or the archaeology in this blog, but I fear I have already written 1000 words, so the rest will have to be described in photographs. I will just end by saying that the best thing about Sudan is the people. They are so friendly and welcoming to foreigners. They don’t get many foreign visitors and look at you with friendly curiosity. Sudanese women seem to have equality. We met many women working in quite senior roles at the museum, and female university students, but needless to say, the head of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage is not a woman. In Meroe however, women were powerful rulers: Wikipedia says: Candace of Meroë is a legendary queen of the Kingdom of Kush and Queen of Nubia. The legend says that she defeated Alexander the Great when he tried to conquer territories south of Egypt. Another story claims that Alexander and Candace had a romantic encounter.” Perhaps there is some confusion with 2 other Romano- North-African characters, but then, us girls love a bit of historical romance…? !


Sarah_Lucas_1513_wA bit about today’s blogger: Sarah Lambert-Gates

Sarah has worked in graphics and archaeological illustration for 16 years, and started her career as a field archaeologist. She teaches Illustration of artefacts on a Part 2 Archaeology module; Techniques in Artefact Interpretation, and Archaeological Graphics for Masters students. She has also worked as a supervisor at the Silchester Town Life Project since1998.

Sarah has worked full time for the University of Reading since September 2011. Prior to this, she worked for Oxford Archaeology, starting as a field archaeologist, and culminating as the Senior Illustrator for a busy Graphics office. During this time she was lead illustrator in a number of large publications, including the Thames Through Time series (which was a finalist in the British Archaeological Book of the Year awards), and Under the Oracle.

Fascinating plants: past, present and future!

Join the Schools of Biological Sciences and Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science as they celebrate the third international Fascination of Plants day on campus:






1.Fascinating plant exhibition: Outside the UoR library, 10am to 4pm. Hands-on, fascinating botanical activities in which we turn the botanical spotlight on one fascinating, even rather puzzling plant (of which more will be revealed on the day). We tell its story from the origins in the fossil record, through its place as part of global plant diversity today, and finally we take a peek at the future status and impacts of human activities and climate change.


2.Fascinating plant walk: Starting from the UoR library. There will be two opportunities to join our guided botanical walk, first at 12 noon and again at 2pm. The guided walk will last about 45 minutes, passing the plethora of plants which adorn the campus and culminating in a dramatic re-enactment of a historical event of utmost botanical fascination, not to be missed!


3.Fascinating plants for kids: Outside the UoR library. A family event in which our resident botanists will entertain and amaze kids of all ages (from 5 to 95) with a host of plant puzzles, botanical brain-teasers and floral fernanigans.


Plants have ruled the world for 2 billion years so let’s give up a day of our lives to be fascinated by plants!

More information can be found here –


Macarena Cardenas

Macarena Cardenas

Macarena Cardenas (GES) is organising this event with Biological Sciences.  It would be great to see some familiar faces there!