Public Q&A with Archaeologists

by Dr Tine Schenck


Ask an archaeologist from Norway, and you might get an answer too!


Recently, AE launched its first event in Norway. As we wanted to reach a broad population of audiences, and wanted something that could be of interest to a variety of age groups and social groups, the chosen format was decided to be an "ask an archaeologist" session where a panel of archaeologists would answer any question delivered by the audience. Part of the plan was to be honest about difficult issues, such as sampling problems, dating deviations, colonialism and gender bias.


A group of Norwegians with different specialties and types of jobs were approached to be part of the panel. That meant we would be able to cover most phases of Norwegian prehistory and early history, technology, gender issues, symbolic theories, outreach policy, museum practice, fieldwork, experimental archaeology, the archaeological labour market, and re-enactment groups. But what if the audience didn't have any questions about those things? We assembled before the meeting to discuss strategies such as what to do if there weren't any questions, and how to deal with racist remarks, conspiracy theories, and sensationalism. We decided to start with a short list of questions that we encounter a lot in our professional everyday life, and this was a good outset. Asking each other questions such as “have you found gold?” and “do you know anything about dinosaurs?” Set a humorous tone that persisted throughout the one-hour event.


Once we finished our rounders light introduction, the audience took over. A group of about 12 people had assembled, and remarkably, there wasn't a single pause in the questioning. We answered questions such as “Which methods do you apply for dating something?”, “How do you know what something was used for?”, “Do you see globalisation trends in the archaeological labour market?”, and “Why are certain Viking burial mounds aligned”. The debate was lively, there was a lot of laughter, and the one hour passed more quickly than we expected. Afterwards, we continued the debate in a cafe nearby with anyone who wanted to join.


The event was met with statements such as “that hour passed so quickly!” “Do you have a mailing list?” and "I didn't even know I was interested in these things!” All in all, we agreed it was a big success, and we decided to do this again, and hopefully again, and again, and again.





ArchaeologistsEngage is a registered voluntary organisation in Norway.

Org.no 915 964 958