Archaeologist of the Year 2022: Nominee Interviews

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Sponsor of the Archaeologist of the Year 2022 award

Below are interviews with the three individuals nominated for 2022’s ‘Archaeologist of the Year’ award, whose achievements reflect the diverse work taking place within our field.

You can read the full biographies for each nominee here. Once you’ve made your choice, click here to cast your vote for the person you would like to win.

We also chatted to each of the nominees recently on our podcast, The PastCastclick here to listen to the episode!

Voting closes on 7 February 2022, and all the winners of the Current Archaeology Awards will then be announced on 25 February as part of our virtual conference, Current Archaeology Live! 2022.

Professor Martin Bell

A photograph of Professor Martin Bell, who has been nominated for Archaeologist of the Year 2022. Martin's head and shoulders are visible in the picture and he is smiling at the camera.

What is your proudest archaeological achievement?

Developing an understanding of how prehistoric coastal communities used wetland landscapes seasonally and ways we can use geoarchaeological techniques to understand how these people related and responded to highly dynamic coastal environments. 

What was your archaeological moment of 2021?

I retired at the end of July and two friends and former students edited a book of essays to mark my retirement: Catherine Barnett and Thomas Walker, Environment, Archaeology and Landscape (Archaeopress).  It was so kind of people to go to the trouble of writing these essays, many on topics I am passionate about like coastal archaeology, nature conservation, rewilding, and mobility. We also found some good Mesolithic human and crane footprints in the Severn Estuary. 

How do you view the future of archaeology?

We face a number of challenges and need to develop a more unified voice in responding to them by asserting the wider social value of our subject. Archaeology provides a vital time depth perspective for key issues of today, climate change, biodiversity, sustainability, and has a vital role to play in current debates about nature conservation strategy, subsidy using public money for public good, coastal management, and rewilding, in addition to its contribution to education and wellbeing. 

Raksha Dave

A photograph of Raksha Dave, who has been nominated for Archaeologist of the Year 2022. She is stood next to some stone columns, facing the camera but looking off to the right of the image smiling.

What is your proudest archaeological achievement?

I’m very proud of being able to contribute to archaeological research as a field archaeologist. I have been really lucky to work with incredible teams in the UK and around the world to widen our knowledge of what humans have been doing for thousands of years on our planet. My proudest achievement is to be able to share those stories as a public archaeologist whether that’s through broadcasting, digital media, or running community engagement projects. Public engagement is a long-term commitment and doesn’t necessarily offer immediate rewards or outcomes like other areas of archaeology. Often it’s the smallest interactions and exchanges with people that make it worthwhile, and this can happen in the most random of places. It really can be uplifting to be approached by someone when you least expect it. I invariably end up chatting with a stranger at a train station about a show I’ve presented or about a project I’ve been running that has inspired someone to find out more. It’s those little things that encourage people to learn about or participate in archaeology. I love those moments – it’s when I know I’m doing my job right! 

What was your archaeological moment of 2021?

Without a doubt, taking on the role of President of the CBA. I never thought I would ever be asked to represent the archaeological sector in that way – I’m probably the most non-traditional form of an archaeologist in every way. It means a lot to me because it shows people that anyone can do it – it’s really important to me to be able to democratise archaeology because essentially our work is about being human. We need to cast our net wider, to include communities and different people into our processes, and to shape those processes to work better. I want people to know that when they step out of their front door they are immersed in an archaeological landscape and they are part of it no matter what their identity is or experience.

How do you view the future of archaeology?

Exciting, challenging, revealing, connecting – to name but a few adjectives. It’s been a difficult year – there’s no doubt about that – but there are so many things we should celebrate about our sector and I think we need to focus on the things that unite us rather than what divides us. I’d like to see more collaboration amongst universities, community projects, and the commercial sector to show the world how relevant and meaningful archaeology is in the modern world. Archaeology isn’t just about digging and it isn’t just about the past, it can contribute to how we look to the problems we currently face today like climate change and how we as archaeologists can contribute to the solutions. There is no doubt we have a lot of work to do to dismantle structural obstacles created in the past whilst unpicking years of neglect and complacency which contribute to the clunky framework we operate in as a sector – but I think we’re in the right place to start making changes. Look at all the talent we have – we can see that in the CA nominations for this year – we need people like this to help us innovate, include, and motivate people to experience what we do. I’d love to see in a few years how the CA awards could change to reflect that. I don’t see why we couldn’t potentially have a ‘Best collaborative Research Project’ or ‘Best Archaeological Contribution to Society’ category. This is the direction we need to be travelling in, and it’s thrilling to be a part of the change.

Dr Peter Halkon

A photograph of Dr Peter Halkon, who has been nominated for Archaeologist of the Year 2022, stood in a trench at an archaeological excavation. He is wearing a hat, facing the camera holding an armful of paperwork, and and looking off to the left of the image.

What is your proudest archaeological achievement? 

The discovery of the Hasholme Iron Age logboat – and the graduation of my part-time BA Archaeology students, particularly those who had left school years before with few qualifications.  

What was your archaeological moment of 2021? 

The discovery of the amazing Iron Age sanctuary associated with a ringfort on the Yorkshire Wolds. After the inner palisade was removed the slot had been filled with 40 cattle skulls, red deer bones, and antler. 

How do you view the future of archaeology?

With some trepidation given the recent closure of University departments. A bright spot, however, is the enthusiasm and skill of community-based volunteers as demonstrated this year during our excavations at Brough on Humber as part of the Petuaria ReVisited project exploring Roman Brough on Humber. 

Voting closes on 7 February 2022

We also had a chat with the Archaeologist of the Year nominees on our podcast, The PastCast – click here to have a listen!

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