Communications and Archaeology: Why these two disciplines are destined to marry one another

Posted on Posted in Academics, Blog, Study Abroad

Being a communications student amongst archaeology students is like being a quacking duck amongst inquisitive ants, you’re only good at the talking while they’re exceptionally intelligent at accommodating their surroundings, but in the end, opposites attract don’t they?

About seven weeks ago I landed in Tbilisi, Georgia with a group of Canadians from The University of Toronto. It was not only the start of an adventure through the beautiful country of Georgia, but more importantly, we were about to embark on the Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (G.R.A.P.E).

It was here that we would start excavating the Neolithic site at Gadachrili Gora to learn more about the origins of viticulture and winemaking, and it was also here that I would begin to tell the story of this remarkable archaeological site.

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Repost off social media of the trench three crew at Gadachrili Gora: photo courtesy of Lisa Milosavljevic 

I was the only communications student amongst Canadian undergrads from a variety of academic backgrounds, along with Georgian archaeology students and professionals from Tbilisi State University. It was essentially a grassroots initiative to have a small communications team on site in order to create visually compelling stories and content for the G.R.A.P.E project.

We can almost say this was the first dance communications and archaeology had with one another in the field.

Now coming from a person who thought a trowel was actually called a troval, to thinking a locus was some sort of weed, plant, or a bug, to stepping on important walls in a trench that had just been exposed after thousands of years, I think it’s pretty safe to say, my lack of prior knowledge in the field of archaeology was loud and clear.

Take it from me, I couldn’t have been farther from my comfort zone, and let’s be honest, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

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Visual Communications Intern, Joey Close, uses her trowel to slowly excavate around a recently discovered wall: photo courtesy of Georgina William 

My only introduction to archaeology or paleontology for that matter was through pop culture, with films such as Jurassic Park, and yes, of course, the Indiana Jones film series. All of which don’t display these disciplines for what they truly are.

Thanks for nothing, Hollywood.

It certainly has been a learning curve for me as a communications student not only to understand the archaeological process, but also to know what it is you actually do on a dig?

And no, you don’t just move some dirt around in hopes of finding an artifact (trust me, there are people out there who actually think this way). In fact there are many aspects that go into an archaeological project that are fascinating and quite rewarding to say the least.

Now on top of gaining an understanding of the archaeology side of things also is my role as a Visual Communications Intern, but in order for me to create content and tell a good story I really needed to grasp an understanding of a world I literally knew nothing about.

In the end though this is what communications is all about.

Me Interviewing
Visual Communications Intern, Joey Close, interviews field students, Bridget Jaworski (left) and Clark Lennox (right), on their experience at Gadachrili Gora: photo courtesy of Lisa Milosavljevic 

So, here are some things I took away from the field that I think all communications students should think about. In order to communicate effectively you need to be curious, ask questions, build relationships, and most importantly, you need to carve yourself into the story that you’re trying to tell, and for me, this story started right in the trench at Gadachrili Gora.

But here’s the thing.

Having a communications team on a project is fairly new to the world of archaeology. It’s a discipline that has long been shared within academic circles and rarely or without considerable consideration has it been exposed quickly through social media outlets.

Not to mention, archaeologists are not used to the constant cameras flashing and filming by eager communications interns. With this said, it hasn’t been that simple to figure out my first few steps in the field.

However, I can tell you this, I learned a lot, and I will also bring home a whole new skill set that I didn’t have before.

Visual Communications Intern, Joey Close, films Community Engagement Coordinator, Camille Leon Angelo, giving an archaeological tutorial on site at Gadachrili Gora: photo courtesy of Lisa Milosavljevic  

Now ready for the big eye opener?

I don’t think without the tight knit relationship of communications and archaeology that there’s really a way to highlight the importance and understanding of this discipline to the broader public.

And what do I mean by this?

In the technological world of 2016 how can you draw in other disciplines and people who don’t really understand the first thing about archaeology (such as myself), without communicating the project from a different view point outside of academia? Or how do you get people excited about archaeology and the overall findings on a project? And finally, how do we really understand what it is that archaeologists do?

My journey with the G.R.A.P.E. team was not only a new experience for me, but was also a new experience for the archaeological world as a whole.

Visual Communications Intern, Joey Close films the landscape in  Marneuli, Georgia: photo courtesy of Lisa Milosavljevic 

Let’s just say, having a paparazzi on site every day filming the excavations was not something everybody was used to, but in the end it worked, and it worked well, and here’s why:

  • Archeologists discover, but what’s the point if the broader public can’t understand the value of their findings?
  • The work archaeologists do is exceptionally important, but someone needs to be able to communicate their story

I could go on, and maybe I will.

  • What archaeologists discover is sometimes life changing, and can clarify a variety of questions, but then again, who is relaying this message in laymen terms for the world to understand?
  • And most importantly, who is to share the work being done outside of academic circles?

Not everyone is an archaeologist, and this is why communications as its second half, is crucial for expeditions as a whole. We’re here to help express why this discipline is important and why we should all be excited about it.

Why? Because archaeology is both fascinating and incredible.

On Site
Field student, Clark Lennox teaches Visual Communications Intern, Joey Close how to take elevations on site at Gadachrili Gora: photo courtesy of Lisa Milosavljevic 

This is why for G.R.A.P.E. 2016 the communications team has continued to tackle the expedition from a variety of areas. This includes on site photography, sharing the project day to day through social media, blogging, along with interviewing and filming the bigger story at Gadachrili Gora, which has been the discovery of the origins of wine and viticulture.

I’m a true believer that when opposites attract a variety of blissful things happen. And when it comes to the G.R.A.P.E. project it couldn’t be clearer to me that communications and archaeology are soul mates, and that they truly bring out the best in one another. I’d say it’s time to put a ring on it.

I have been completely honored to take part in the G.R.A.P.E. project of 2016 and I couldn’t have been more blessed to situate myself for the past several weeks in the country of Georgia also known as the “cradle of wine.”

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The G.R.A.P.E 2016 team on a field trip in Vardzia: photo courtesy of Lisa Milosavljevic 

If you would like to learn more about the G.RA.P.E communications team you may like: Archaeology and Community Engagement: Why in 2016 it’s time to combine the two