A celebration of the recent past:
This site reflects my experiences and interests as an historical archaeologist – someone researching the archaeology of the recent past. I am particularly interested in industrial archaeology and nineteenth century material culture, especially mass-produced miniatures.
Within these pages you'll find pages about my past, about my career as an archaeologist, and about my travels, in the UK, in Canada, in Europe and beyond. There are lots of images, reflecting my enjoyment of photography.
Back at Ty Coch
For two weeks in August 2018 I led teams of Waterway Recovery Group volunteers on canal camps on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, near Cwmbran, Monmouthshire. We continued the archaeological investigation of a building at Ty Coch locks, a cottage that probably once housed the lock keeper and their family.
A canal camp celebration, 2008—2018
I took part in my first Waterway Recovery Group Canal Camp in 2008, and was hooked! This summer I again lead two camps on the Momnmouthshire and Brecon Canal, at Ty Coch, south west of Cwmbran. To mark this personal anniversary I've collected my photographs of some 15 canal camps together.
More of my stuff:
- Ralph Mills: My professional web site, a sort of online curriculum vitae.
- Miniature Material Culture: My blog where I occasionally think about my interest in miniaturisation.
- Material Memories: My blog where, now and then, I muse about the relationships between memory and objects.
- @archaeologyman: My Twitter presence.
Why "Fires of Prometheus"?
The Greek god Prometheus stole fire from his peers and gave it to the mortals he had moulded from clay and given life to. Fire made metal working possible, and led eventually to the Industrial Revolution. The fires of Prometheus therefore provided power for millions of machines, and burned in millions of hearths. Without Prometheus there would be no warmth, and no industrial history.
Last updated 1st September 2018
I have a wide range of interests, and I've tried to introduce and enthuse about them here. The recent past is a fascinating and under-explored place.
Dig where you stand
I have taken up the challenge of Swedish writer Sven Lindqvist and adapted it to make my study of the archaeology of "where" include both a geographical location — right here — as well as the people who lived (and live) here.
Museums, buildings filled with other people's material culture, may create barriers that are not just the glass of display cabinets. I believe that everyone has a life that should be valued, and that value is reflected in the unique material world in which each indivdual lives. I think each of us, probably unwittingly, lives in our own museum, "a private museum of memory, identity and creative appropriation" (Anat Hecht 2001). This is the beginning of my museum.
The mines of south-east Spain
La Union, east of Cartagena, Murcia, has been mined since pre-Roman times and is an industrial archaeologist's heaven.
Ghost signs and painted bricks
In a time when it was assumed that businesses, their products and activities possessed permanence, advertisements were often painted on the sides of buildings. The subjects of these artworks have usually long vanished, but the paint lingers on, creating a tantalising and fragile kind of vertical archaeology.
I've long been fascinated by the remains of forgotten and abandoned railways and tramways, which, despite once demanding complex engineering, often leave scant traces in the present-day landscape.
The present in which I live was created by the so-called "Industrial Revolution". I've put together a (growing) series of photo essays looking at the archaeology of the industrial past.
My MA: The historical archaeology of miniatures
Mass-produced miniatures, though ubiquitous throughout the last few centuries, have either been overlooked or given little value by historical archaeologists.
My PhD: Objects of Delight
An investigation of miniaturisation focusing on nineteenth century mass-produced miniature objects in working class contexts. I'm gradually creating an online version of my thesis.
The historical archaeology of Vancouver, British Columbia
Despite being a young city, much of Vancouver's past has already mostly vanished. I am researching the city's "streetcar suburbs", communities that were created by a network of tram lines that served its growing population for a mere 60-odd years.