Professor James Cameron Monroe couldn't stay away from Berkeley castle
excavations this season, and has returned after his first
visit to check our progress and get into the trench for some excavating.
It is a real pleasure having such an esteemed academic on site, and one that
will gladly accept a second interview...
Guess who's back, back again. Professor
Monroe in the trench
SMT: When you were last here you talked about the write ups for your
projects in Benin – how are they going?
JCM: Yes really well thank you, I am in the middle of my volume on
Urbanism in West Africa. I have now written about 5 chapters out of 20 –
although the lion’s share of the part that I have to write up is almost done.
SMT: How is it to be back in Berkeley again, since we last spoke to you?
JCM: Glorious! I came out on the first day of the year’s excavations
nearly a month ago and it is amazing to see the progress that has been made.
You have moved an incredible amount of earth, and uncovered such a volume of
finds, from important small soapstone’s to whole buildings. It is great that
the interpretations have changed, and that now we know the building you’ve been
working on is an extension of a potential larger building that is where the
road now is. One of the coolest things about it is that I was having a look at
the smaller finds that came out of it and there is an abundance of small clay
17th Century tobacco pipes which is something that I know and
care a great deal about – I did my undergraduate field school working on
tobacco plantations in Virginia which has provided a nice link between my work
back home and here.
SMT: What will you tell your American students about the work we do at
JCM: I’m going to tell them that it is incredibly exciting and rare to
have a range of artefacts maintained and preserved with perfect stratigraphy
from 2000 years ago up until the civil war and beyond. English history is long
and complicated and you have a great deal of it in this small paddock trench.
It is lucky and exceptional. A lot of the problems we face with modern
development just don’t exist here and it is great. In fact the work you do has
prompted us to begin trying to create an academic link between my university
and yours, making Berkeley excavations an accredited summer school for our
students. It is a no brainer – the work is exciting and informative, and can
help provide a real link between two great institutions.
SMT: How do you plan to spend the last month of your sabbatical?
JCM: I am going to do a bit more writing, and then my family are flying
over to visit me which should be really exciting because my kids have never
been to England before. I will take them to all sorts of tourist spots like
Cambridge, the York Minster, Stonehenge and Plymouth.
SMT: Are the kids budding Archaeologists/Anthropologists?
JCM: Well my son is 6 and wants to be Captain America and my daughter wants
to be a doctor princess astronaut!
Cameron Monroe is a great figure to have on site and I am hopeful that
we will see him again next year.. with a few of his students. Wishing him the
best until then....!