Q&A With Archaeoduck AKA Dr Chloe Duckworth

by Dave Sadler

Q: What was the initial reason for you to become interested in Archaeology, Metal Detecting and history etc?

A: The past is fascinating in and of itself. I don’t know much about metal detecting, although I’m aware of some of the more spectacular finds, e.g. the Staffordshire Hoard, and of some of its intersections with archaeology, such as the Portable Antquities Scheme. Some of what I do relates to historical time periods, so history is something I am aware of and read, but generally, I’m not an expert in it.

Q: What are your accreditations in relation to the subject matter?

A: I have researched extensively into ancient and medieval technologies, excavated and surveyed archaeological sites, and used scientific analysis on the findings. I’m now a lecturer in archaeological materials science at Newcastle University.

Q: Can you give us some examples of the sites and work you have been involved in?

A: I spent my twenties working low paid jobs in unrelated sectors, interspersed with studying, and spent any money I could save to help me volunteer on various excavation projects in the UK, Greece and Iran. These days I run my own research projects, and we do survey and excavation of medieval sites in Spain. We’re currently working at the Alhambra, a major tourist destination in Granada, Spain, where we are seeking evidence of furnaces and workshops that were used to create the fabulous decorations of the medieval palaces, which are today enjoyed annually by 2.4 million tourists from across the globe.

Q: What has been you most exciting or interesting part of your studies. Either finds or similar?

A: I’m interested in reconstructing past technologies, so for me, the biggest thrill comes with finding the remains of pyrotechnology; anything made with fire, be it metals, ceramics, or glass. The most interesting bits are the things that went wrong – ‘wasters’, we call them. They can tell us a lot about the way that things were made at the time. I think technology is one of those areas where studying the past is absolutely crucial, because a lot of our ideas about modern technology, how important it is, and where it’s headed are based on assumptions about the past. I quite like challenging assumptions.

Q: We are sure during your career you have been privy to some fun events, can you tell readers about one of your most memorable memories?

A: I loved working in Greece. Two of the sites I worked on were located close to beaches, and we had archaeology ‘olympics’ on the days off. Generally speaking I love the team feeling you get on a dig. Recently I was privileged to work with ‘Time Team: Dig Village’ for a weekend, and it was brilliant to work with professional archaeologists, volunteers, and locals all together for three days. Everybody got together after the day’s work in the pub.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Anybody who is able to write history or archaeology in an accessible way, so that it doesn’t require a lot of jargon to understand. That is way more difficult than it looks.

Q: You are also known on social media as Archaeoduck, The Archaeology and Metal Detecting Magazine include your episodes in our media area. How was your Archaeoduck web-series conceived? Are you happy with how it has been received?

A: Somebody suggested to me that I should try out doing a video blog, and I thought, okay, I’ll give it a go! That was honestly all there was to it. Since then, I have tried my best to bring stuff out regularly, but I don’t always manage because of my other duties as a lecturer. The YouTube channel is still pretty small, but the response I’ve had so far has been wonderful – people asking interesting questions in the comments, or those I’ve met in real life who have been just lovely. I have learnt from everybody I have met, and I’ve realised how important archaeology and heritage are to so many different people in the UK.

Q: What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn’t so?

A: A lot of people that I meet are really quite well-informed about archaeology and history. The biggest ‘hidden’ thing is the amount of administration that goes into excavating a site, and all the work that has to take place after the digging is finished, particularly so that it can be properly published and accessible to a general audience. The pain and effort that goes into that side of things tends to be more hidden, but the outcome really, really important.

Q: What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about archaeology that they should know?

A: I’m going to butcher a well-known saying, but if war is 90 % boredom, and 10 % mortal peril, then archaeology is surely 90 % labelling stuff properly and 10 % manic physical activity!!

Q: What projects are you working on at the present?

A: A million. I’m never satisfied! In terms of the ‘Archaeoduck’ vlog, I’m trying desperately to find the time to get into my shed and make one on radiocarbon dating. In terms of digging, I’m planning for our next season at the Alhambra. We’re taking 15 students from Newcastle University to sunny southern Spain in July. I’m hoping they’re going to cope with the heat, and have the time of their lives.

Q: What’s next for you? What does the future hold in relation to Archaeology and what would you like to achieve?

A: Honestly, it’s my life – even my 5-year old son is interested in digging, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. By the end of it all, I would like to have done some real solid, useful work, that other people still refer to for years to come. And if I could, I’d like to enthuse some people who were unsure about it before to go into archaeology. It can be difficult to take that plunge, but it is so worth it!

Thank you Kindly for your time and assistance within the Archaeology and Metal Detecting Magazine Chloe. From ourselves and our readers, we wish you luck in your future endeavours.

You can find out more about Dr Chloe Duckworth from her official Newcastle University biography

Or find Archaeoduck on Facebook 

Or directly at the Archaeoduck Youtube channel

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