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Archaeology and fiction

  • Margaret Elphinstone (a1) and Caroline Wickham-Jones (a2)


In the summer of 2006 author Margaret Elphinstone, embarking on a novel set in the prehistoric period (Elphinstone 2009), sought out archaeologist Caroline Wickham-Jones to discover more about Mesolithic Scotland. The resulting process proved to be more than a simple question and answer session: over three years, the two of us, novelist and archaeologist, each renegotiated the boundaries of our perceptual frameworks. This paper is intended to examine the learning process that most students of archaeology unconsciously experience, and it goes on to champion a respected role for fiction. As the status of history is reduced in the school syllabus, the number of people learning about their past from fiction will increase. Very few people learn much about the Mesolithic through formal education; indeed we are both astonished at how many well-educated people have no idea when or what the Mesolithic was. As representatives of our professions, we here demonstrate the special and timely benefits of what we term the informed novel.



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Wickham-Jones, C.R. & Downes, J.. 2007. Long Howe, Orkney: excavation. Discovery and Excavation in Scotland 8: 147.


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