Ancient history school: what's new with the old?

Archaeology of Space

Archaeology of Space

Dr Alice Gorman - space archaeologist!

I am always introducing students to women in archaeology and women who have made significant contributions to history. As a teacher at an all girls school, it is my responsibility to show students who has walked before them - that's history! I have already written blog posts about other women who are contributing to their area of expertise: Dr Estelle Lazer in Pompeii and Dr Sarah Parcak in archaeology. Today, we meet Dr Alice Gorman and ask: what is space archaeology and why is it important?

I “met” Alice on Twitter - where all good networking happens (not a paid advertisement for Twitter). It was the first time I had seen the words space and archaeology together as a concept. I remember thinking that this is exactly the sort of thing that I can take into my ancient history classroom to show how archaeology is not only relevant - its galactically relevant!

Dr Gorman is a space archaeologist and lecturer at Flinders University. Her recent book: Dr Space Junk vs the Universe focuses attention on what humans have left behind in space. How do these objects paint a picture of who we are? How do we relate to the enormity of space? How do we interpret the material culture we have left behind? As a teacher of senior ancient history, these are phenomenal questions to present to senior students who are just beginning their journey as socially aware and responsible citizens. These questions generate terrific discussion and moments of “mind blown” as you see young adults grapple with enormous questions and concepts. But back to Alice.

While working in Western Queensland on indigenous archaeology projects, Alice was gazing at the sky, pondering the Milky Way and what archaeological potential lay amongst the stars. She tells her journey into space archaeology here. This is a great story to share with students who have a genuine interest in history and space science. But Alice also tells us how the satellite materials in space inform about our recent history - Cold War space race, the arms race, technological developments and Australia’s involvement in the burgeoning space race in the 1960s. We all have students in our history classes who are hungry for stories about human development and the evidence for our achievements.

Alice’s TedX talk provides rich material for class discussion and debate about issues that are being played out in the global theatre right now. Here are some ides:

  • link your history/humanities class with the science class. Alice’s work can enrich the studies that students are doing in science. While they learn about the solar system, they can be asking questions about material culture left behind by humans.

  • senior history classes can investigate the international laws about space/lunar ownership and how this may be challenged by current space travel and future mining/military enterprises in space. Importantly, Alice comments that space is important to all humanity - not just to those organisations with commercial interests. Thus, we should all have a say. But to have a say, we need to be informed.

  • senior students can investigate the processes of space archaeology. Most have studied the theories and practices of archaeological excavation, but how is archaeology conducted in space? Just like underwater archaeology, the purpose is the same but the processes are different. How? Why? What technology is used?

How exciting is the field of archaeology? If you are keen to know more, you can follow Dr Gorman on Twitter: @drspacejunk. Perhaps your students might be interested to know more to?

I look forward to hearing more about your archaeology lessons.

Go forth and conquer!

teaching repatriation issues

teaching repatriation issues