20 Questions

answered by John Moreland, University of Sheffield.


IMAGE: John Moreland What are the contents of your pockets right now?

Not very revealing I am afraid. £2.23 in cash, two sets of keys, a lip salve and my wallet.

Have you ever had a nickname? What do other people call you?

At primary school I was called 'Mo'. When my brother Brendan came to school I was called 'Big Mo' and he was 'Wee Mo'. Then my brother Peter became 'PeMo'. However, my youngest brother was simply called Danny! I am not sure what other people call me -- and I probably do not want to know.

When did you first realise you were an archaeologist?

Probably when I ran my first excavations at San Vincenzo in Italy, 1983.

What word or phrase do you overuse?

'Sure'; 'domination and resistance'; 'Teddy Sheringham is a donkey'.

What's your vision of the perfect archaeological project?

The chance to investigate changes in production, relations of productions, domination and resistance in an 8th century mill would be very appealing, particularly if this were combined with the discovery of a series of texts read by the miller, which would provide us with another series of insights into his world view, as in Carlo Ginzburg's 'The Cheese and the Worms'.

What was the first concert or musical show you ever went to?

The Climax Blues Band, Sheffield University Student's Union, October 1977.

If you could be world dictator for a day, what would be your first edict?

The abolition of capitalism -- just like that!

Boots or sandals? Jumpers or cardigans? Tweed and corduroy, or leather and denim?

I suppose it would be leather and denim, but I do have a pair of Armani jeans which the Greek students here think is somewhat at odds with my professed political beliefs. However, we do live in a world of contradictions -- New Labour and Socialism for example.

If you could pursue another career, what would it be?

Footballer for Manchester United. £20,000 a week to play for the greatest team on earth can't be a bad life.

What's the most outrageous or embarrassing thing you've ever done during field work?

On the last day (or was it the second last day) of our excavations at San Donato in Italy, I remember saying to Bill Frazer, 'Fuck the archaeology; find bedrock'! However, I am sure that others remember more embarrassing things about me (unfortunately).

Who makes you laugh?

My son Tomas.

A Palaeolithic hand axe, an 18th century mill, or a lost city in the jungle?

If you were to make it an 8th century mill, then I might be interested!

What's your earliest memory?

I remember my first day at school. Unfortunately I only remember going into the school and seeing the cloak room -- nothing about the lessons. After that I remember the way we were taught to read. We each had a card on which the teacher wrote a word which we were to learn each day. I still remember the first few words -- Mother, see, kitty, can. my, I, have, like. What does that all mean?

What movie, television, or literary character do you most identify with?

My nephew still believes that I am Harrison Ford. I have not disillusioned him, but probably identify more with Victor Meldrew in 'One foot in the grave'.

What has been your most interesting discovery?

I did find the glass works shops at the early medieval monastery of San Vincenzo in Italy; but the more interesting was the discovery of the site of San Donato in Lazio, Italy. This is a well stratified site of the sixth to eighth centuries AD which totally supported my arguments about the transition from Rome to the early middle ages in central Italy. It is wonderful to prove yourself right! It is still one of the only known rural sites of this period in central Italy, but if we could find one then there must be many more!

What was the first record you ever bought?

Elton John -- 'Pin Ball Wizard'.

What wouldn't you do for money?

Support Manchester City, Leeds, Liverpool, or Rangers.

What book do you wish you had written?

Visions of a Monument -- the book I hope to write during my forthcoming study leave.

What do you wish you'd paid more attention to in school?

Latin -- I can get by, but my research would be definitely enhanced if I could more easily read some of the Latin texts.

What is your field walking fantasy?

Walking in the fields near Bradbourne, Derbyshire I find the missing fragments of the Bradbourne cross and, close by, some object which had belonged to Sir John Gell or Edward Pegge. Gell and Pegge were notable Protestants in mid-seventeenth century Derbyshire and I am currently trying to prove that one of them was responsible for the iconoclastic destruction of the cross.

John Moreland is a lecturer at the department of Archaeology and Prehistory at Sheffield University. His research interests include the relationship between archaeology, history and theory, and he has carried out fieldwork related to this in medieval archaeology in Britain and the Mediterranean. Other research details and publications can be found at his Web site. He is a devoted Manchester United supporter.

Copyright © J. Moreland 1998


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