The Arts: Facing Facts; Modern Science Meets Ancient History as an Exhibition Seeks to Change People's Attitudes about Archeology. Ian Parri Investigates

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), March 21, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Arts: Facing Facts; Modern Science Meets Ancient History as an Exhibition Seeks to Change People's Attitudes about Archeology. Ian Parri Investigates


Byline: Ian Parri

MORTIMER Wheeler got it in one when he said that archaeology was all about ``digging up,not things,but people''.And if you venture into Oriel Ynys Mon in Llangefni in the coming weeks, you'll see the haunting faces of some of those people, our ancestors, staring back at you through the mists of time.

As one of the early directors of the National Museum of Wales, back in the 1920s,Wheeler knew only too well how history and archaeology have always laboured under a bit of an image problem.

For far too long in the past archaeology was perceived as the preserve of dotty scientists in khakhi shorts, armed to the teeth with notebooks, measuring tapes and trowels as they rummaged through yet more dusty ruins.

But now the exhibition in Llangefni seeks to redress the balance, using the latest advances in forensic science to put our forebearers' past into a col ourful and modern perspective.

Recreations: Visualizing Our Past aims to shows how today's archaeologists are working hand-in-hand with forensic scientists,artists and craftspeople to bring to life several aspects of the colourful, if sometimes vicious,history we share. ``In the past,artists would portray their interpretation of what life was like,'' says Alun Gruffydd, principal museums and culture officer with Isle of Anglesey County Council, which runs the gallery.

``Often,for example, they'd put humans and dinosaurs in the same pictures, although they didn't co-exist.

`` Today the intention is to portray things as they really were.''

Among the fascinating exhibits on display are facial reconstructions of four human heads, quite possibly a family, from the 10thcentury.

They have been created by forensic scientists,by means of techniques used by the police to help solve murders and searches for missing people.

The busts are based on the skulls found just down the road in Llanbedrgoch,and are thought to be of the victims of marauding Vikings more than a millennium ago as they sought to add Wales to its ever-growingempire.

``You can be sure that they're almost identical to the real people,because the techniques used to create them are so advanced these days,''adds Alun Gruffydd. …

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