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Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40 hours) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation.

 

Contributors: archaeologists

 

Objectives:
Traditionally, the aim of archaeology is to learn from its discipline’s traces (remains, ruins, catacombs, etc.) in order to reconstruct the life of bygone societies. However, these days, there is not a single historical period that escapes the attention of archaeologists. This can be seen in the approach of what is known as the “archaeology of the contemporary or recent past”. An excavation site is chosen in advance in the Seine-Saint-Denis area (remains from the wars, industrial heritage, housing, the filming location of a movie), where the students will carry out their research during this course.

Workshops:
Why?
Why do archaeologists excavate the recent and contemporary? What can they learn from it? The archaeologist and students study examples of current sites via pictures, texts and the internet, from the discovery of the site to the findings obtained via the techniques used.

Settling Matters
In class, the contributor presents the main characteristics of the site they are to excavate. The students prepare for their first visit by allocating missions: some will be involved with prospecting, plans and stratigraphy; others will be responsible for taking pictures and gathering information and objects. All of them will meet the archaeologists in charge of the site: discussions on the progress of the dig, difficulties encountered, stated objectives. Back in the classroom, the students then process the data they have collected. They classify, draw up timelines and try and discover the functions of materials that have been uncovered.

What We See
As well as studying the materials they have brought back, the class goes to the municipal archives for a day’s research. Cross-checking sources is required: archives, photos, accounts, and plans – the class cross references archives from the field with those of historians. This shows the students that archaeology, when it examines the” hyper-contemporary”, both feeds and is fed by other disciplines. With what they have just learnt, the students return to the site. Their aim is to create a 3D model of the structures it is composed of with a view to reconstituting the elevated elements, for example.

 

Drawings: JACQUES FLORET  

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