An artistic exploration of some archaeological theory.

11 February 2007

Reflexive Representations [4]: Sir Mortimer Wheeler

18 August – 04 September 2006
Digital Photomosaic
(90 × 110 cm)
Detail below.

This photomosaic depicts Sir Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler (1890–1976), one of the most iconic British archaeologists of the twentieth century. During his archaeological career Wheeler was Director of the National Museum of Wales, Keeper of the London Museum, Director-General of Archaeology in India and Chair of the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. During the First World War he served with the Royal Artillery holding the rank of Major, being awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and initiative. During the Second World War Wheeler earned the rank of Brigadier and served at both El Alamein, northern Africa and the Salerno landings in Italy. Wheeler excelled at warfare and archaeology with equal measure.

Wheeler’s major archaeological skills were demonstrated
through excavation, administrative organization, the creation of successful National Museums and the increased presentation of archaeology to the media and general public. Wheeler advanced archaeological method by following Lieutenant General Pitt-Rivers and working with Dame Kathleen Kenyon, and advocated the importance of stratigraphy. Whilst in India, Wheeler conducted now classic excavations at Harrappa and Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley, exploring the remains of the civilizations that lived there. Wheeler was one of the first who believed that archaeology needed public support, and utilized all available media to present the discipline to a mass audience. His most popular and famous book was entitled Still Digging (1956), in which he depicted his adventures in archaeology.

In this piece, the image is composed of a collage of 3262 ‘cell-images’ resulting from unfiltered searches for the words ‘warfare’, ‘Still Digging’, civilizations’, ‘national museum’ and ‘stratigraphythrough the Google ‘Image Search Engine’. Exploring the concept of stratigraphic method, this piece excavates the Google 'Image Search Engine', to further reveal the digital contexts of specific images. Just as each excavated deposit is characterized by a particular position in the composition and sequence of a site, digital and visual information is used to create a pattern or montage against which other elements of interpretation can be studied. In doing so, the Wheeler Photomosaic further illuminates how seemingly disparate elements from the world, when viewed from an appropriate perspective and distance, can generate new understandings and thoughts.

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