This week I have spent some quality time at the airports – not always in happy circumstances. The week started with some moments dedicated to cursing the wifi service at the Gatwick airport. Norwegian did not manage to get the cabin crew together at one end or another so my flight to Stockholm was 2.5 hours late. The Gatwick wifi – all 45 free minutes of it – is provided by a private company and the web site does not always work or it is very slow to get you into the contact with the service. Naturally, all recharging points except for five around one column were out of order. This meant that inevitably the battery was heading to flat and most of the 45 minutes was spent waiting for the web pages to load. Luckily, I had decided not to come with the earlier train...
Back in Stockholm I managed to make it to the shop with half an hour to spare, but otherwise it was straight to bed and straight to the University in the morning. I was back at Arlanda the next day in order to fly to Lund that I visited for the first time in my life. I was giving a talk about my project, funded by the Swedish Research Council, for which I had returned to work at Stockholm, and meeting some colleagues. The visit was a most pleasant one.
The Section of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History is placed together with other archaeological disciplines and other Humanities and Theology in the new Lux building in the university area. Lund is one of those old university towns where everybody is cycling among the Medieval buildings. It is very similar to atmosphere to Uppsala or Cambridge in that manner. Even the bus trip from the Malmö Airport gave you experiences. Skåne where Lund is located – together with the famous detective Wallander – has always been influenced by Denmark and it was even at one time part of it. There are no red farm houses like in the Stockholm area or in Finland, but white plastered wood-framed historic buildings in a relatively flat landscape.
The talk went fine and I had a series of comments and questions. How quickly one and half hours do fly. Afterwards we sat round a cup of coffee before heading to the Bishop’s Arms for a postseminarium. It was a splendid choice to take a later flight back to Stockholm, so we had time to talk about Blera and other topics. Then it was time to face the curse of airports again.
I had hoped to get quickly to the city centre using Arlanda Express, but when I got to the station the train was just standing there on the way to nowhere. There had been an accident somewhere north of Stockholm and the service may have restarted in an hour, but I and other customers headed for the coach services instead. Mine was slightly raising my heartbeat, since I live in a new neighbourhood to me and was heading to a local train station I had never been before. I only knew that my train stops there. But all well that ends well. Back to work the next morning as normal. With the cold symptoms Phil had the week before.
My Friday afternoon was saved by my first Swedish public PhD viva. This viva was not about any Bronze or Iron Age sites in Sweden thesis, but a tightly packaged 332 pages on Funding Matters: Archaeology and the Political Economy of the Past in the EU by Elisabeth Niklasson, who had attended The [late] Research School of Studies in Cultural History at Stockholm with two other PhD students in archaeology. Her opponent was Björn Magnusson Staaf from Lund University, although working there as an associate professor in charge of museology. It was interesting how different this event was from my ‘three people in everyday clothes in professor’s office’ Cambridge viva and from the full pomp and formality of a Finnish viva with men in tails and women defending in black dress or suit in full academic regalia with the kustos (as in 'custodian') nodding between the defending PhD student and the opponent, usually being a professor or some other unfortunate soul taking this ceremonial relic role from the 17th century. No sword fights nowadays.
A Swedish viva – at least this time – is a very polite and good-natured event in a darkish dress or a jacket and trousers combo. What was surprising to me was that apart from the defender commenting potential typos in the thesis, any summarising was left to the opponent. In an English viva the defender is normally asked to tell what it was all about and the Finnish viva starts with a defender's summary and comments. At Stockholm there were some questions addressed to the defender, but nothing too dramatic and everything was more like one of those discussion programmes in TV where an expert is mildly questioned about some issue of today.
The thesis showed amazing amount of work. Not only interviewing about 30 stakeholders in detail, recorded and all, but also analysing a huge amount of policy texts and call details and looking at the process of financing archaeology within an European framework. The thesis lists the archaeological projects that have got funding from the main EU heritage programmes up to 2013. At the core the projects can be seen exploring and creating Europeanness. This is more than clear when you read through all the project names and their abbreviations. However, it seems there has not been a unified policy to use archaeology in the present identity creation by the EU - at least after 2007 when archaeology was not specifically mentioned in relation to European identity or research policy.
Before heading back to my lodgings, trying to shed the aches and pains by sleeping, I attended the reception while we waited the grading board to return and tell if the thesis had passed or not (not a difficult guess which way it went). A little of bubbly and an interesting discussion with our new Hungarian osteology professor wrapped up an interesting afternoon.