About Michael Shanks

Archaeologist at Stanford University

Home page at Stanford – [Link]
Studio Michael Shanks – lab at Stanford – [Link]
Projects – [Link]

exploring the archaeological imagination

My special interest in ancient Greece and Rome is the basis for my fascination with all manner of archaeological themes –

  • the history of art and design
  • experience and the shape of history
  • agency – how things get to happen
  • how societies, institutions and corporations change
  • technology and science
  • how organizations manage creativity
  • heritage, a word that points to our current and somewhat overwhelming concern with what we have inherited from the past

I have researched the design of beer cans as well as ancient Greek perfume jars, prehistoric landscapes and ancient cityscapes – the great stone megalithic monuments of Atlantic Europe, the city states of the ancient Greek world in the Mediterranean. I have advised the Mayor of Rotterdam on cultural policy, worked on speculative design with Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in the Netherlands, founded and directed the Revs Program at Stanford – promoting the study of the history of the automobile as a key component of contemporary car design. With Jeffrey Schnapp and Henry Lowood I directed Stanford Humanities Lab – a project directed at the future of learning.

And I do what most people associate with archaeology – dig up the past – as part of the team excavating the Roman town of Binchester in the rolling hills of the English border with Scotland – the place that Ptolemy, the ancient geographer, called VINOVIUM (“On the wine road”).

What holds all this together? To be human is to be immersed in the world of things; we are what we make and use. The magical presence of the past, in its entropy and decay, makes us who we are. And archaeologists don’t discover the past – they work on what remains.

We are all archaeologists now – fascinated by what is left of the past, our own memories and experiences, recent times as much as the ruins of ancient civilizations – working on what remains, caring about the past with a view to the present and the future.

Siccar Point – where human time changed. Project Borderlands – [Link]
With Paul Noble – Art/Archaeology – [Link]
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