York Talks Session Two

11.30am, Berrick Saul building

Why the world went to pot – Chemist-turned-archaeologist, Oliver Craig, tells us how a pot containing the burned remains of a 15,000 year-old dinner revealed not only the dietary habits of our Ice Age ancestors, but also why pot-making was a technology mastered by hunter-gatherer nomads long before we settled down to farming. Oliver’s story traverses the world in search of the origins of pottery and provides new insights into how our distant ancestors innovated this still vital tool of the modern kitchen.

What is the matter? Director of the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies and literary critic, Helen Smith, revisits Polonius’s question to Hamlet in a tour-de-force exploration of early modern ideas about matter, materials, and objects. In her talk, Helen argues that for Shakespeare and his contemporaries there was no easy distinction between the objects around us, the earth beneath our feet, and the words in our mouths. What role did objects and the environment play in thinking about ‘things’ – and how were those ideas made to matter?

Time travel in a crystal ball – Analytical chemist Kirsty Penkman is perfecting a powerful new dating tool that is improving our understanding of climate change – and helping us to date and identify ancient human occupation. Kirsty tells us how this technique is providing archaeologists and geologists with reliable data about our early ancestors and our past climate, revealing how humans existed in northern Europe much earlier than expected. Her work is also showing how changes in climate that happened in the past can help shape the predictive models of the future.

Sound Design for our Sound Environment – Researcher in Music and Audio, Damian Murphy will explore how the soundscape of our environment helps us to better understand the world we live in. Our sound environment has a direct affect on our health and wellbeing and auralisation technology - the audio equivalent of digital visualization – can help us design this environment to deliver an improved and more pleasing experience. This research plays a key role in building and urban design, the assessment of environmental noise and planning for major infrastructure projects, while also enabling the recreation of past environments for digital heritage and enhancing creativity in music production and computer gaming.

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