CARSCAPES Motor heritage
The impact of the car on this planet has been enormous, whether measured in environmental terms (global climate change), geo-political terms (how many wars are currently being fought over oil and gas?), political dissent (road protests, such as the one that brought Swampy to fame over the Newbury bypass, and the current concern over fracking), or in terms of town planning, 21st-century lifestyles (from the rituals of weekend car-washing and shopping trips to out-of-town malls to boy racing and the pimping of cars to create mobile sound systems) or in terms of the many archaeological discoveries that have been made as a result of excavations funded by the Highways Agency.
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Long overdue then is an assessment of the heritage of the motor car. Boring and utilitarian, polluting and destructive, one might think. Is there anything positive to say about cars, roads, garages, service stations, motels, bypasses, and roundabouts, other than that they are a necessary evil? Well, archaeologists should not make value judgements: they should try to look at the evidence for the ways that humans have used and adapted their environments as scientists observing phenomena in a laboratory. Even so, a new book – Carscapes, by Kathryn Morrison and John Minnis of English Heritage – demonstrates that the subject as far more interesting than hasty judgement might suggest, and that, as lovers of Wim Wenders’ road movies (and many others of the genre) already know, there is even a certain kind of visual beauty to the landscapes and architecture of the motor car age.
l Monument s Record
A Victorian invention
Because mass car-ownership did not really take off in England until the 1950s, we tend to think of cars as a recent innovation: just a little bit older than the Rolling Stones, but not quite yet within the field of archaeological study. And yet versions of the internal combustion engine photos
current archaeology | www.archaeology.co.uk
Right An archaeology of the motor age? With canal and railway heritage gathering steam, is it time to embrace the impact of the automobile? Here cars speed east towards Piccadilly in the 1950s.
March 2013 |