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Research stay at UrbNet 2017

by former Visiting PhD student Alix Thoeming (University of Sydney).

After a few hours on the wet sieve (Photo: Alix Thoeming).

I am a PhD student at the University of Sydney in the Department of Archaeology, and recently completed a one-month stay at the Centre for Urban Network Evolutions facilitated by the Aarhus University Research Foundation (AUFF) visiting PhD student grant. As part of my PhD I am investigating the urban processes which took place in the Baltic between the 7th-11th centuries, and in particular applying a theoretical framework to a discussion of the 'end' of the settlements under investigation. The idea to visit Aarhus came from conversations with and preliminary visits to UrbNet with Professor MSO Søren Sindbæk. The theoretical framework of my PhD of course aligns very well with the primary aims of UrbNet - to explore past urban processes and networks through the use of new and interdisciplinary methods. Furthermore, UrbNet has just begun a year-long excavation at the Viking Age town of Ribe, on the west coast of Jutland, which is of course one of the main settlements under investigation in my thesis. While I wasn't quite able to answer the question I came to investigate, what happened to Ribe in the 10th century, I came away with a lot more knowledge and understanding which has greatly assisted me in the construction of my work. 

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Ribe and the excavation during my time in Denmark, spending one full fun and messy day working on the wet sieve at the site with Claus Feveile, primary director of excavations there for over 20 years and someone whose work I have read and referenced extensively. I also had the chance to visit and meet with Morten Søvsø, head of the Archaeology Unit at Sydvestjyske Museer in Ribe, with whom I had very fruitful and interesting discussions. I also had the opportunity to engage in very fruitful conversations with other members of UrbNet about my and their research, and this had added much to my thinking. I had full access to the research collection of UrbNet and Aarhus University, which was very helpful in finding material that can be somewhat less than accessible from across the world in Sydney! 

During my time at UrbNet I also was fortunate to attend lectures and meetings, and made significant progress on the writing of both my methodology chapter and chapters dealing with specific settlements. While I did visit in summer, which meant that the daily routine of the Centre was somewhat quieter than normal, I felt a very strong sense of collegiality, making it a very enjoyable stay. It is clear that the directors and all members of the Centre place a strong emphasis on making their workplace both fun and functional, and I commend them highly for the wonderful atmosphere they have created which provided me with a well-needed change of scenery for a student in their (hopefully!) final year. I returned home invigorated and ready to complete my PhD, and very much hope to return to UrbNet in the future. I would certainly recommend UrbNet and the AUFF visiting PhD student grant to any student with a conceptual or theoretical link with the aims of the Centre. I had an opportunity to make connections and have learning experiences which will stay with me for a very long time, and I thank everyone for their help and support for my visit.